Return to Transcripts main page
THE SITUATION ROOM
Seventh Day Of Protests All Across The U.S. Over George Floyd's Death; Private Autopsy Reveals Asphyxiation Caused By Police; Protesters In Philadelphia Flee After Police Use Tear Gas; Trump Tells Governor For Tougher Action And To Dominate; Military Deployed Near White House. Aired 5-6p ET
Aired June 1, 2020 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Thank you so much. Appreciate it. Our coverage on CNN continues right now.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Welcome to our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM. We're following breaking news, a crisis here in America.
At this hour, the nation is bracing for what could be yet another night of unrest. Mandatory curfews have been announced again in cities including New York, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., Atlanta, Chicago, and Los Angeles, as more than 17,000 U.S. National Guard troops have been deployed in more than half the nation's states.
Also, lawyers for the family of George Floyd have just announced the results of an independent autopsy they say show that Floyd died of asphyxiation at the hands of police.
Floyd's brother visited the scene of his death and the large memorial there, appealing for protests to remain peaceful and calling for an end to the violence that has rocked cities across the United States now for days.
First let's go straight to Minneapolis right now where national correspondent Sara Sidner is on the scene. Sara, a very emotional day there. It continues with the release of this independent autopsy.
SARA SIDNER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right. We were here as Terrence Floyd, George Floyd's brother, one of his brothers came up and came to the memorial for the first time where his brother lost his life.
He said one thing to protesters: stop it. Don't do this violence in our name. We are a peaceful family. We are prayerful family.
SIDNER (voice-over): George Floyd died of asphyxiation. That is according to a private autopsy obtained by George Floyd's family. Results that are I contrast with the Minnesota medical examiner's preliminary report.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There was no evidence of traumatic asphyxia. This is the point at which we do disagree.
TERRENCE FLOYD, BROTHER OF GEORGE FLOYD: Keep my brother's name ringing!
SIDNER (voice-over): This as Terrence Floyd visited the site of his brother's death for the first time, calling for calm.
FLOYD: If I'm not over here messing up my community, then what are you all doing? What are you all doing? You all are doing nothing.
SIDNER (voice-over): Demands for justice are expanding across the country. Still, just one of the four Minnesota police officers fired after Floyd's death has been charged.
MEDARIA ARRADONDO, CHIEF, MINNEAPOLIS POLICE DEPARTMENT: In my mind this was a violation of humanity.
SIDNER (voice-over): The Minneapolis police chief took a knee in solidarity with demonstrators on Sunday, calling out his own officers for not intervening as Floyd struggled to breathe.
ARRADONDO: To the Floyd family, being silent or not intervening, to me, you're complicit.
KEITH ELLISON, ATTORNEY GENERAL OF MINNESOTA: I'm in charge of the prosecution and I'm helping work on the investigation.
SIDNER (voice-over): The state's attorney general, Keith Ellison, is now assigned to prosecute the case against Derek Chauvin, the officer who kneeled down on Floyd's neck. The clear video evidence, Ellison telling SiriusXM Radio, is not necessarily enough for a murder conviction.
ELLISON: I don't deny that your eyes are working well and you saw what you saw, but that doesn't mean that when we get to a courtroom that it's going to be some sort of easy slam dunk. History proves that it isn't.
SIDNER (voice-over): But pressure is mounting. Protests continue nationwide today, pleading for drastic changes in America's law enforcement.
Over the weekend, demonstrations were reported in all 50 states and the District of Columbia and in more than half the country, the National Guard has been called in to keep the peace.
A slew of videos now emerging showing a semi driving through protesters in Minneapolis at some 70 miles per hour. According to police no one, though, was seriously injured. Just one of several similar incidents in Minnesota and New York.
CANDACE LEWIS, MINNEAPOLIS DEMONSTRATOR: I knew I was in ground zero. I knew I was in danger, potentially, but we kept walking. We kept marching.
SIDNER (camera): When you say ground zero, that is a term used in war. Is that what it feels like here?
LEWIS: It kind of does.
SIDNER (voice-over): As America nears a full week of unwavering unrest, peaceful protesters and police are also kneeling together. Marching together and embracing.
SIDNER (on camera): Here we watched as the police chief also kneeled and he prayed. The crowd prayed along with him. Today they prayed with Terrence Floyd. They sat here for five minutes in complete silence with their hands in the air and prayed for him and for the family, Wolf.
BLITZER: Sara Sidner on the scene for us doing excellent reporting. Sara, thank you very much.
Let's get to more now on the results of the independent autopsy performed at the request of George Floyd's family. Our chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, is joining us.
This autopsy seems to be at odds at least a bit with the one that was done by the official medical examiner over there in Minneapolis. What exactly does this one say, Sanjay?
SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I mean, I should point out we still don't have the full copy of the original medical examination. So, the context by which some of what we know how that's presented, I think is going to be important.
But they did not equivocate with this, Wolf, let me just tell you a few things. First of all, they said this was a homicide. It was due to mechanical asphyxiation. So, basically depriving, you know, the body of oxygen, also depriving the body of blood flow. Blood flow to the brain was compromised.
They said that was due to two pressure points, Wolf, one because of the knee that was placed on Mr. Floyd's neck, but also because of the pressure on his back. They bring up both of these things, Wolf.
And they say that according to the physical evidence, which in this case they're describing the video that they watched, they said within four minutes, I think three minutes 50 seconds, they believe that Mr. Floyd essentially became unconscious and unresponsive at that point.
And they say he had no pulse after that point, three minutes and 50 seconds. Also, Wolf, one other thing that was brought up in the original report, you remember, was this idea that maybe there was contributing underlying problems such as heart disease or potential intoxicants.
