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Trump Threatens to Use Military to Dominate Protesters; Peaceful Protesters Tear Gassed for Trump Church Photo Op; Amid Chaos, Moments of Unity Among Police and Protesters; Protesters Gather Near Police Headquarters in New York City and Los Angeles. Aired 1:30-2p ET

Aired June 2, 2020 - 13:30   ET



COL. CEDRIC LEIGHTON, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Using these people who are often not trained in the same kind of enforcement techniques that domestic police agencies are trained in, and putting them right in the middle of something like this. The big deal is that it can pit the American military against our own population and that is something that we don't want to see and most military members wouldn't want to see either.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: And it's not pitting the military against the population writ large, right? It's pitting it against a group that is predominantly African-American, that is predominantly not fans of President Trump. These are certainly not people that he would consider to be political allies and in his tent of support. What is the effect of that?

LEIGHTON: So the big problem there is if the military is perceived to be a part of one political side versus another, it's going to cause others to perceive that the military has taken sides politically, and that is a really big problem. And, you know, if the military is used against minority communities like African-American communities, other communities of color, then it's going to not only have a really bad impact on community relations with that particular community, but it is also going to cut the path of recruitment for potential military recruits from that community into the U.S. Military.

And what that does to the U.S. Military is it actually takes a major talent pool away from the military and makes the military far less effective than it currently is, makes it really far less able to handle the kind of foreign military situations that it is built for, and that is a really significant issue.

KEILAR: You believe that this could erode the civilian military bond the country has built over the past four decades. Explain that to us.

LEIGHTON: So the military bond, military civilian bond is something that's very, very special. People who grew up during the Vietnam era remember when the military was not held in as high regard as it is today. The military has a special place in American society and in American culture. And what's interesting about the civil-military relationship in the United States is that that civil-military relationship is based on a voluntary force, a democratic system that takes people who want to join the military and allows them, if they so choose, to make a career out of that.

The military is respected because of how it has behaved, how it has professionalized itself, and how it is able to interact with all elements of society. If that disappears, then what we're going to end up with is a military that really doesn't have the kind of civilian support that it really needs to have in order to be effective, and it would go back to the situation in the 1960s where the military which by the way was not an all-volunteer force, was really derided in many quarters for not being a professional force. And that is something we don't want to see ever again.

KEILAR: And you know, one of the things is, the military, right, members of the military, they are there to serve their country. They serve on the orders of the commander-in-chief. Many of them hold personal and disparate political views, but it is in their code that they do not -- you know, that's not something they are public about.

What does this do to people in the armed forces -- I know, look, I know on social media traffic there are people who think that the military is monolithic. It's not. What does this do to members of the military being forced to carry out very divisive policies?

LEIGHTON: Well, I think, Brianna, the potential is that this could be something that could divide the military just like the military was divided in the run-up to the American civil war in the 1860s. That is something we really don't want to see. And you're right, the American military contains people of every political stripe, every ethnic group. And they bring a whole bunch of diverse opinions, whole bunch of different ways of doing things into the military.

And the military is able through its six services, to forge a very unique bond among people from very different backgrounds. If we pit each other -- against each other, that's going to be a major problem. That's going to be something that can destroy the bonds of cohesion that have made the American military such an effective force. And it is also something that plays frankly into the hands of our rivals, and that's not what we want to see from the United States' viewpoint.

KEILAR: All right. Colonel, thank you so much. Colonel Cedric Leighton, we appreciate the conversation.

LEIGHTON: You bet, Brianna. Anytime.


KEILAR: Coming up, a Christian scholar who says President Trump is using the church and the bible as a, quote, "racist prop."



KEILAR: The president making another photo op stop at a religious site today. He and the first lady visited the St. John Paul II National Shrine in Washington this morning. The archbishop of Washington saying that it's baffling and reprehensible that the shrine is being egregiously misused and manipulated in a fashion that violates our religious principles.

A follow-up to the unsettling scene that played out at a church yesterday where the president marched from the White House to St. John's Episcopal Church, walking on the same ground where peaceful protesters had been just moments before when they were driven back by tear gas, rubber bullets and blunt force at the hands of police and military police. The president then posed in front of the church and held up a bible for a photo op. A bible, he said. Asked if it was his bible, he said it's a bible. This moment drew outrage from the bishop of that very church.


BISHOP MARIANN EDGAR BUDDE, EPISCOPAL DIOCESE OF WASHINGTON: This was a charade that in some ways was meant to bolster a message that does nothing to calm the soul and to reassure the nation that we can recover from this moment, which is what we need from a president.


KEILAR: Diana Butler Bass joins us now. She is an author. She's also a historian of Christianity.

And Diana, thank you for joining us. Tell us what you make of the president using, kind of appropriating these places and the bible for himself during these crises.

DIANA BUTLER BASS, AUTHOR AND HISTORIAN OF CHRISTIANITY: Well, in certain ways, it's not unusual at all for a president to appear in front of a church or another religious building. But as the bishop of Washington so rightly pointed out, that is usually the background towards a speech about unity or the brotherhood and sisterhood of the American people or something to do with justice.

And what happened yesterday was not that. The president used St. John's Episcopal Church as a backdrop for a message which is, indeed, at odds with both the church he was standing in front of and the bible he was holding up.

KEILAR: And you have a bit of a personal connection here. I know that a friend of your daughter's was there outside of the White House and she told you about her experience. What did she tell you?

