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National Guard Called into Philadelphia; Sixth Night of Protest over Floyd Death; Owners Watched Looters Destroy Pharmacy; White House Reaches out to Black Leaders. Aired 9:30-10a

Aired June 1, 2020 - 09:30   ET




JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: As we said earlier, 26 states and Washington, D.C., have now deployed elements of the National Guard. In Philadelphia, more than 600 national guardsmen now out in force, this after a weekend of protests, of looting, some arson.

CNN's Brian Todd joins us now from Philadelphia.

Brian, what are you seeing there? Because we have seen in some cities, as the police and National Guard presence has become more pronounced in greater numbers, that they've been able to keep a handle -- a better handle at least on some of the more violent participants in this.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jim, they're struggling to keep a handle on that in Philadelphia, I can tell you, because this is part of what we're still going through, this scene we came upon just a few minutes ago. This is a two-alarm fire at the corner of Broad Street and Chew (ph) Avenue in northern Philadelphia. They're still trying to contain it. Firefighters here scrambling to see if they can prevent this from spreading to buildings that are attached to it.

We just spoke to the fire commissioner, Adam Teal (ph). No injuries or deaths in this that they've been able to see so far. But, again, they're still really battling this fire. This is a two-alarm fire. They've got 100 firefighters on the scene.

Extraordinary numbers that the fire commissioner has told us about the fires in this city just over the past 48 hours. He said there are about 300 fires in the city, about 260 of them are structure fires. So a lot of looting still going on, a lot of fires here.

Police, National Guard, and state police trying to get their arms around this, but it's flaring up in pockets, Jim, and they're really struggling right now just, you know, again, a little less than two days after the initial violence started.

SCIUTTO: Yes. Well, we wish them the best of luck. We know they have a lot on their hands. Brian Todd in Philadelphia, thanks very much. POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: All right, so how do we explain all of this to our children? Can we really even explain it? And will anything be different this time?

Let's talk about this with CNN political commentator, former South Carolina state representative, Bakari Sellers. He is also the author of a must-read new book, especially in this moment, "My Vanishing Country," and Wes Moore, CEO of Robin Hood, one of the largest anti- poverty forces in the country, and also author of the phenomenal read, "The Other Wes Moore."

Gentlemen, thank you very much for -- for being here.

And, Wes, you know, we -- I reached out to you this weekend because I read what you wrote. You said, I share in calls for peace, but where is our collective pain supposed to go in the absence of justice?

Can you talk about that from your perch, trying to work on the fundamental issues here, but also as a -- as a dad?

WES MOORE, CEO, ROBIN HOOD: You know, I think one of the biggest fundamental issues is one of the big fundamental issues that has plagued this country from the start of this country, and that's the issue of race. It's an inability for us to be able to not just have a real conversation around it, but understand that a process of truth and trauma and reconciliation has to be a part of this process.

You know, we -- you know, when you think about the times that the National Guard has been called out, the president has activated the National Guard in this country only 12 times in this country's history, ten of them had to do with race. The only two that did not have to do with race was the postal worker strike in New York City and the looting that took place after Hurricane Irma in St. Croix. That's it. Every other time it has had to do with race.

And I think what people are seeing right now, it's a larger frustration on this idea that black America just wants America to love it the same way that black America has loved America since its inception. Black Americans have been responsible for -- have been -- have been just as responsible as anybody else for the building of this nation, for its economic prowess, for its cultural prowess, for its ability to grow as a country, for its leaders, for the contributions we have made.

And I think what we're dealing with right now, and how I can think about it as a father is, I want my child to understand her greatness, her brilliance, her joy, her contribution, her place, but I also want to make sure that I'm not the only one stressing it.



MOORE: I want our country to remind her how important she is.

HARLOW: I think there's an obligation for our country to do that, and one we have failed at in many ways.

Bakari, you write about this so eloquently in your book. And for people who haven't read it, your father was arrested and shot protesting for civil rights in 1968. Quote, my father's path and my own are woven together over the same bloody ground.

And you said, I just want my children to live in a country where they are truly free.

BAKARI SELLERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, and I think that Wes and I, we share -- I could just say ditto to what he said. You know, for me, I want Sadie, Stokley (ph) and Kai (ph) to believe that they can one day sit here on CNN and be host, that they can be a United States senator, that they can be president of the United States, that they can be free.