And they said there was really no evidence that there was any other cause or contribution to Mr. Floyd's death other than the pressure on the neck and pressure on the back. So, again, not equivocating here, Wolf, between -- in this particular report.
BLITZER: So we see people are gathering already on the streets of Washington and Atlanta. These are live pictures coming in. Look at this, Sanjay, from Philadelphia right now.
We're going to go to Brian Todd shortly, but you can see it's already getting unruly there in Philadelphia. And we're going to obviously be covering all of these demonstrations around the country as it gets later into the evening.
There seems to be a bit more violence, but you can see the folks running already. I don't know if Brian Todd is ready to explain what may have just happened. Sanjay, hold on for a moment. Let's see if Brian is there. Brian, what's going on? It looks like people are running away.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right Wolf, I'm here, I can hear you. People are running away. They had streamed onto this highway a short time ago. We're getting creamed with tear gas here so, just trying to get my bearings.
But people came onto this highway. They were stopped, they were turned back. There was a bit of a stampede going backward. And then police started firing tear gas all the way into that well by the highway.
So people just are scrambling up here to try to get over the fence and get back to some safety over here on the street. But we saw a real scrum down on the highway, on 676 when they tried - they did successfully blocked the highway down there.
And they got under this bridge over here when all of a sudden they just streamed backward in almost a stampede, something, possibly a police presence, we couldn't see it, turned them back. So some of them got stuck and that's when police started dispersing tear gas.
I am not sure what provoked the police to do this because these people who are in that on the highway were just kind of standing there in kind of a holding pattern, many of them bunched together. We did not see anyone provoke the police. But again, we just didn't see it, we don't know what happened.
I can't tell you why the police did this. I can tell you that the result of it is chaos. People trying -- you can see it, people scrambling over these fences, trying to get away from the tear gas, coming on here, trying to organize somehow to possibly march.
This march was peaceful until it got to this point and obviously it's chaotic now. I do not know exactly what's going on down on the highway. I know that they've been firing a lot of tear gas there.
I'm going to try to move a little bit closer but it's a little dicey for us because we've just gotten pelted with tear gas. I've got - we've got some of it in our eyes, but we're fine, we're clearing it right now. But you can see I'm really hoping people are not crushed there. We did see a man down on the highway injured, but people did help him.
He looked to be just possibly overheated, exhausted. People helped him up. I'm hoping -- Andrew, maybe we can move a little closer, I think we're okay to move a little bit closer here.
BLITZER: Just be careful, Brian, I don't want you to get hurt yourself.
TODD: No, we won't. But we're just trying to see if anyone is injured because it is a - as you can -- I don't need to describe it to you. It's a melee trying to get over that fence.
Let's move over here. And again, look down here. All right, people are streaming over here, they're rushing over here. Again, (inaudible) -- we do not know what caused the police to do this other than possibly the fact that these people were on the highway and they wanted to clear it.
But there could have been something else that happened that we just did not see. The police clearly are not tolerating them being on the highway. We were covering similar protests in D.C. a couple of nights ago and police did allow demonstrators to go onto the highway.
When that happened, the demonstrators went onto the highway and then they exited and there was no incident. But here, police have felt compelled to use tear gas to disperse them. The result is what you see here. There are people running that way. There are people running over here to your right, to camera right.
BLITZER: And you can see, Brian, you can see helicopters flying overhead. Maybe you could grab someone who climbed over that fence and they can explain why they're running away. Clearly --
TODD: All right, we've got tear gas. Wolf, we've got to drop back. We got to drop back.
BLITZER: All right, go ahead. Brian Todd is on the scene for us. But to our viewers, you can see what's happening in Philadelphia right now, tear gas coming from below over there, below the fence and out from this major road over there.
You can see the tear gas coming as well, very disturbing developments. And as Brian had been telling us, it was a very peaceful demonstration. Things were moving along nicely, people were protesting as they have every right to do.
And then all of a sudden something happened that generated the local authorities, the law enforcement authorities to fire tear gas against these protesters. And now they're trying to get away for good reason.
And you saw Brian Todd, our reporter there, he's moving away as well. Something is going on over there. We're going to stay on top of this and watch. Sanjay, you're still with us. And as we show our viewers these
pictures, I just want to button up what this independent autopsy showed. How do we know? Is there a way to determine whether the -- which autopsy, the official or the independent autopsy is more accurate or is that essentially left up to a jury?
GUPTA: I think that's right. The official report is going to be the official report, Wolf, although I should point out again, we haven't seen the complete official report. We just saw a few lines that were provided I think by the prosecutor at that point.
So, I think it's going to be really important to see that full report, ultimately, and see the context in which some of that information was given. But I will say that this independent examination, again, was not equivocal.
They were very clear. Sometimes the language will be hedged a little bit. You have to read into it a bit. What they're saying is that this was a homicide. It was caused by both pressure on the neck and pressure on the back, both, that they believe Mr. Floyd became unresponsive and pulseless within four minutes.
And when he was taken first into the ambulance, we did not see any CPR at that time being given, but it sounds like on the way to the hospital, CPR was attempted. He was -- there was a shock to try and restart his heart. That didn't work.
So, again, Dr. Baden and Dr. Wilson, the independent examiners say they believed it was around three minutes and 50 seconds after which Mr. Floyd did not have a pulse. They also think that there was no underlying contributing cause to this Wolf, the heart disease or intoxicants.
It takes a while to get lab results back but that's what they believe. They had all kinds of specific little things they added, Wolf. For example, Mr. Floyd had significant abrasions on the left side of his face and they say that in addition to the video evidence and addition to other things.
There was enough physical evidence to give some idea of just how much pressure and how strong that pressure was on his neck. So, there was a fair amount there, Wolf, but again, it was not equivocal. It was pretty clear.
