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Night in New York Dominated by Looters; Barriers Up in D.C.'s Lafayette Park Today; Interview with Former Missouri Highway Patrol Captain Ron Johnson. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired June 2, 2020 - 14:00   ET



SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT (via telephone): -- demonstrators to come out and voice their anger and voice their opinion, and they're going to allow it.

What we see late at night, as we did last night, is much different than what we're seeing here at the moment -- Brianna.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: That's right. And can you tell us what -- tell us what people are chanting. And I was going to comment on, just as we were sort of people-watching, this protest, with people walking by, just like you said, Shimon, it is a very diverse crowd. I think we're seeing someone walk away who must be only 14 or 15 years old, it looks like. Tell us what you're hearing the crowd say.

PROKUPECZ (via telephone): Black lives matter, no justice, no peace. Right now, they're chanting, Black lives matter. (INAUDIBLE) the majority of the people I'm seeing are actually wearing masks, and there is a mix of people, and it's people (ph). And they're walking. We're seeing signs of no justice, no peace. Power to the people.

So you are seeing people who are -- (inaudible) you know, I've covered many demonstrations here, in New York City, across the country. And this is typically what we see here in New York City. I covered demonstrations during the Eric Garner -- for the Eric Garner incident, and they were people (ph).

And they -- this can go on for hours. And as long as people are peaceful, the police have said they're going to allow them to march the streets, and they're doing this. I have now walked maybe 15 blocks, that's how wide these protests (INAUDIBLE), how wide this march goes. And it's going to go.

And they can keep going here. The NYPD is not going to stop them, they're going to allow them to proceed. And you know, you look at the crowd and it's just people who are happy to be together and to try to bring change, and that's what we're seeing here.

KEILAR: And tell us -- you know, this follows, obviously, a very hard night in New York City, a police officer who was injured very seriously. Tell us about that. PROKUPECZ (via telephone): Yes. So this police officer was hit by a

car -- the video is horrific -- and was responding -- our understanding, was responding to a burglary call, and it was looters. And this was a big problem through the night here, in New York City, for hours. And I'm talking several hours.

It started around 7:00 p.m. last night, and it went through probably -- I got home around 2:00 in the morning, and it was still going on, where police were chasing looters around, trying to get a handle on the situation, and it was just chaos.

At one point, the only people on the street were looters and the police. And it was amazing, in some ways, just remarkable to watch how people, these looters who came to New York City, some of them from out of state, they were in cars with out-of-state license plates, several people in cars with duffel bags. I saw a person walking around with a bat.

This was well after the curfew, the curfew was at 11:00 p.m. last night, as you know, and people -- looters were still walking the streets, and the police were just standing around, trying to guard property, buildings and stores that had already been broken into, making arrests, trying to make more arrests. And it really was a chaotic night for the police.

And they just seemed, in some ways, unmatched. This was an organized effort, the looters seemed to know where to go, they seemed to work together and they were targeting specific locations all over Manhattan.

And many stores today, you know, walking through the streets, you can see, are being boarded up, glass everywhere, things (ph) taken (ph) from stores, sneaker stores to electronics stores. So it was a really tough night for the city last night, having to deal with that.

You know, many stores have almost -- everything has been shut down here. And what was so disheartening for me, I walked by a store on my -- when -- at the end of the night last night, it was a small store, small shop owner who -- it was just sad to watch, his entire store destroyed. And he was up, out there, cleaning up the glass, trying to you know, just fix things up, late in the night.

And those were some of the things that we were seeing last night. And to be perfectly clear -- and I think it's important, these looters are not the demonstrators. What we see today, it's beautiful. And it has happened. On Sunday, the demonstrators, thousands were out, walking the streets and marching as we see here today.


What happens at night is a very different story. The thing about last night was that it started happening much earlier. And the only thing that I thought about was, because they knew the curfew was coming at 11:00 p.m. And we were seeing so much looting by 8:00, 8:30, 9:00, OK?

