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Major Protests Underway in Los Angeles, NYC, Washington; Bishop Says Trump Used Church and Bible for Message Antithetical to Jesus; Minnesota Governor Announces Investigation into Minneapolis Police Department; Protesters March in George Floyd's Hometown of Houston. Aired 3:30-4p ET

Aired June 2, 2020 - 15:30   ET



CHARLES RAMSEY, FORMER PHILADELPHIA POLICE COMMISSIONER: It is provocative and it's all about the optics of that, you know. I spent almost nine years as police chief in Washington D.C. working with the U.S. Park Police and all of the different agencies -- numerous agencies that operate inside of the District Of Columbia.

The Park Police are usually very, very good at dealing with crowds and demonstrations and things of that nature. When you look at the shot that I saw not long ago which you're showing now, with the lineup and by the way, that's a skirmish line, I know someone was asking what the formation was. But they're intentionally using military and not Park Police for that.


RAMSEY: They want it to look different. They want it to look different. I think that is coming, probably, right out of the White House, that they want that show of what they believe is strength. I think it makes it more provocative. Why would you use military police or soldiers, you got have an eight-foot-high fence there, you're not letting anybody in Lafayette Park. I mean you could have them on stand-by somewhere if you think you need them. But they don't need to be visible like that.

I think that is being provocative and I think it's intentional. I think they want the image to be military on the ground in Washington, D.C. taking control and I think it can backfire very easily. I really -- I don't like what I'm looking at when I see that.

BALDWIN: We're going to keep a close eye on it. I don't either. Charles Ramsey, thank you so much. I know you have many years in Washington, D.C. and quick break here. Live pictures again. Peaceful -- let's just call it a march. A march there heading northward in New York City. Folks want change. We'll be right back.


(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BALDWIN: Welcome back to the breaking news. Los Angeles on the left side of your screen. Washington, D.C. on the right. Folks, this is a beautiful thing we're seeing around the country today. Peaceful protests. I know you see the military police on the right side of your screen but again I want to underscore peaceful protests and marches across the country.

There are some changes in curfew depending on the city you're in. New York City has moved up to 8:00 p.m. Eastern tonight. A massive march through Manhattan is underway, similar scene as you can see in L.A. Washington, D.C., crowd is certainly building near the White House.

Which brings me to this. Disbelief, outrage, and condemnation after peaceful protesters gathered outside the White House yesterday. Look at this. They were targeted by police with teargas, rubber bullets, and flash grenades and it was all so that President Trump could stand outside of this historic church, here you have it. And hold up a bible and what can only be described as a photo op.

He didn't go inside and worship as U.S. Presidents have done at this neighborhood church for more than a century. Nor did he give a warning to church officials at the sanctuary that he was going to do that. A reverend who was forced from the building telling CNN that she was disgusted by the move and that President Trump had turned the area into a quote/unquote, literal battleground. Her anger shared by the Bishop of Washington Episcopal Diocese as well as the city's mayor. Listen to this.


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, to calm the soul and to reassure the nation that we can recover from this moment. Which is what we need from a President.

MAYOR MURIEL BOWSER (D) DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA: We were very shocked and quite frankly outraged that people who were not violating the curfew and who did not seem to have provoked attack were attacked and moved out by the federal law enforcement officials who were directed to clear the way for the President.


BALDWIN: And that stunning scene followed another one just moments before. President Trump declaring he was quote, your President of law and order in an apparent nod to his base threatening to use the Insurrection Act of 1807 to deploy active duty military to police U.S. streets. To be clear this act has not been invoked since the 1992 L.A. riots and prior to that was used in the 1950s to enforce desegregation as well as to address riots in Detroit in the 1960s.

And officials I should point out at the Department of Defense tell CNN that there is concern about the President's threat. One of them saying quote, there is an intense desire for local law enforcement to be in charge and that laws forbid the military from acting as law enforcement role inside the country. So, let's have a discussion.


With me now, CNN political correspondent Abby Phillip and former adviser on faith and race to President Obama, Joshua DuBois. Thank you both so much for being with me. And Joshua, just first to you, I mean what President Trump did yesterday, what did you think?

