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Tracking the Role of Extremists in Violent Protests; COVID-19 Threat Looms during Nationwide Protests; Medical Groups: Racism is a Public Health Issue. Aired 11:30a-12p ET

Aired June 1, 2020 - 11:30   ET



JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: That those arrested in his city were not from the area. There's a lot of finger pointing going on right now about who's to blame for all these protests and the violence. CNN's Donie O'Sullivan has been looking into it for us. Donie, it's a lot of people talking, a lot of people pointing fingers. What do we actually know?

DONIE O'SULLIVAN, CNN REPORTER: Hey, John. Yes, this is a tough one. I mean, it's very likely that groups on the far right, including white nationalists and on the far-left are trying to agitate here. Politicians and elected officials at all levels, state, city and federal, have been making claims of really haven't been showing a lot of evidence for it.

So, here's what we do know. As you mentioned, the governor in Minnesota has been blaming folks from out of town, from out of state for a lot of the destruction even going as far on Saturday morning as blaming 80 percent of the destruction on people from out of state. He later had to walk that back.

And then, of course, President Trump and his allies are blaming Antifa. They're far-left activists. And the president going as far yesterday as saying that he would designate Antifa a terrorist organization. The president, of course, silenced on any far-right agitation here.

KING: And Donie, when this story of this magnitude plays out, there is obviously a lot on social media, a lot of which is not accurate, but one of the suggestions being made here is that foreign elements are at least trying to stoke things. What do we know about that?

O'SULLIVAN: That's right, John. And yes, the acting chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Marco Rubio, tweeted on Saturday night that he was seeing evidence that there was agitation from foreign countries. Again, not offering any proof from that.

We should mention that when this last happened in Minneapolis in 2016 with Philando Castile, we later learned that Russia was very active, you know, using Facebook, but that part of a much broader campaign of agitation throughout 2016.

I mean, in terms of what we're seeing from other countries, of course, the likes of RT and Sputnik Russian state television are you know enthusiastically covering what's happening here in the U.S. when they so often ignore protests and demonstrations in Russia.

KING: Donie O'Sullivan, I appreciate the reporting there. Quick break for us. When we come back, one big worry about with these coast-to- coast protests. They come in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic.



KING: The social unrest across America is colliding, sadly, with the coronavirus crisis. Large crowds chanting and shouting in close quarters (ph). Yes, we do see masks in a lot of these protest scenes, but public health officials also see the possibility -- these events become what they call super spreaders of infections.

It was already a challenging moment as the reopening accelerates. The coronavirus reopening. Let's take a look now. Just some of the latest numbers.

This is just the country ranks globally. The United States approaching 1.8 million confirmed cases you see well ahead of any of the other leaders, if that's what to call them, on the global case count board. If you look at the map where are we right now in the United States. 18 states heading in the wrong direction.

That's orange and the darker orange. That means your case count is going up 10 to 50 percent this week compared to last week, if you're the lighter orange. 50 percent plus if you're the darker. Those states concerned. Relatively low case count in Montana but still now going way up.

Nine states, that's the beige there are holding steady. 23 states, green, heading in the right direction. Their case count heading down. But you do see a swath here especially across the southeast. Little dots southwest as well of states heading in the wrong direction at the moment.

Illinois, seen a lot of protests has also been a major coronavirus hot spot. Look at it. Its seven-day moving track has been going down. The high level of case. But Illinois has been heading in the right direction.

Oregon a relatively low case count, but you see here in recent days that curve starting to go back up. Something you want to keep an eye on. Could just be a couple of days of a blip, but you don't want your average spinning that way.

California, the most populous state. A lot of protests out there. You see again the seven-day moving average which is the red line started to trend up again. That is not what you want at any moment, especially now that you have so many people out in the streets.

CNN chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta joins me now. And, Sanjay, it will be a few weeks before we know because you're out in public if you contract a coronavirus. It takes a while for it to show up. But at this moment when people already going back to work, when you look at these scenes, some of them are pretty troubling.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I think so. I mean, you know, there's a few different factors you have to consider. One is, obviously, the distance that people are between each other. A lot of people have heard you know this physical distancing of six feet. But also, there's a few other things like, John, what constitutes a close contact?

For someone like you if you had coronavirus, what would constitute a close contact? Distance, yes, but also duration longer than 15 minutes, environment inside or outside. Are you wearing a mask? These are some of the things on the screen that people should be doing to try and reduce their risk.

What we don't know, John, and again, this is a new coronavirus. We know it's a very contagious virus, but it will be - it will be something to see over the next few weeks just how much of an impact this has. Were people spending a lot of time right next to each other? How much of a difference does the mask and outside environment make?