BLITZER: All right, Sanjay, thank very much. Brian Todd, if you can still hear me, I can see you're getting away from the tear gas. If you can still hear me, have you heard from any of the protesters why they were jumping over that fence and why the local law enforcement authorities or the National Guard for that matter were firing tear gas at them?
TODD: Wolf, I just asked a couple of them. They said that basically they didn't really start firing tear gas until they were on the highway. They wanted them to get off that highway, apparently.
We don't know if there was some kind of act that might have provoked them more specifically than that, but clearly the police, you could see them moving in behind me, excuse me, they're establishing some kind of a presence.
That's the overpass where everybody has kind of come up to, which was right overlooking where they were.
The only motivation I can tell you that we believe happened, Wolf, is that the police were looking to clear people from that highway. They did not want them down there. I'd say at least a few hundred of them did go down there anyway.
They were chanting. Again, they were peaceful from what we saw. They were peaceful when they were down there. They were marching forward. You know, if pattern held, I would have guessed that they would have marched under the overpass and then maybe exited because that's usually what protesters do in situations like this.
They don't stay on these highways long. They block them, but they keep going. The police weren't having any of that because as soon as they got under an underpass, all of a sudden there was a stampede going the other way.
The police did something or somebody did something to cause some kind of a panic. Now, the protesters seem to have split. Some of them are going down here, some of them are dispersing.
Now, was this maybe a goal of the police? We don't know. Did they want them to disperse and just become disorganized? We don't know. Sir, were you down there, sir? Were you down there?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, I wasn't.
TODD: OK, just trying to get a version of anybody. Well, I've asked a few people who were down there what happened. Most of them, Wolf, have said they don't believe that they did anything to provoke, that they just -- they were just there and they were packed into a tight space
A little bit vulnerable, you know, at a lower elevation, and all of a sudden the tear gas just started flowing into that area beneath the overpass, Wolf.
BLITZER: Yes. I suspect we're going to see more of that in the coming hours. Not only Philadelphia but in other major cities in the United States as well. All right, Brian, be careful over there. We'll stay in close touch with you when you got some more information, obviously, just let us know.
Jim Acosta is over at the White House for us, our chief White House correspondent. I want to get the latest on what the president of the United States, Jim, is saying and what we're learning over there. I know you've got an update.
JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Wolf. And just before I get to what the president was saying earlier today and what he may say this evening, I just want to report something we just saw a few moments ago that is pretty breathtaking.
We just saw nine large military style vehicles roll through the White House complex, going from the south side of the White House complex all the way through on West Executive Drive which separates the White House and the Eisenhower Executive Office Building.
Those military vehicles have now moved on to Pennsylvania Avenue, the pedestrian part of Pennsylvania Avenue just outside the White House. Those vehicles are filled with what appear to be National Guard troops.
We have footage of this and as soon as we can re-wrack it and show it to you, we can show you what we're talking about, but Wolf, in you know, the seven or eight years I've been here at the White House, I've never seen that kind of military presence at the White House.
But it was about eight or nine large military style vehicles rolling through the White House complex just a few moments ago on to the pedestrian part of Pennsylvania Avenue that separates the north lawn from Lafayette Park where those National Guard troops presumably are staging right now.
As for what the president is doing, we've been told that they're making some kind of preparations in the Rose Garden for a possible address from the president. That has not been confirmed by the White House yet, but there may be some preliminary preparations under way right now.
We know it's been some debate going on here at the White House as to whether or not the president would do that. But getting back to what the president was saying earlier today, after days of violent protests across the U.S., the president is continuing to inflame tensions, as we've been reporting all day long, lashing out at the nation's governors and urging them to crack down on the demonstrations.
During a phone call with the governors earlier today, the president went on a tirade insisting authorities should bring in National Guard troops and try to dominate the situation on the streets. Here is more on what the president had to say earlier today.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES (via telephone): You have to dominate. If you don't dominate, you're wasting your time. They're going to run all over you, you'll look like a bunch of jerks. Now, the harder you are, the tough you are, the less likely it is that you're going to be hit. It's happened before. It's happened numerous times.
And the only time it's successful is when you're weak. And most of you are weak. So I say that, and the word is dominated. If you don't dominate, you're sitting and you're staying, they're going to walk away with you.
What is incredible, what happens, in the state of Minnesota, they were a laughingstock all over the world. They took over the police department. The police were running down the street, sirens blazing, the rest of them running.
It was on camera. And then they wiped out. You'll probably have to build a new one, but I've never seen anything like it, and the whole world was laughing.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
ACOSTA: Now, right now you can see some of the video of the protesters lined up outside Lafayette Park across from the north lawn of the White House. That is where a lot of these protests have been going on the last few days.
Now, here is the video I was just talking about a few moments ago, these eight or nine large military style vehicles. Wolf, I've never seen this happen before over at the White House, rolling up what we call West Executive Drive.
That is the driveway, parking lot area that separates the White House from the Eisenhower Executive Office Building. As you can see, these nine large, eight or nine large military style vehicles are filled with National Guard troops that are now staging on Lafayette Park. They're on the pedestrian part of Pennsylvania Avenue right now.
I take note of it just because it's an extraordinary sight. Now, contrast that with the words of calm that we saw earlier today from former President Barack Obama who put a post on the social media site Medium, trying to calm things down across the country, and we can put some of that up on screen.
This is what the former president has been saying. "If we want to bring about real change, then the choice isn't between protest and politics. We have to do both. We have to mobilize to raise awareness and we have to organize and cast our ballots to make sure that we elect candidates who will act on reform.
If going forward we can channel our justifiable anger into peaceful, sustained and effective action, then this moment can be a real turning point in our nation's long journey to live up to our highest ideals."