It was just unreal to watch, as people would take metal barricades that police had set up around the city, and throw them through storefronts. And Citi Bike, the rental bikes here in New York City, they were using those to shatter the storefronts, and then they would go inside and loot.

And at one point, you know, the police were just running around. All you heard for hours here last night, Brianna, were sirens, police sirens, them trying to respond from location to location, as officers are calling for assistance because they were being inundated with the looters all around Manhattan.

So that was the scene last night. You know, we heard from the governor today who said that it was unacceptable. He's (ph) questioning the police response. You know, I've talked to people at the NYPD -- sources -- and they were out last night. And they're frustrated because they certainly feel like they're exhausted at this point, and they don't know how it's going to end. And some are even asking for more help.

Right now, there is no plan to bring in the National Guard. Certainly the state police can help, there are really no plans to do that right now. So we'll see, we'll see what the strategy is tonight for the NYPD. But quite honestly, so much was looted last night around New York City, I'm not sure that there is anything left for some of the looters to come back to and move.

So -- but we'll see. You know, you have to see what the police tactics will be tonight because they certainly seemed to be caught off-guard by some of the activity. The police commissioner and the mayor today said they expected some of the looting to happen in the downtown area, in SoHo, as they saw the other night. But it seems the number of people that hit the midtown area and the Upper East Side area and some of the high-end shops, I think, caught the police by surprise -- Brianna.

KEILAR: Yes. And they -- between that and the fact that the curfew was so late -- 11:00 p.m. -- just in contrast to other cities.

And I want to bring in Brynn Gingras to this conversation. She's there, covering this on the ground as well.

You know, Brynn, here in Washington, D.C., the mayor, Muriel Bowser, had moved up the curfew to 7:00 p.m. And for context, the sun sets at 8:30 right now, right? So this is during daylight, and this really shut down a lot of the city. I think life sort of even during the pandemic, as people know it here in D.C. -- there's no food delivery, people in general were staying home. Of course, there were still protestors out.

But in New York, it's a different story. And it's interesting, when you have President Trump and Governor Cuomo in chorus, criticizing Mayor de Blasio about how he handled this.

BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. And about that curfew, Brianna, there was a lot of back-and-forth between the governor and the mayor. Do we do a curfew, do we not do a curfew. And that's when they decided, We'll do 11:00 for last night. And today, now, 8:00.

Well, I can tell you, I've been talking to sources all day who are on the ground here, who are working in these protests, when they turn into the violence, the looting that we saw. And they say these are types of people that -- they don't care about a curfew, it doesn't matter what time you set it. They're not going to follow it, that's not the issue. So it's almost like focusing on the wrong thing, it seems. And I think there's a lot of frustration with that.

And, yes, you mentioned the coronavirus. It's funny because me and my team, my producer and photographer, have been talking. And it's like the COVID never happened in New York City. And this is the city that isn't even opened yet. We're waiting to open next week for the first time, just having construction and manufacturing back. But that's what it feels like again.

And nothing against the protests, those are going smoothly. But as you have heard, many officials saying it's these pockets of people that are blending into the protests and then breaking off and causing this violence.

And you talk about sunlight, well, I was getting calls from sources yesterday at 6:00, hearing that there were items being thrown off buildings onto not only police, but protestors as well. I was getting calls about looting that was happening on Fifth Avenue.

And you can see here, Macy's, Herald Square, this was one of the stores that was broken into. Look at all of this boarded up area. I mean, this isn't new today, this has been this way since yesterday and the day before. And yet looters were able to still break in.


Now, just think about that for just a second, boarded-up flagship building of Macy's, and looters have enough time to break down the boards, go into the store, steal things and come out. Sort of echoing what Shimon said, police who I've talked to, they feel under-matched at this point. They don't feel like they have the resources.

And I do think that's what the governor and the president were sort of addressing in their comments today, that more needs to be done int his city. There are 35,000 NYPD officers, it is the largest police department in the country, and yet they're being outmatched at this point, when it comes to the violence that is breaking out from the peaceful protests.