I think it's going to be a significant impact. People do worry about these super spreading events, a few people being the cause of most of the spread of the virus, and we don't know if that's going to be an impact amongst these protests, but we never experienced anything like this.


The closest thing, John, I was reading throughout the weekend was probably back 100 years ago when there were parades during the influenza pandemic of 1918-1919 at that time. So, maybe there's some parallels there. But as you point out, there is a lag time. We'll see in the next few weeks.

KING: Yes, it's interesting. You watch the images on television. I'm just holding up the Seattle newspaper here. You can't see this. I'm holding up on television, but I'm just telling you, if you look at it, it's remarkable. Most of the protestors here are wearing masks, in other scenes they are not.

Sanjay, this is just an unprecedented moment. We're in the middle of a pandemic. Now we have the social unrest across the country. I was struck. I heard you talking about it a little bit earlier today.

The American Academy of Pediatrics which you would assume would be focused on the healthcare crisis right now, deciding it wanted to weigh in.


KING: As we've seen athletes. We have seen other people weigh in. I just want to read this tweet. "Racism is a public health issue. The AAP condemns violence, especially when perpetrated by authorities, and calls for a deep examination of how to improve the role of policing. Systemic violence requires systemic response."

How unusual is it for a major medical association to decide we need to add our voice in the middle of all this unrest?

GUPTA: A few years ago, it would have been considered very unusual, John. I mean these are typically, you know, they focus on medical issues, very, very concrete medical issues over the last bit of time and especially now. The American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Medical Association, other big medical organizations, all releasing statements sort of conveying this same message.

And it's striking because these are typically just very straightforward medical organizations. But also, we're in the middle of a pandemic, so most of the messaging has been around infectious disease, curtailing the pandemic things like this. But taking timeout to say, hey look, we recognize the fact that there are protests going on in the middle of a pandemic and here's what we're choosing to say. You know, talking about racism as a public health issue, talking about police brutality as a public health issue as well. So, I think it was quite striking. And frankly, John, quite important as well to hear from them in this way.

KING: Quite important as well. Dr. Gupta, really appreciate your insights. Thank you.

Just ahead for us, Philadelphia among the cities facing major protests. An NFL running back turned pastor joins us to share his thoughts.



KING: Some details now on a call we told you about at the top of the hour, President Trump speaking with the nation's governors on a conference call. CNN's Ryan Nobles has some of the details. Ryan, what do we know?

RYAN NOBLES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, it seems as though President Trump is taking a very heavy hand with these governors across the country, admonishing them for not acting quicker to take on the riots and looting that are happening in many of their states. In particular, he's been very critical of the decision by many of these governors not to actively employ the use of the National Guard to try and quell the violence in many of their states.

And at one point, President Trump was very forceful in his, you know, his criticism of the way the governors have handled this. That they need to take on the fact that this is a radical left group, as he called it, that is agitating many of these protests across the country. He told these governors that they need to recognize that it is a movement, and if you don't quell a movement quickly, then it will go out of control.

And he actually even went as far, John, as to say that this -- if they don't take this on quickly, then they will look weak, and he actually said that most of you are weak. The president, according to many of our sources who have been listening in to this call have been agitated at times, even rambling as he's going on talking about the different ways that these governors are handling it.

What's interesting, John, is that he's actually been very much been giving praise to Governor Tim Walz of Minnesota, crediting him for bringing in the National Guard and essentially taking over the situation from the mayor of Minneapolis.

So, this is President Trump not backing down at all. And it goes in line with much of our reporting that we've been talking about, his approach to this from a law and order perspective, that that needs to be taken care of quickly, and this is the message that he's sending to governors right now, not mincing words with them, in his opinion them not doing enough to take care of the situation within their states. John?

KING: Ryan nobles, very important reporting. Very much appreciate it, Ryan. Thank you very much.

Looting, fires, violence, this is the scene. You see the images right here. This is the city of brotherly love last night, Philadelphia. The mayor there calling looters in his city anarchists. 43 people were arrested, 91 received citations, more than a dozen Philadelphia officers injured this weekend. We're told, police hit with, among other things, bricks and Molotov cocktails. Today, all government operations in Philadelphia are closed as the city braces for possibly another night of unrest.

Joining me right now, an important voice in the city, the Reverend Herb Lusk, former NFL Eagles running back and a pastor of the Greater Exodus Baptist Church. Pastor, thank you so much for being with us today. When you see these scenes playing out in your city, there is an important social justice message, an important message of needed police reforms, but then you see the looting, the violence, officers under attack. Where is the circuit breaker? What can be done?