Wolf, those words really stand in stark contrast with some of the tough talk that we're hearing from the president right now. He's all but calling on authorities to crack skulls at these protests and it is a striking sight when you show the video one more time, just because it's so remarkable, to see military style vehicles rolling through the White House complex.
You know, it's just not something that you normally see in the United States of America. It's something that you see in more authoritarian countries. And those vehicles are now staging themselves on Pennsylvania Avenue, the pedestrian part of Pennsylvania Avenue.
Filled to the brim with National Guard troops, presumably, Wolf, as a show of force and potentially to repel any kind of violence that we might see, as we have seen, over the last three nights outside the White House.
BLITZER: Yes. And that not very far away from where you are right now, right across Pennsylvania Avenue, Lafayette Park, where the protesters have gathered. And you can see the law enforcement right in front of them. Alex Marquardt, our correspondent, is there in the middle of all of this. Alex, tell our viewers what you're seeing now, what's going on.
ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, you can feel as right as there has been a bit of an escalation at what has otherwise been a relatively quiet and peaceful protest. But clearly just in the past few moments, what you're looking or you're seeing there is U.S. Secret Service police, armed with uniformed officers who (inaudible) to come forward probably because these protesters who are right now are behind barricades.
It had been looked like at least poised to push forward, Wolf. And that -- what Jim was just talking about there, brings up a very good point about the variety and the scale of the authorities that are involved in keeping the peace here in Washington, D.C.
This is of course not just one of the country's major cities, but it is the seat of the federal government. You have the White House right there, just across Lafayette Park.
And we have just learned from our team at the Pentagon, Barbara Starr and Ryan Browne, that 200 to 250 military police have just been deployed to Washington, D.C. to help keep the peace here. They will not be involved in normal policing duties like arrests, but they will certainly be reinforcing the authorities that are already out in force here, Wolf.
And really, when it comes to the variety of forces, you name it, FBI is involved, the attorney general said earlier today that riot teams from the Bureau of Prisons is going to be helping out. We have the Metropolitan Police Department, the U.S. Park Police.
So it really is a huge -- there's a huge number of manpower, of firepower, to help keep the peace in the nation's capital, Wolf. And that is because over the past few days we have seen a significant amount of violence at night.
You have these quiet, peaceful protests during the day, and then as the evening wears on, they have given way to more violent protests. And that happened right here last night.
I was here around 10:00 when a number of fires had been set by protesters just about a hundred yards that way, including just outside the famous St. John's Church, which my (inaudible) there were fires set just (inaudible) in the basement. And as a result, (inaudible) during the day to board up their windows on this side of the street.
And they are a number, one of a number of buildings that have decided to do so because as the police then swept through here, flushing all these protesters out of the area, away from the park, out of the White House, there were protesters that moved out into the city causing a significant amount of damage to businesses and shops, shattering windows and looting.
And as a result, the mayor has called for a curfew much earlier than the one that she imposed last night, which was 11:00 p.m. She's moved it up to 7:00 p.m. tonight, which of course is under two hours from now, and that is for tonight and for tomorrow.
So, the mayor has said that (inaudible) in the city. She clearly feels the need not just to impose a curfew but to call out the National Guard to support the various police forces here. And she has said that when it comes to the president, what she wants to hear from him, what she expects from him is a sense that justice is being served in the wake of the killing of George Floyd, Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Alex, stand by. Alex Marquardt is right there in Lafayette Park across the street from the White House on Pennsylvania Avenue where we're watching U.S. military police arriving at the White House, pretty extraordinary sight in and of itself.
Momentarily, I'm going to speak with the mayor of Atlanta where there is a lot of activity going on right now as well. But I want to go to Don Lemon very quickly. Don, we've seen this happen now for days, peaceful protests, all of a sudden something happens whether in Philadelphia or Washington. You can see what's going on here. And all of a sudden it gets really nasty and ugly.
DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: It's a powder keg and it can - and really blow up or explode at any moment. But, you know, it's really surreal, Wolf, I think sometimes we are a little close, we don't see the forest for the trees sometimes because we're sitting here, we're watching these pictures from a very close vantage point.
But if you're sitting at home watching this and you're listening to the president of the United States and you're seeing military vehicles, Army vehicles, and the National Guard rolling into Washington, D.C., and you're seeing these people who are protesting, we haven't seen this sort of unrest in the country since 1968.
And that was a year of unrest, as I'm sure you know. But we're looking at a country now Wolf, that is in desperation. The people who are out here yelling at the top of their voices, fighting back against police, protesting, they are desperate to be heard.
They're desperate to get - to have food on the table. They are desperate to be treated equally under the law. Many of them are desperate to find employment with the pandemic and being shut down for months.
They are desperate to be heard. This president is desperate to try to keep some sort of order and desperate to be re-elected coming November. And now you have these two forces that are clashing.
What I hear in the president's voice, and this is just what I hear, I hear fear. Any time you are saying, you guys are weak, you need to apply force. What are you going to do? Put a fortress around the White House, put a fortress around America and not engage with the people who are telling you, who are outside of your door screaming, hey, we need to be heard.
Listen to us, listen to us, we matter. Black lives matter. We matter in America. You're not listening to us. And here you are with the president of the United States building a fortress around. It does not -- it does not compute. The way that you engage with people, the way to stop this, is to engage with the people who are screaming at the top of their lungs for you to pay attention.
You represent these people who are outside of your door screaming, desperate to be heard. Engage with them. Listen to them. Meet them at their level. Stop pushing them back. Stop trying to use military force to push them back.
What are you going to do, all the might in the world, and use the military to push them back? These are Americans, your constituents, your fellow Americans. And so I don't understand what the president of the United States is doing by bringing all of this in.
There is a very simple solution to this. Listen to the people. And that could have been solved a long time ago, if you just listen and engage the people who are desperate for you to pay attention to them, to include them.