So that's a lot of frustration that's all sort of mixing in on top of the good message that is being spread by these civil protests that are happening, as you see on your screen. Downtown, we actually just saw one come down where we are, near Herald Square, 34th Street. They're likely going to be heading down to join those crowds as well.

But again, at this point, it seems like it doesn't really matter what time, the violence is still breaking out. Doesn't matter what the curfew is. We're hoping something changes, and it's not quite clear from officials, exactly what's going to change since we're not seeing more reinforcement like the National Guard or you know, any update on what sort of definite tactics are going to be different, we're not hearing any of that just yet -- Brianna.

KEILAR: And just quickly, Brynn, the -- you know, the president has talked about states using the National Guard, and I wonder if that complicates the situation. Certainly, you have a place like New York City, where President Trump is not popular at all. And now the use of the National Guard, which is often, you know, potentially controversial decision but is now even more so. Does that complicate that decision, that option for the mayor, for the governor?

GINGRAS: I definitely think so. I definitely think there is a lot of politics in play here, but you are hearing the governor say that he wants to help with the National Guard, and the mayor saying, no, we don't want that help.

So there has to be a happy medium that happens, whether there's even more police officers or they do the National Guard. I don't know what the answer is, I wish I did because I would love to see the city back to some sort of, you know, peace. But it's unclear what the right step is. And you're absolutely right, it is sort of a politicized decision at this point.

But the root of it, I think that people feel, is let's just get down to the fact that this violence needs to end. We can't keep seeing store after store after store be looted.

You know, another example, Brianna, my producer and I were driving by this morning, there was an ATM, pulled from the bank. An ATM. I mean, can you imagine how much force that takes, and how many people that takes, to take from a bank? I mean, this is the kind of crime that's happening. And clearly, it's happening when it's not even dark out, when no one's around, by a lot of people.

So it seems like there needs to be a lot more officers. Because, again, the people I've talked to -- I know Shimon's been talking to people, I have other colleagues who have been talking to people -- they feel like they are somewhat under-matched at this point, and they really want the support of whoever can listen to get them that help.

KEILAR: All right, Brynn, thank you to you and Shimon for your great reporting there on the ground, in Manhattan.

Let's head now to Washington, D.C., where we're seeing protests unfold as well. CNN White House correspondent Boris Sanchez is at one in Lafayette Park, the site there of this protest.

Tell us what you're seeing. And also, you know, we can't help but notice something that wasn't there yesterday, which is these very tall kind of fence -- screened fences.

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Right, Brianna. Yes, those were put up overnight. They're about eight feet tall, and I'll get out of the way so you can get a clearer picture. Protestors right now are pushed up against them. This crowd has significantly grown in just the last hour, when we last

saw you. I -- several hundred people are here. At this time right now, there are more people outside Lafayette Park, outside the White House, than there were at this point yesterday.

And we're hearing chanting from them, they are calling for the officers who are just beyond the barrier to kneel with them. You see that some of them are actually moving the barrier if you take a look down there.

At this point, we have not seen any violence. We have not seen anybody hurl any projectiles, we've not seen anything that would engender the kind of response that we saw about a half hour before curfew last night, when those protestors who were peaceful also were forcibly moved out of here by police so that President Trump could stand in front of St. John's Episcopal Church and have this photo opportunity.

I actually have two young men with me who go to school here. This is Raines (ph) and this is Timmy (ph). Thank you guys so much for joining us. You guys go to school nearby. Raines (ph), to you first. Just a moment ago, you were telling me that this is more than just about George Floyd, this has been going on for a long time.


RAINES (PH): Multiple years, multiple different occasions of black men just being murdered by the police officers. Eight minutes and 46 seconds of somebody kneeling on your neck, and you don't think something like this is going to happen? It doesn't make any sense to me.

SANCHEZ: Right. And, Raines (ph) (sic), you told me that what you saw yesterday, with protestors out here that were peaceful, that were here before curfew, getting forced out, you called that a slap in the face?