REV. HERB LUSK, PASTOR, GREATER EXODUS BAPTIST CHURCH: Well, I think the first thing that has to happen is the president has to begin to speak and take advantage of this moment. This is a bipartisan moment. This is a moment where we all agree, everybody agrees that what happened to Mr. Floyd was wrong.

He needs reach over to -- walk over there and talk to Ms. Pelosi. They need to get together. They can make the joint statement, and this is a street movement. Then we have to get to the streets. It's just as simple as that.


It's time for compromise. This is a 9/11 moment for our country, and we can come together around this, but in order to do it, we need the --

Please, Mr. President. Please lead us. We need your compassion.

KING: You talk about this as an excellent analysis, a 9/11 moment. The country is in crisis. The country needs a leader. You are a proud Philadelphian now but you're a son of Memphis. You were 14-year-old young man in the city of Memphis when Dr. King was assassinated. And a lot of people see these pictures and they think about the 60's, that 1968 in particular. They think about after Rodney King. There have been of course many police black men died that as a police since then. But in your -- as you ask for the president to step forward here. Where are we? How do you see the historical context here?

LUSK: Well, I mean, going back to Tennessee when I was 13 or 14-years- old, Dr. King was assassinated there. And I can remember that the moments they reflect each other. I mean right now, there's this virial difference between what was going in the streets in Memphis, Tennessee in 1968 and what's going on right now. And so - but we need leadership. Again, I can't emphasize it enough. I may not have enough opportunity to say something to get to our president.

Mr. President, we need you to reach out and bring us all together. You can do it. I heard one of your guests say it is too late. It is not too late Mr. President. Get on the horn, get busy bringing us together.

KING: When you just heard our correspondents say the president on a call with governors saying they are weak. That they should be tougher. That they should have been acted more quickly to use the National Guard. Is that what you want to hear from the president?

LUSK: Actually not. Listen, here's the deal. What happened there was a beastly act. What happened to Mr. Floyd was a beastly act. But we can't hate the beast so much that we become the beast ourselves. It is important that we use discretion, that we use compassion and right now, we only have -- I think there's only one death as a result of this riot at this point. I think in open we lost one. Let's not lose anybody else again. Heavy hand in this is not what we need.

KING: Pastor Herb Lusk, grateful for your time today, sir, and your insights. We really appreciate it.

LUSK: I am praying for the country and praying for you, John. God bless you.

KING: Thank you, sir. Appreciate that very much. More than I can say. Thank you very much, Pastor Lusk.

Coming up for us, protesters around the world shows solidarity with America by holding demonstrations of their own to protest the death of George Floyd.


[11:57:28] KING: The world is watching this time of testing here in America and in many places joining in protests. This is Toronto. Demonstrators gathering to protest racism and police violence. A similar story in New Zealand and Berlin. Well, in London, this was the scene outside the U.S. embassy.

That confrontation followed protests in other parts of London as well including the iconic Trafalgar Square and outside the prime minister's office on Downing Street. CNN's Clarissa Ward is in London for us today with more of this international reaction. Clarissa?

CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, John. I mean, Across Europe and really the West New Zealand as well as you mentioned. You are seeing this sort of paroxysms of grief, of outrage and of solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement.

Here in the U.K. as you mentioned we saw protests throughout the day. Yesterday taking place in a number of different parts of the city. Some people congregating outside the U.S. embassy holding up signs saying, "justice can't wait." We also saw protests on the streets of Berlin, the streets of Copenhagen, and countless other cities. These are countries that look up to the U.S. that have loved for America. And they see what's happening.

They see the cycle of violence. They see the systemic racism. And they are truly, truly shocked by it even though it has become more and more common. And they are also outraged and agreed and they wanted to show their solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement.

Now, on the other hand you have countries that are authoritarian regimes. And they are also dining out on this, John. We've seen Russia. We've seen China. We've seen Iran. Come out making statements saying this just shows that America is a chaotic and violent place. And also, it shows what they call American hypocrisy because usually it's the U.S. that is in fact criticizing authoritarian regimes for using force against their own people, for engaging in racist activities, for suppressing journalists from doing their jobs.

And so, all and all, what you have is this broader picture of people looking to the U.S. and feeling either shocked and horrified by what's happening or feeling almost gratified by what's happening because it plays into their narrative about the U.S. being a malign or malevolent I should say after as supposed to standing for these values that the rest of the west looks to the U.S. for, John.

KING: It's a fascinating moment. Clarissa Ward, really much appreciate that international perspective. Thank you.