BLITZER: And you can see those trucks bringing in U.S. military police on the grounds of the White House. So here you see the standoff in Lafayette Park right across the street from the White House out on Pennsylvania Avenue.
And you see the police there standing in formation against these protesters who are obviously very, very angry right now over what happened to George Floyd.
And so many others over these past few years, a very, very dangerous situation. Don, standby.
The mayor of Atlanta, I want her reaction to what's happening as well. We'll keep these pictures up. Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms is joining us from Atlanta right now. Mayor, thank you so much for joining us. Hard to believe this is going on here in the United States of America. Right now, U.S. military personnel information being driven onto the White House grounds in these trucks. Give us your reaction to what you're seeing in Philadelphia, in Washington, D.C. and of course in Atlanta as well.
MAYOR KEISHA LANCE BOTTOMS (D), ATLANTA: You know, Wolf, as I'm watching these images, the first thing that came to mind is America's a tinderbox. And Donald Trump's tongue is a flame right now. Each time he opens his mouth, he throws another match on the fire, and it's not what we need right now.
If he can't lead us all, then he should not lead any of us. And by that, I mean he's got to assess where we are as a country. And he has to know that his actions are not helping us right now. I think if there's ever been a time in our history for a president to perhaps even be silent, this is the time.
BLITZER: He's not going to be silent, we're bracing now, in the next hour to hear directly from the President. He may be making a statement in the Rose Garden over at the White House. We don't know that for sure. It hasn't been any official announcement yet. But it looks like they're preparing for something along those lines.
As you know, Mayor, earlier in the day, he had a conference call with governors from all over the country. He called Minneapolis, and you heard this before, a laughingstock, he urged all the governors to get tough on protesters. What does that tell you specifically, Mayor, about his understanding of this very tense situation that's unfolding across the country, including in your beautiful city of Atlanta right now?
BOTTOMS: He then have an understanding of what's happening right now in this country. And he seemed to be destabilizing our country even more with this unstable behavior and assessment of where we are. And again, you know, we've called on people good conscience across this country to speak up and stand up and really feel what people are feeling in America. And that applies to the White House too. There have to be people of good conscience in that White House who can speak reason, I would hope.
And if that's not where we are, you know, I call upon his wife and upon his children. This -- you are destabilizing our country in real time. The images that we are seeing are like nothing I've ever seen in my lifetime. And it is concerning to me as a mayor, and obviously concerning to me as a mother of children who are witnessing this.
BLITZER: Do you fear, Mayor, that his comments, that he may be making a statement in the next hour could actually make matters, make the situation a whole lot worse?
BOTTOMS: I absolutely fear that. He seems to have an inability to offer any empathy or offer any reassurance as to what we're dealing with. You know, he's calling people weak. And I was on the phone with Governor Kemp an hour ago. This is not about political position or party affiliation. This is about what we need to do to help our communities and during this time, our communities are in chaos right now.
And we're working on across the aisle right here in Georgia, trying to make sure that we're doing right, doing the right thing with the protesters that we have here. And this inability of the President to do that with leaders across this country, I think really speaks to where we are in America right now.
BLITZER: Mayor, Don Lemon is with us. He has a question he wants to ask you. Don, go ahead.
LEMON: Mayor, you are the leader of Atlanta. And you know there are some great civil rights leaders that have come out of that city and who still live in in that city. We have seen unrest in your city, and many around the country, and we're watching it happen in Atlanta and Washington, D.C. right now. I said moments ago, the images that we're seeing on television, I don't believe have been seen since the Civil Rights Movement at 1968.
This is a real turning point in our country. We know that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said that a riot is the language of the unheard. I believe that the people who are out here, not necessarily the riders but the protesters who are yelling at the top of their lungs. They want to be heard.
I'm not sure if this President is capable of that, but that is the type of leadership we need in this country right now. Can you please speak to that?
BOTTOMS: You're absolutely right, Don. And I know it sounds very strange for me to sit here as mayor of Atlanta and call upon someone's wife or children to attempt to reason with him. But that tells you where we are right now in America.
We are all searching for solutions. We are all looking to stop the bleed that our cities are experiencing right now. And while we're dealing with all of these, even in the course of this interview, not once have I even mentioned the name of George Floyd, or any of the other people who have been killed in America, we're losing sight of where we are not to mention COVID-19.
And what we're going to see, likely see two weeks from now was all of the people that are gathering the protests in this country. And I've said it repeatedly, right now in America, our communities are sick, and they are tired, and they are dying. And this is the time that the national leadership (INAUDIBLE) that there is hope for a better tomorrow in this country. And if he can't do that, and if he's unwilling to do that, then I wish he would allow someone else to step up who can.
BLITZER: Mayor, very strong words. We're showing our viewers right now, live pictures coming in from Atlanta protesters. They're obviously very angry, understandably. So as you see these protesters, I know you've gone out and spoken to them. What's your message to them right now?
BOTTOMS: I hear you. I see you and I hear you. My son sent me the video. I'd already seen it, but he sent me the video of the college students who were snatched out of their cars and tased in Atlanta. And he said, this is why we're burning up cities. This is why we're tearing up communities.
So I get it. I'm getting it in every direction in real time. And each and every day, I get up as mayor of the city to try and make my city better. And to the extent that we've had any grace in Atlanta, I think it's because our communities know that. Whether it's closing our jail and converting that to an equity center, or closing our jail to I.C.E or even having a transition program for prisoners who are coming out with full time jobs in the city of Atlanta. We're trying to do better each and every day. And that's what we want from our President. We want to be able to look at our President and at least know that he's trying to do better. And what I see right now is a man who has no interest in doing better for the people or this country.