But every night -- my daughter actually turns 15 today, and she's able to get her permit, but I have to have a conversation with her about how she should interact with police. I have to have a conversation with her about how she should interact with other white folk who may come up to her and just because of the color of her skin view her as being a threat.

And so we live in a country where this level of apprehension is extremely tough. And we live in a country that's, Poppy, I'll tell you this, one of the greatest flaws of this country is we're absent empathy. You know, I always tell people, and to my white friends I say, can you -- can you put yourself in the shoes of a black man or woman in this country?

Can you imagine if you're a white woman, can you imagine being a black woman having to send your child out and worrying about whether or not they could come home to you safely? Until we can have that empathy, and you know, me and Wes, we're going to struggle. We're going to have these conversations until our children leave our homes and become parents themselves.

We're going to struggle with what should we tell them. But to white parents, what are you teaching your children? What are you teaching your children about humanity, about empathy, about compassion, about seeing black people as being equal and great in their own skin? That's the question we have to ask.

HARLOW: You know, Wes, we heard that powerful message from our colleague and friend Van Jones on this network Friday talking directly to what he deemed to be the white Hillary Clinton voter, right? He was talking about Amy Cooper and that incident in Central Park, but it made me think back to 1963 and Dr. Martin Luther King's letter and talking about the white moderate in this country. And I wonder --

MOORE: You know, it's --

HARLOW: Wonder what your thoughts are on those conversations that white parents need to be having with their kids.

MOORE: I think it's both the conversations that they need to be having with their kids and also the example that they're setting for their children. It's understanding the fact that they are watching you in the same way that Bakari and my kids are watching us.

And it's not just about, you know, where I think often-times when, you know -- and I've had, you know, kind of the flurry of people who have reached out to me this weekend and, you know, and asking me, you know, what can I do, what can I do? And my honest answer is, I think you know the answer. It's just demand the same type of treatment and understanding that you would demand for your own children.

There's -- there are, you know, you -- you would -- you would -- you would stop at nothing to defend and protect your children. You would stop at nothing to make sure that your children have every single opportunity open to them.

You would -- you would stop at nothing at breaking down any type of systemic barrier that stands in the way between your child and their God-given destiny. And what we're saying and what I'm asking all of my friends to take on is that I want you to have the same aggression for my child.

We know these things are real. We know the history of systemic racism, the history of everything from housing discrimination and the history of transportation discrimination, lending discrimination. We know all these things are real.

We know that people are not policed in one neighborhood that are policed in the same neighborhood and in the neighborhoods that I grew up in, that these are neighborhoods that were over policed and under resourced and we know it. But the question became, how were people going to stand around and tolerate that? How are people going to stand around and tolerate that level of inequity?

And so, to my friends, I'm asking you, take the same aggression for my child as you would have for your own.

HARLOW: What can we all tell our children one day we did in this moment?

Bakari, thank you.

Wes, thank you.

We'll be right back.



HARLOW: We have seen these images of looting and vandalism across the country. That is some of the protesting.

Jim, as you've been right to point out throughout the morning, a lot of it has also been peaceful. But this is also happening. And for some small business owners, they are watching their livelihoods and their dreams be destroyed. That is exactly what has happened to Elias Usso and his wife Mawerdi Hamid.

SCIUTTO: Just in September they opened Seward Pharmacy on Lake Street in Minneapolis. Wednesday night, looters smashed windows, set fires, even stole medications, yet they do plan to rebuild.

Elias and Mawerdi join us now.

Listen, thanks to both of you.

We -- we've been watching this to happen to so many small businesspeople around the country. And our heart goes out to you, because we know you put your life, your effort, your money into this.

I wonder now, as this happens, what do you want to see on the -- on the streets of Minneapolis to allow you to reopen?


ELIAS USSO, CO-OWNER AND PHARMACIST, SEWARD PHARMACY: Well, we were expecting at least this to kind of go down a little bit.

But before we say anything, our thoughts and prayers goes out to the George Floyd's family, and we feel their pain, because the reason being is we are like a couple blocks from where George Floyd was killed and our pharmacy is just only probably five minutes away from where we live. So this is -- hits home.

It's just sad to hear that -- and to see this kind of destruction happen, but it will not bring George Floyd back again. We can rebuild our pharmacy. We can build business. But it won't bring his life back. And we are very saddened for this to happen.

HARLOW: Of course you are.

I was struck over the weekend by something that the governor said about really the tale of two cities that exists in Minnesota.

Listen to this.