TIMMY (PH): Yes, it was definitely a slap in the face, pushing all the protestors out just to get to a church to take a picture with a bible, like, come on now. Like, at least stand out here with us, say something. But he has to push everybody out, tear gas, all that from a peaceful protest? It's just a big slap.

SANCHEZ: All right. Timmy (ph), Raines (ph), thank you again for sharing your perspective with us, we appreciate it.

So, Brianna, again, things here, currently peaceful. We'll see how law enforcement responds as this crowd continues to grow and we get closer to that 7:00 curfew that is still in effect tonight.

KEILAR: Looked like they were from Howard University, I think, Boris. Is that right?

SANCHEZ: You guys go to Howard?



KEILAR: I saw on a T-shirt.

SANCHEZ: Howard University. You're right, Brianna. Keen eye.

KEILAR: All right, all right, Boris, thank you so much.

SANCHEZ: Thank you, guys, thank you.


SANCHEZ: Of course.

KEILAR: Thanks for that report, Boris, we appreciate it.

This is really not far from the White House, that you're watching Boris report on this peaceful protest like the one that we're seeing in New York as well.

So we're following these large, peaceful protests that are unfolding there in Washington, also in lower Manhattan, outside of police headquarters. I'll talk to one man who had dealt with these kinds of protests firsthand. Stay with us. This is CNN's special live coverage.



KEILAR: We're looking at live pictures of a large, very large peaceful protest there in New York City. This is in lower Manhattan near 1 Police Plaza, so this is near the police headquarters there. Almost a sister protest is happening in Los Angeles as well, right near the police headquarters.

But we're keeping an eye on what is a large, animated peaceful, very diverse crowd as they are protesting through the city here. You see that scene, an embrace there among two of the protestors who appear to be friends.

Let's talk about what's happening with Ron Johnson, former captain in the Missouri Highway Patrol. He took over security during the 2014 protests in Ferguson, after the fatal police shooting of Michael Brown. He wrote a book about it, called "13 Days in Ferguson."

So I wonder, Ron, you're looking at these pictures, right? I mean, I imagine this is what police want to see, right? Peaceful protests, they're walking by police headquarters, they are making themselves heard. I mean, there's the signs, the chants, just the sheer numbers here. And then you contrast this with what happened last night in Manhattan, with the looting that clearly overwhelmed police. I just -- I want to get your thoughts on these two scenes.

RON JOHNSON, FORMER CAPTAIN, MISSOURI HIGHWAY PATROL: You know, daytime, we've got peaceful protestors. We saw that here in Ferguson, we're seeing that throughout the country. And they're protesting for change. At night, of course, we've got rioters and people that are out there for self-gain, and so you have two different entities.

But also know that during the daytime, some of those rioters are using the peaceful protests as a shield, and they are actually injecting themselves within the crowds of the peaceful protestors.

KEILAR: And you know, one of the things that the mayor was -- has been criticized for is the fact that there was an 11:00 p.m. curfew last night, and we've heard our reporters say they were getting calls from their sources because this was -- appeared to be shifting the looting to earlier in the evening, that this was already happening well before the sun had gone down.

Now, tonight, you've got an 8:00 p.m. curfew in New York City, but there are concerns that maybe this isn't even going to matter, that folks who are bent on looting and personal gain, as you said, are just going to ignore that curfew. Do you think an 8:00 p.m. curfew is going to work?

JOHNSON: I think we've seen it work in some areas, during this protest. In Ferguson, we tried it one night and I spoke with the governor and I said, we can't enforce it, the rioters are still going to come out and so we didn't do it but -- another night but the one night.

So I think that if you think that the rioters are going to go home and the looting's going to stop just because you put the curfew out there, in a sense, in some cases, it makes them come out more.

KEILAR: All right. If you can stay with me, Ron, I also want to bring in our correspondent Shimon Prokupecz, who is there, following this protest. I mean, Shimon, this is huge, right? We've been looking at this now, we've been coming back to it repeatedly. And this is just a very large protest, winding its way past 1 Police Plaza in Manhattan.