BLITZER: Is there a curfew that you've imposed in Atlanta right now? Have you invited or asked for National Guard troops to be deployed? How worried are you that these peaceful protests could get violent?
BOTTOMS: Well, we do have National Guard troops here. They have been here since Friday. There is a curfew in place at 9:00 p.m. We've had that for the past couple of days. It is our long standing policy in Atlanta, that we do not arrest peaceful protesters.
But what we have now, we have National Guard troops here. We have other agencies here. We have this -- the state of Georgia that's involved with the state patrol, that's not necessarily their policy. And so we're just trying to strike this balance here, honoring the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. and so many others, Ambassador Young and so many others.
And that we want to allow these peaceful protests. But when interstates are closed down and, you know, courts when they turn violent, then other decisions have to be made and I can't control what the state does in our city but we're certainly working together to try and strike a balance here.
BLITZER: Well, Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms of Atlanta, thank you so much for everything you're doing. We are all grateful to you especially a grateful for you joining us here in THE SITUATION ROOM tonight. Good luck tonight.
Obviously, everybody's bracing for a deterioration of the situation. Let's hope the protests remain calm. People can be angry, people can be protest. This is the United States of America. But let's hope they don't get violent. Thanks so much for joining us and good luck.
BOTTOMS: Thank you.
BLITZER: Keisha Lance Bottoms of Atlanta. You're looking at live pictures coming in from Atlanta.
But what's going on in Philadelphia right now is also especially disturbing. Brian Todd, you're there for us. So last time we spoke, we saw the tear gas, we saw people jumping over a fence, we saw a lot of people running. Clearly, you were tear gassed as well. What's the latest?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the protesters seem to have re- gathered at least in some numbers here. We have probably, I don't know, a few hundred following us and heading toward City Hall. We're trying to get -- we're going to go this way a little bit. They were very disorganized once the tear gas was fired at them. And they dispersed in many different directions. Now they've re gathered in a smaller number, but they're marching right toward City Hall. We're about a block away from it. And we saw a police tactical vehicle, kind of one in front of them but at a distance.
So the police are, you know, they're ringing this area. They've got tactical vehicles, they've got got some riot gear. We're going to see if there's a confrontation. We thought there might be one a few moments ago, but the police, this really heavily armored police vehicle moved along and did not confront them.
So what's up? Andrew, if you want to pan to your right. You can see, they've really re-gathered in some numbers. Now this is not as big a crowd as we saw earlier. Earlier, I'd say at least 2,000 or 3,000 people. This is down to probably 500 or so. I would guess you don't want to get into the numbers but, you know, you can kind of guesstimate here.
But it could grow because they're going to go to City Hall. And we'll see if there are competitions there. City Hall is ringed by national guardsmen and Philadelphia police and state police. So, you know, I can tell you that this crowd is angrier now than they were about an hour ago, Wolf.
They were spirited, they were, you know, passing it like many crowds across the country. They were not angry. Now they're angry, because the tear gas that was fired down into that overpass area that you saw, and you saw people scrambling over that fence, that really riled up this crowd and we're going to see if there's a confrontation here at City Hall.
You know, I talked to so many of these protesters. Before all this happened, I talked to a couple of (INAUDIBLE) this happen. Before this happened, they kept saying to me they do not want that image of the looting and the burning in Philadelphia over the past couple of days to be the narrative of this city in any of these protests.
They want to express their outrage at the death of George Floyd. They want to express their outrage at the death of other young African- American men through the last several years, at the hands of police.
That's what they say they're here to do. They were -- they're actually very concerned that that message was getting lost in some of the violence in this city. And so they were really kind of cheerful. They were in very good moods. They thought that this was really a chance tonight to express that positive message of, you know, anti-racism and calling attention to police brutality.
But, you know, once they got under that underpass, the entire dynamic changed. Once that tear gas started to be, you know, just fired into the air and fire down into that -- onto that highway under the overpass, or so many of them, hundreds of them were packed in the dynamic changed.
People panicked. They -- you saw them, Wolf, you saw it on live TV, they were scrambling over that fence. We were concerned that some of them got injured. We don't believe any of them did.
We have been told that dozens of people are back down by the highway who have gotten arrested. So we're heading towards City Hall. We'll let you know what happens when we get there.
BLITZER: All right.
TODD: We're -- as you can see, just a couple hundred yards away.
BLITZER: All right, we'll get back to you, Brian. We know there's a 6:00 p.m. curfew, that's what in about 17 minutes in Philadelphia. We'll see how that curfew is implemented and what these protesters are going to be doing after 6:00 p.m. when that curfew goes into effect. So we've looked at Philadelphia, we looked at Washington, D.C., we looked at Atlanta. Situation is tense in all those cities.
I want to go to New York City right now. Shimon Prokupecz has is on the scene for us. So Shimon, first of all, tell us where you are and what you see. What do you hear?
SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it is quiet here, Wolf, the -- in here we're in Union Square which has been in the past few days, a place where a lot of the protesters have come to. There have been peaceful protests here and there have been flare ups here.
Just last night there was a flare up here and nights -- two nights ago, there was a confrontation with police. So you have police officers. As you can see there's police officers here standing behind me. There are more police officers up the block, and vans that are just waiting to deploy if needed.
But right now, Wolf, New York City has been peaceful. The protests have been marching through the streets. They've marched from Time Square to downtown. We marched with them. They were peaceful.
There is now a curfew in effect for New York City. The governor and their mayor say that at 11:00 p.m., everyone will be ordered off the streets. They will start this curfew today, it's going to go from 11:00 p.m. to 5:00 a.m. And this is because of the last few nights of what we've seen. I've been on the streets here every night.
People have been breaking into stores, shattering the glass on the storefront, they have been -- there have been several times confrontations with police. Police have been attacked. They have set fires to police cars, vans.