JOSHUA DUBOIS, FORMER ADVISER ON FAITH AND RACE TO PRESIDENT OBAMA: I thought it was farcical. And the interesting thing that it's kind of blowing up in his face even in the faith community, even in communities that support him like some conservative evangelical communities.

The reason is Jesus stood up for everyday people including the vulnerable and he didn't believe in false displays of piety. And yesterday President Trump potentially ordered or at least was OK with everyday people being gassed and shot with rubber bullets in order to make his way to a false display of piety. It was just obscene and absurd.

And the other interesting is that he's just sort of flailing right now. He started off by showing some sympathy to the family of George Floyd then he's telling governors to get tough and then it's this scene yesterday at the White House. He doesn't seem to have a plan, a strategy to address the underlying issues and bring the country together. He's just trying everything that works and everything that he does seems to make things worse.

BALDWIN: But from the perspective of the President, that is one thing, politics in this election year is quite another, Abby. And yes, it was egregious and yes, it was blasphemous, but will it work? I mean it was a photo op. The election is a couple of months away, we know President Trump and his advisers are concerned about his standing slipping with religious conservatives. Might what he did yesterday help him politically?

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: You know, well, the question is will it work and with who? I think that we don't know the answer to the question of whether people who are more moderate in the country, people who are in the suburbs who Republicans know that need to win will be moved by that.

But I'll tell you, I spoke to an evangelical leader who is very close to this White House and this person was very happy with what the President did yesterday. They saw it as the President reasserting a law and order message that resonates with white evangelical Christians who are a huge part of his base. And they saw it as the President asserting that Christianity is and should be at the center of political life.

Those are two important messages for that constituency and that's a constituency that this person I spoke to was clear, his support has started to slip a little bit over the last couple of months because of the coronavirus. This person said it was between 5 percent and 10 percent. When President Trump's approval rating among evangelicals is about 80 percent doesn't sound like a lot, but the President's own instinct is to reassure that group of people that he is with them.

But I think, Brooke, there is a huge question right now about whether those scenes that played out just before he walked to the church of protesters scrambling in the midst of teargas will backfire. We don't know the answer to that question yet. But it's something that has torn Republicans, you're seeing Republicans on Capitol Hill, some of them not even wanting to comment on the issue because they're not sure how this is all playing out.

BALDWIN: Yes. They don't want to touch it. And as I'm sitting and listening to the two of you, Joshua, it would remiss not to ask you about the scenes playing out. I mean this camera -- the helicopter keeps panning, we're in Los Angeles that's where we're looking right now. I mean thousands upon thousands of people across the country peacefully marching using their voices. Joshua, just as a black man in this country, as a man of faith, what do you make of this?

DUBOIS: It seems like we're at a potentially a pivot point. Potentially a catalytic point to finally get to the root of our original sin, the sin of racism in this country. This country allowed people to be owned for a couple of hundred years. We have not fully processed that yet. We've come close. There have been moments, but this is among the most sustained public conversations that we've had.

And we need to engage it seriously and that's what makes what President Trump did yesterday so offensive. It wasn't serious. He's just trying this and trying that and flailing and doing these sort of political prop-type exercises instead of recognizing this for the serious moment it is.

And I agree with Abby, it may help with some parts of his base. But I'm hearing a lot of moderate conservative evangelicals, pastors of, you know, small and medium size conversations -- not those public spokespeople among the evangelical crowd for President Trump. But those who are thoughtful and really trying to discern their way through this. They were deeply offended by what happened yesterday and I think they speak for a lot of people.

BALDWIN: Perhaps it is truly a turning point. At the end of the day, it's, you know, just up to everyone to show up in November and vote. Abby and Joshua, thank you both so much.

DUBOIS: Thanks for having me.

BALDWIN: Breaking news now, the Minnesota Governor Tim Walz just announced an investigation into the Minneapolis Police Department in the wake of George Floyd's death. So, this is obviously a huge move from the Governor. The investigation will look into the department's policies and practices over the past decade.


We're getting new details on that as we look back at city hall in Los Angeles. Look at that. Everyone kneeling peacefully on this Tuesday afternoon.


BALDWIN: Welcome back. More on the breaking news, this time we're talking about Texas. Against the backdrop of a nation in turmoil, members of the family of George Floyd are expected to be gathering today to lead this peaceful protest through his hometown of Houston.