PROKUPECZ: Yes, Brianna, we're now way past 1 Police Plaza. We're actually now in SoHo, walking through the streets. You can see cars here, supporting, honking in support of the protestors. And just really, everyone gathering and getting together.

And we've now -- I mean, this -- the front of this protest is probably way into maybe several, several blocks, I'd say 15 blocks. And it's in the thousands, probably the largest demonstration that we've had here.

And what's really interesting is, the police are standing back, you know? As they have said, they would allow this -- allow them to demonstrate, and they are demonstrating and it has been peaceful.


We're seeing all kinds of different signs, a very diverse crowd, young, older, all sorts of different people just getting together and trying to express their emotions and their anger and the change that they all want to see.

I want to try and see if I can grab someone here to talk to us. Hi, we're live on CNN. Can I talk to you? UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Sure.

PROKUPECZ: Tell me -- just express your feelings about being here and what this means for you, to be able to do this out here on the streets of Manhattan.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, it's just if you look around and see all of these people, we can't live like this anymore. And that's just not for black folks, that's for everyone. We cannot live like this anymore, and we will fight until the end, until we can have our peace. No justice, no peace.

PROKUPECZ: How important is it to have these peaceful demonstrations through the streets, to be able to march like this?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Every demonstration is important. I'm not going to say it's important to have the peaceful ones and not the peaceful ones --


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All of them are important, every single one is important, until people can hear us. People know who we are, people see that people like this, D.J. Henry, are important. George Floyd was important. Trayvon Martin was important. Mike Brown was important. These people are all important Breonna Taylor was important. Atatiana Jefferson was important. These people are important.

We can't forget about them, we cannot. We can't forget about them.

PROKUPECZ: Describe some of the emotions you've been feeling, in all (INAUDIBLE) George Floyd, and --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: D.J. Henry happened in a small town in Westchester County. A police officer shot him in front of all of his classmates, in front of university students. Then they turned their guns on those same university students.

For 10 years, we've been fighting the same fight, 10 years of my adult life, I have been saying justice for "insert name." It's been too long. And it's been longer than my 10 years. It's just too much.

PROKUPECZ: Thank you. What's your name?


PROKUPECZ: Thank you so much for speaking to me.

So, Brianna, this is what you're seeing here, right? A lot of people out here, marching, protesting. Their feelings, talking about how they feel and the frustration that they have felt. And you can hear that in so many of the chants -- black lives matter; no justice, no peace -- and they're continuing. We're now at Houston Street, West Houston and Broadway. So we're walking. And this is probably going to go on for quite some time (INAUDIBLE). KEILAR: All right. And just to add to what the protestor who you were talking to said about D.J. Henry, there were no -- there was not an indictment against anyone int he case, but the family in -- accepted a partial settlement of several million dollars, so just to put some context into what they were judged to -- in terms of what happened to their son, D.J. Henry, who was an African-American football player at Pace University.

Shimon, so you said this is about 15 blocks long, and certainly, you know, one of the things I noticed, when you were talking to the woman who -- Jane Doe, as she said, she certainly didn't want to be identified -- but she said she wasn't going to say --

PROKUPECZ: Yes, I get that, I understand that.

KEILAR: -- Yes, no, I get that too. Honestly, she was so -- her message was so important to hear, I was just -- I guess you're just naturally curious to know who she is, to put a name to her message as well.


KEILAR: But she said she didn't want to say that the non-peaceful protests were less important, right? And this is something that I think there are observers of these protests, and they're trying to sort out kind of what is going on, what is different between the one that you're looking at now, which is very peaceful -- we're seeing -- we've been watching one in Los Angeles as well that went by police headquarters there, very peaceful.

And a lot of people are trying to understand, as they watch what happens here during the day, and then what they see happen in the evening. Give us a sense of what you're seeing there. You were observing well into the early morning hours, what happened in New York last night.


PROKUPECZ: Yes. And to be clear, Brianna, the people who were out on the streets last night were not demonstrators, were not --