BASS: Yes. I was actually at another church. I thought that yesterday was so upsetting that I walked around the corner to the church in my neighborhood. I was sitting in the garden praying when all this went on. I came back to the house and my daughter said, oh, did you see what happened at St. John's? And I said, no. I was not watching television. And she said, well, a friend of hers was at this protest, a friend who had been holding up a Black Lives Matter sign.

And just all of a sudden the National Guard appeared from nowhere and they were gassed and sent down the street. And so we heard about it directly from someone who was there, and then, of course, the president walked across from the White House and stood in front of the church, didn't even say anything, simply held up the bible and seemed to want to use that to sort of rally people to his law and order cause.

KEILAR: Diana Butler Bass, thank you so much for joining us. We really need the perspective. Thank you.

Looters, protesters, and police clashing on New York City streets last night, including one officer who was run over in a hit-and-run.

Plus, the most comprehensive data to date that shows masks and social distancing help prevent the spread of coronavirus.



KEILAR: All right. We're keeping our eye here on -- this is the area near One Police Plaza in Lower Manhattan. You can see that there is a peaceful protest going on right now. And we're listening in here as we can try to hear what some of the protesters are saying. You can see they seem to be gathered over there on the far side of view. And we're going to keep an eye on this.

You see the peaceful protesters. They're walking. They have signs. They're near One Police Plaza, the headquarters for the police in New York City, for the NYPD. So we'll be keeping an eye on this and we'll revisit this as we see developments there.

Amid all of the scenes of unrest and chaos as protests have erupted across the country in the wake of death of George Floyd have been these touching moments between law enforcement and protesters. In Fort Worth, Texas, at the end of a tense confrontation between police and protesters, there was this. Instead of arresting the demonstrators for breaking curfew, the Fort Worth police chief kneeled and prayed with protesters.


CHIEF ED KRAUS, FORT WORTH POLICE: I think it's a good step. I hope that -- I hope it was meaningful. I hope that they -- the people here saw our hearts. We certainly saw their hearts and that they were hurting.


KEILAR: CNN's Tom Foreman has been keeping an eye on these moments of hope and unity that are playing out across the country.



TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Just minutes after the president promised a crackdown Denver's chief of police was on the move with protesters in body and spirit.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Working together is the only way we can get through this.

FOREMAN: Police in Minnesota are stopping traffic of protesters. Cops in Oregon kneeling with them. In Georgia, too, and in Indiana, this was the scene outside the governor's mansion.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And we're here to serve the community.

FOREMAN: It goes both ways. That is a Target store in New York and those are not police but protesters protecting it. Standing up to potential looters and vandals, telling them to go away, and that is happening in communities all across the land.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: People work too hard, too hard. You ain't going to do it in front of me.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Don't push the tape. Stop, stop.

FOREMAN: Amid the images of destructions these moments of people in congruously fighting to keep the peace are captivating. In D.C., a hooded man is breaking up pavement, what some have thrown, protesters rush him. In moments they strip away his mask and drag him to the police, yelling take him. He's yours.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I want to make this a parade. Not a protest.

FOREMAN: And on it goes. In one community after another many police and protesters are finding ways to lower their guard, occupy common ground and embrace the moment.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What we had tonight was a peaceful protest. And us joining them in a symbolic way to kind of recognize what had happened, that's the least we can do.

FOREMAN: In some cases even comforting each other.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No justice, no peace.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm hurt the same way you hurt. Like you hurt. Like everybody's out here hurts.

FOREMAN: These quiet little acts of kindness and pleas for peace are easily lost amid all the noise but they are occurring everywhere. Giving hope to those looking for someone to lean on amid the fear and fury.

Tom Foreman, CNN, Bethesda, Maryland.


KEILAR: I know I certainly needed that.

We have some breaking news. We're keeping an eye here on these live pictures. So this is coming to us, this is a peaceful gathering in Lower Manhattan. This is outside of One Police Plaza, police headquarters there in New York City for the NYPD, and you're seeing people walking by, carrying signs. It appears most of the people that we're seeing, well, not that gentleman, are wearing masks. There is a large crowd here after a very, very tough night in New York City.

What are we seeing here on the left? This is Los Angeles on the left. Police headquarters there. So you're seeing another gathering of peaceful protesters there on the West Coast. We will be keeping an eye on these pictures of peaceful protests from coast to coast.

We'll take a quick break and be right back.



KEILAR: Let's head back now to some live pictures that we're seeing in New York there on the right side of your screen, Los Angeles on the left side of your screen. Peaceful protesters gathering at police headquarters in both of these cities.

CNN's Shimon Prokupecz joining me now on the phone from New York. Tell me about the protests that we're seeing in New York.

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER (via phone): It is peaceful. These protests remarking that the police are allowing to proceed. You see protesters on the street. Police are closing traffic off. There are people in cars that are honking in support and people all around coming out of their apartments, office buildings to offer their support. And so now there are thousands there.

They are marching through Lower Manhattan into looks like north, so they're heading uptown. But you see the signs. You hear the chants, "no justice, no peace." And it's peaceful. And the police department have told that they are going to allow this to proceed. And you see these people, they're on the outskirts. They're on the outside of these protesters. They're in the front, they're in the back, but they are allowing them to proceed through the streets.

It's a very large protest that you can see. I mean, there's thousands of people cheering. There are signs, Black Lives Matter, justice for George Floyd. And you're seeing older people here. Younger people. There's black people, white people. Just a mix of all kinds of people really coming together in action, wanting change. And these are the things that the mayor and the NYPD said they want to see.

They want to see -- they want to allow the peaceful demonstrators to come out and voice their anger and voice opinion and they're going to allow it. What we see late at night, as we did --