A spokesperson announcing today that a public memorial will be held in the city on Monday followed by a private service on Tuesday. And as we take a look at these live pictures from the city where that march is set to kick off next hour, look at these crowds. Peaceful crowds, I just want to keep emphasizing that. Houston's mayor and police chief are also expected to participate.

CNN's Ed Lavandera is somewhere in there. Ed, tell me more about the scene and why people want to be there?

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Brooke. We are in the middle of this crowd in Discovery Garden in the heart of downtown Dallas.

And as you can see from the images, thousands of protesters and supporters of George Floyd's family have turned out here on this incredibly muggy, warm day in downtown Houston where they will begin hearing a series of speeches and then begin the process of marching toward city hall. It's not that far of a march, but it is a massive crowd that is turning out here in the garden, in Discovery Garden Park.

They are chanting George Floyd's name, and also chanting that chant you started hearing yesterday in Minneapolis, peace on the left and justice on the right, that carrying from Minneapolis down here to Houston. As you mentioned, this is a significant rally, because this is George Floyd's hometown. He lived here for many years. He left here in 2014, I believe it was, and moved to Minneapolis. But he still has family members who are here in this crowd.

It is a huge throng of supporters, city dignitaries and family members. We don't know exactly which family members are here, at this point still trying to figure that out. But we are in the midst of this crowd on top of the stage where speakers are supposed to start rallying this crowd here at any moment -- Brooke.

BALDWIN: And again, the overarching reason why so many thousands of people are out today. It's of course the death of George Floyd, but it is this, you know, system. This system is broken. It's been broken for generations. And as we pointed out, Ed, you know, it's not just people in Houston or the mayor, but the police chief, is that correct, he will be there as well, because so much of this falls on police.

LAVANDERA: Yes, no question. And the police chief here in Houston has been highly critical of -- and supportive of this movement and the calls for police reform. If you follow Chief Art Acevedo in any kind of way, he is a champion of what he describes as community policing, trying to build trust among community members. And he has been a critic of the Trump administration in the way they have handled the rhetoric surrounding the death of George Floyd here in the last 24 hours, especially.

And I should mention too, Brooke, that this is an incredibly diverse crowd of people that you are seeing here. It's very striking. Of course, the city of Houston in itself, one of the most diverse cities in America to begin with. And it is striking to see the range of people, ages, ethnicities that you're seeing here in the crowd here today.

BALDWIN: Last question to you, Ed, as you're in the middle of all of these folks, as you describe them, do they feel at all hopeful?

LAVANDERA: Do they feel at all, what? I'm sorry.

BALDWIN: Hopeful, for change, real change.

LAVANDERA: I think that's a difficult question. I think the sense here, is, a sense I think a lot of our reporting has captured, a sense of tired of having to deal with these sort of things.


LAVANDERA: I do believe, in talking to various people, you do get the sense that this is very different from what we have seen over the last few years, dating back to the shooting death in Ferguson, Missouri. So, there is a sense that this is different. Whether or not there's sense of hopefulness, I think that's a little bit difficult at least from my perspective, and the people that I've talk with. I think (INAUDIBLE) -- it's incredibly loud, I can no longer hear myself talk --

BALDWIN: No, no, I'll let you go, Ed, thank you very much. And just please continue I want to give voice to all these people who want to show up, who are

angry, who are sick and tired of being sick and tired, who are peaceful, who are demanding rightfully so change.

We're following the breaking news, a civil rights investigation has been launched into the Minneapolis Police Department in the wake of George Floyd's death, we've those new details just coming into us next.



BALDWIN: I want to share this incredibly tense moment between protesters and the mayor of Richmond, Virginia, demanding answers after police fired tear gas at them during a peaceful protest last night. The mayor apologized but it was met with anger and frustration and some of the crowd calling for his resignation.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MAYOR LEVAR STONEY, RICHMOND, VIRGINIA: I've been a black man for 39 years of my life. 39 years of my life. Each and every day, it's in my DNA. It's in my DNA. Now I will say this, I will say this. It was wrong that what happened yesterday. I apologize for that. It should of never happened.


BALDWIN: He later told the crowd that he would march with them this evening. I'm Brooke Baldwin. Thank you so much for being with me. Let's go to Washington. THE LEAD with Jake Tapper starts right now.