So as a result of all that, the mayor and the governor have gotten together and said, OK, we're going to do this curfew. We're going to start it today. And they're going to see how it goes.
The thing that happens here, as this has been happening across the nation, is that at night, when it gets dark, it tends to get more violent during the day. Again, today, there have been peaceful protests, it is when it gets dark and around even, let's say, 8:00, 9:00 things start to heat up. The curfew starts at 11:00. So we'll see how that goes and what leads up into the curfew, which starts at 11:00, Wolf.
BLITZER: Remind us what happened last night over there in SoHo, specifically, because it was very peaceful and all of a sudden something happened.
PROKUPECZ: Yes, something did happen, Wolf. So, there was a group of protesters at that marched from Brooklyn, over the Manhattan -- from Brooklyn over the Manhattan Bridge into Manhattan. And there, the police have said that there were people in that group, it was a peaceful protest, but there were elements in that group that were not peaceful and they started to throw bottles at police. And so there was a confrontation.
They split up the groups. The police were able to split up the group and some of the members of that group split off into SoHo. And there, there was looting, they broke into stores. As I said there was a shattered glass at many of the stores, the storefronts, some very high end shopping stores. So as a result of all that, the police have also decided that they're going to have more officers on the street tonight.
They had about 4,000 working each night. They are now doubling that to 8,000. And I can tell you, Wolf, I've been out every night. I have definitely seen more officers out tonight, out today so far than I have previously. You can see that already.
Some of them even driving around. It was a caravan of officers driving around in unmarked vehicles. I was speaking to some sources who say that they have called up everyone, below a captain, officers, other ranking members of the department to be ready to be deployed, to have their equipment ready. And that they've -- can be called at a moment's notice to be sent out. They are trying to avoid what happened last night.
You know, the mayor talked about this today, this kind of looting, the vandalism that we have seen here in New York City just doesn't happen. I also want to make a point because there -- and I think this is so important, Wolf, there has been a lot of peaceful protests.
There were very beautiful moments here. I went to, you know, we covered it, where people were gathering and chanting and doing what they do to voice their anger and their frustration with what has happened. But what the police say they have found is that there are elements, there are bad people who are hijacking the good protests.
They are inserting themselves in what are peaceful protests and then agitating the police or even trying to get protesters to act and agitate the police. And because of that, that is why we're seeing what we don't normally see here in New York City during these protests, the vandalism, the shattering of glass, the breaking into stores, the scrape, the graffiti all over the city. That is not normally something that we see during these kinds of protests.
And as a result of that, the mayor and the governor have gotten together and they have decided they're going to put an extra police officers and do this curfew at 11:00 p.m. tonight. Which -- I mean, I've covered so many protests here in New York City. There's never been a curfew as a result of that. It is because of the looting and some of the violence that we have seen, certainly from last night and as you said, Wolf, SoHo.
It really is what happened in SoHo last night that I think was finally made the police and the governor and the mayor say, OK, we need something else, we need to do something to try and get this on the control? And so you're going to have the curfew, and then obviously you're going to have the more police out. The presence is going to be much larger tonight, Wolf,
BLITZER: I just want you to be careful, Shimon, over there because I'm worried about what might unfold in the coming hours.
Don Lemon is still with us. Don, you live in New York City. You know this area, you know Union Square, you know SoHo, give us a little big picture of what you sense we should be bracing for.
LEMON: It's interesting, Wolf, because number of the cities that we have been -- we've had up on our screen, including Philadelphia and Chicago and Atlanta and New York, I lived in for a number of years. And so it is -- it's surreal to see these images playing out on these beautiful cities.
But, I mean, when you're looking at New York City which is really, you know, the most dense city in the United States, we're looking at this cavernous city with thousands of people out, a city that had been virtually empty for months because of COVID-19 and all of these people who are suddenly showing up with a concern that, you know, these cities may become super spreader cities.
These protests may become super spreader events. But I think we're braced for seeing very similar scenes to what we saw last night. When Shimon was out and about with police, police -- the protesters walk down the street, and then police find them and then they retreat and they try to go to another spot and then police move towards them and they retreat and they keep moving.
And this is dense (ph) that plays out in New York City, which is very dense, very small streets. But then we see a very similar scene, very similar conflicts that play out in cities throughout America, including New York, Washington, D.C., Atlanta, Chicago, Los Angeles, and on and on and on.
You know, Wolf, someone asked me today. After the autopsy report, the independent autopsy report came out and they said, when is this going to stop? Is it going to stop when the rest of the officers are arrested? When is this going to stop? I don't have an answer. And I'm not sure it's going to stop when the rest of the officers are arrested because there are so many unanswered questions for protesters.
There are so many unanswered questions for Americans, for people who -- for the unheard. And so I don't know when it's going to stop or if it's going to be soon. But I will tell you, it's going to be interesting to watch and unfold on our city streets that I haven't seen, you know, this in quite some time.
BLITZER: Yes. It's a serious situation indeed. Don, standby.
Alex Marquardt is over near the White House, Lafayette Park right across the street. These are uniformed Secret Service police. They are standing there. They're facing off against the protesters in Lafayette Park right behind these uniform Secret Service police is the White House and Pennsylvania Avenue. Alex, set the scene what we're seeing right now and just a little while ago we saw trucks carrying military personnel onto the grounds, the actual grounds of the White House.
MARQUARDT: Yes, Wolf, the last time we spoke we were talking about the variety, the huge number of different types of forces that have turned out here to keep peace in the nation's capital. What you are seeing here is as you were saying, uniform Secret Service, a long row of them at the ready with their batons, with their rounds, clear, plastic shields and helmets, fully dressed and right here.