GOV. TIM WALZ (D-MN): We don't just rank near the top on educational attainment, we rank near the top on personal incomes, on home ownership, on life expectancies. All of those statistics are true if you're white. If you're not, we rank near the bottom. And what this week is showing all of us is, those two things can't operate at the same place. You cannot continue to say you're a great place to live if your neighbor, because of the color of their skin, doesn't have that same opportunity.


HARLOW: Mawerdi, do you think he's right, as a black person living in the state we both call home, and what do they need to do about it?

MAWERDI HAMID, CO-OWNER, SEWARD PHARMACY: Yes. And as you can see here in Minneapolis, and Minnesota, it's a great state. We feel it. That's why we are here. We choose to live in Minnesota rather than anywhere else in the U.S. because it's one of the greatest place that provides the opportunity for a businessperson like my husband to drive and for immigrant communities to come here and raise their family.

But even looking at the neighborhood that we live in right now, Powder Horn (ph), it's historically been a black neighborhood, but it is one of the neighborhoods that is getting gentrified. And we see communities every day getting displaced because they can't afford their rent or their mortgage.


HAMID: So (INAUDIBLE) the injustice happen and we wish that -- and we hope and pray that there is going to be some -- some solution to -- to -- to our suffering.


Elias, what is that solution? What do you need? Listen, the riots, they will end at some point. The police will get control at some point. What do you need to see -- we hope. What do you need to see to give you confidence that this won't happen again?

USSO: Well, this -- think about it. If my pharmacy -- something happened to it while working as a pharmacy and helping my patient. The first thing I do is the police, I call 911, I need your help. And calling the police is -- I should feel safe, you know.

And I see myself where it could be me. George Floyd could be me. It could be my family member. So -- but for the business to reopen now only for where -- how we can open, we are hoping that we can give back the service back to, you know, my patients and all other, you know pharmacy got looted and robbed.

So now biggest, biggest concern that I have is my patient not getting their medication. They may have some left over right now. The problem will come very soon.


USSO: They may not have -- they may not have their insulin. And I hope the board will be very lenient to help us relocate and kind of ease the rules a little bit so we can reopen somewhere temporarily until we get this one fixed and reopened.

HARLOW: Thank you both so much for being here.


HARLOW: And we are wishing you luck in rebuilding the business that you built there in Minnesota. Let's hope. Let's hope. Thank you.

We'll be right back.



SCIUTTO: Well, the president has been tweeting a lot about these protests. No national address yet. But CNN has learned that the White House is reaching out to a black community leaders ahead of what they're calling a possible listening session.

HARLOW: Our White House correspondent John Harwood has the details on that.

OK, so, what -- is this -- is this going to happen and are those potential listening sessions welcomed by these communities?


Look, the president, as Jim indicated, has been emphasizing tough talk on Twitter. He's got an conference call with his attorney general and law enforcement officials. And you could expect more of that today.

As for the listening session, it's a little tenuous so far. And I don't think anyone should get their hopes up too much for a couple of reasons. First of all, racial conflict has been a theme running through Donald Trump's entire adult life. Sued for racial discrimination in his real estate business. Remember he called publicly for the execution of the Central Park 5. They were later exonerated.


When Barack Obama became the first black president, he used the so- called birtherism theory to suggest that the president wasn't a real American. And, of course, the demonization of immigrants in his campaign and as president.

But it's more than just Donald Trump, it's also his party. Remember the seminal event -- a seminal event in the development of the modern Republican Party was a civil rights movement in the 1960s, national Democrats embraced it, national Republicans did not and you had millions and millions of racially conservative whites move into the Republican Party, and that's where the center of gravity is.

Consider this Pew Research Center poll that came out last year. Fifty- nine percent of Americans -- of Republicans said that they thought that the legacy of slavery had little or nothing to do with the plight of blacks today, 77 percent said that they thought that the biggest problem with race discrimination was seeing it where it did not exist, 84 percent said that America has either done enough or too much to bring equal rights to blacks.

When you hear those numbers, not surprising that the president's national security adviser says he doesn't see systemic racism or that the president takes the tone he's taken so far. He always caters in a pinch to his political base and that's where his political base is, guys.

SCIUTTO: John Harwood, good to have you at the White House. Thanks very much.

Still ahead, more than half of the states have now activated the National Guard. This as dozens of cities across the country have also imposed curfews after some protests, we should note not all of them, some have been peaceful, but some have certainly turned violent.