And then right behind them in the past few moments, Wolf, have arrived a significant amount of camouflage National Guard. I don't think you can see it but on their shields, it says military police. They have taken up position behind the uniform Secret Service right there in the middle of Lafayette Park.
Wolf, we have to remember, we have to emphasize over and over again that this is no normal standoff between protesters and police. This is right in front of the White House. That is why you are seeing such a significant amount of a manpower --
BLITZER: Yes, a very serious situation.
MARQUARDT: -- that is why you are seeing --
BLITZER: Yes, go ahead.
MARQUARDT: -- a significant amount of firepower. But I want to -- Peter Morris (ph) to turn back towards me Wolf, because I want to -- it is in stark contrast, frankly, to the mood of this protest. There is no doubt that over the past few nights, there has been violence and destruction in the city. But this is a wholly peaceful protest.
Just moments ago, we saw people kneeling down, saying, hands up, don't shoot. Now you can hear them chanting Black Lives Matter. In the three hours that we have been here, Wolf, we have not seen any incidents of violence. We have not seen the protesters throwing anything towards the police.
So, obviously, there is a possibility that things can change. These protests can evolve certainly when it gets to the later hours. But when we talk about this balance of protesters versus agitators, those who want to come out for the right reasons and to have their message be heard versus those who want to come out and cause destruction, this is right now a very peaceful protest coming out to have their voices heard in the wake of the death of George Floyd. But you are now seeing this increased police presence, increase law enforcement presence right here in front of the White House, Wolf.
BLITZER: All right. Stand by, Alex, because we're getting some breaking news coming into THE SITUATION ROOM right now. An official statement from the medical examiner's office in Hennepin County, Minnesota. That's where Minneapolis is.
They've just released an official report that says that George Floyd's death was a homicide resulting from being restrained. The statement says that the cause of death is a cardiopulmonary arrest, complicating law enforcement, subdued dual restrain and neck compression. Further, Floyd died from experience of cardiopulmonary arrest while being restrained by law enforcement officers.
Laura Coates is with us, our legal analyst. She just back here in Washington from Minneapolis. That's her hometown. What do you make of this official County Medical Examiners' report, Laura?
LAURA COATES, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, it seems to largely be in line with what we all thought happened on the scene. But remember, this is what has to be done as part of the formal process of an investigation. It can't be just lay persons looking at a scene and establishing a particular cause of death.
Now, I want to be very clear, when medical examiners write these reports, they do not and they actually have a disclaimer as part of them. They are not saying anything about liability on the civil side, or talking about somebody in a conviction way, as in this is the person who is convicted -- or should be convicted. They don't make an actual assessment about the legal conclusions.
What they are saying is that this was not an instance where there was underlying conditions that overrode what the officers did. And they weren't simply, you know, contributing factors that accelerated. He's actually making a connection, excuse me, she is making a connection between the officers' conduct, the compression, meaning the officer kneeling on the neck. And also remember, we have video footage, Wolf, of other officers who are also placing their bodies on Mr. George Floyd's body.
And so, there may be some contributory ideas here about what compression they did that could have also led to the call -- the heart attack essentially in the pulmonary arrest. And what you're seeing here is laying out what the prosecutors will look at, and also what the defense was going to try to attack and say, hold on a second. Is there any reason to believe that your findings should have been inconclusive? Are you jumping to legal conclusions? Are you making statements that you otherwise would not be qualified to do?
Arguing at the Hennepin County Medical Examiner is not qualified would be farcical. But they're going to still try to look at is there a direct relationship between the officers assaultive conduct and Mr. Floyd's death. And surely combining all the factors and the video evidence, this case is getting stronger in favor of the murder charges.
And one last point here, Wolf, when a medical examiner says homicide, that is I know for people who are watching, saying, aha, they're making a conclusion about murder. A homicide really is defined as an as a non-natural death, something that are caused that is not natural. So that in and of itself does not persuade either way, but the findings they're in, that's huge.
BLITZER: Very huge. Indeed.
All right. I want to get the medical analysis now from Dr. Sanjay Gupta, our Chief Medical Correspondent is still with us. Sanjay, you've gone through this a little bit. What do you make of it?
GUPTA: Yes. I mean, you know, just as Laura was saying, they're now saying that the manner of death, homicide, the cause of death, cardiopulmonary arrest complicated because of the restraints, subdual restraints. So by being subdued, the restraints and the neck compression was what led to that.
So, from a medical standpoint, it sounds like what they're saying here -- and again, there will be a full report that came out, this is a bit of a summary here, basically saying that, due to inadequate oxygenation of the blood, the organs in this case, the heart was not getting enough oxygenated blood and that led to a cardiac arrest, the cardiopulmonary arrest.
So it's, you know, again, a short summary here, but it's a pretty clearance. And I think it fits with what we also heard earlier today from that independent medical exam, also being called a homicide, saying in that case, because of pressure on the neck leading to inadequate oxygenation, inadequate blood flow.
In the independent medical report, they also said it was due to pressure on the neck and pressure on the back. Two sources of pressure they said lead to Mr Floyd's death. But both, you know, ultimately, it's the heart that stops pumping that leads to -- that is the cause of death. That's what they're saying here in this medical report, but they're clearly saying was a homicide. And it was due to this pressure on the neck.
BLITZER: Very serious development. We're going to continue to follow this. The official Hennepin County Medical Examiners' report, calling it a homicide now of George Floyd, 46 years old. And that has resulted, and all of us seeing, that really dramatic and awful video, some nine minutes including almost three minutes after he stopped moving at all, and clearly he had been restrained to a dangerous and deadly degree.
Everybody standby. We've been showing our viewers live pictures coming in. You see Washington, D.C. There's a standoff at the Lafayette Park right across the street. From the White House, U.S. military personnel already have been brought in and trucks onto the White House grounds. These are U.S. military police.