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THE SITUATION ROOM
Major New Protests Over George Floyd's Death; Interview With Bishop William Barber III; Mandatory Curfews Ordered For Multiple Cities Tonight. Aired 6-7p ET
Aired June 2, 2020 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: We want to welcome our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.
We're following breaking news.
We're monitoring major new protests across the United States. The anger over George Floyd's death is only intensifying after eight days of demonstrations.
The mood could soon shift, as curfews take effect in major cities around the country following new clashes and tensions overnight. That includes the use of tear gas against peaceful protesters near the White House and new looting and chaos in New York City that prompted hundreds of arrests.
Also breaking, the state of Minnesota is now launching a civil rights investigation of the Minneapolis Police Department, this as three of the four officers involved in Floyd's death still have not been charged.
Let's get some more on all the late-breaking developments.
CNN's Miguel Marquez is joining us right now.
Miguel, you're there in Minnesota, the police department under investigation in Minneapolis over George Floyd's death. Update our viewers.
MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it's probably just the beginning as well, Wolf.
We have some pretty serious weather coming into the capital here in St. Paul, Minnesota. But just a short time ago, there were thousands, thousands and thousands of people that came out to protest, have a sit-in at the capitol here.
If the president thought that photo-op yesterday was going to have any sort of effect on people across the country, it seems to have brought them out even bigger. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)
GEORGE FLOYD, DIED IN POLICE CUSTODY: I can't breathe.
MARQUEZ (voice-over): Now eight days after the brutal killing of George Floyd, still no word on the fates of the other three officers involved in his death, who either helped hold him down or stood by watching him die.
Minnesota Governor Tim Walz announcing his administration is launching an investigation into the Minneapolis Police Department's policies, procedures and practices.
REP. TIM WALZ (D-MN): You can expect our administration use every tool at our disposal to try and deconstruct systemic racism that is generations-deep.
MARQUEZ: As the country grapples with the searing pain of another innocent life ended by police action, protests turned chaotic and, in many places around the country Monday, protesters were hurt in some places, police hurt in others.
In Las Vegas, a police officer is on life support after being shot in the head during protests on the Strip. At least four police officers were shot in Saint Louis. Their injuries are believed to be non-life- threatening.
JOHN HAYDEN, ST. LOUIS METROPOLITAN POLICE CHIEF: Some coward fire shots at officers. And now we have four in the hospital. But, thankfully and thank God, they're alive. They're alive.
But what -- can we make some sense out of this?
MARQUEZ: And a graphic video coming out of the Bronx. An NYPD sergeant suffered serious injuries after police say looters in a black car hit him and took off. That officer survived.
BILL DE BLASIO (D), MAYOR OF NEW YORK: An attack on a police officer his attack on all of us, pure and simple.
MARQUEZ: That attack amid absolute chaos in the heart of Manhattan, the historic Macy's, site of the Thanksgiving Day Parade, ransacked, police overwhelmed by angry protesters and opportunistic looters.
The state's governor publicly blaming and shaming the city's mayor.
GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): What happened in New York City was inexcusable. The NYPD and the mayor did not do their job last night.
MARQUEZ: Cuomo even suggesting he could override the mayor to secure the streets.
CUOMO: My option is to displace the mayor of New York City and bring in the National Guard, as the governor in a state of emergency, and basically take over. You would have to take over the mayor's job. You would have to displace the mayor. MARQUEZ: The mayor's office called Cuomo's remarks offensive.
But, earlier today, the mayor did change the city's highly criticized 11:00 p.m. curfew to 8:00 p.m.
DE BLASIO: We saw stuff last night that we will not accept. And we can fight back and we will fight back.
MARQUEZ: But this afternoon, a different scene, peaceful demonstrators marching in the Big Apple towards NYPD headquarters.
This young protester telling us, after decades of empty talk of change, this moment feels different.
RAYVEN KOHA-JALLAH, MINNEAPOLIS PROTESTER: For once, everybody's tired, and everybody's ready for change, white people, black people.
Out here, if you look, this is not just black people in this movement. We have white, black, Asian, Hispanic, Native. Everybody is sick of the racism within this system.
MARQUEZ: Now, what protesters here want is justice, immediate justice, for the death of George Floyd.
They want the four officers, all four of them -- only one has been charged so far -- they want all four of them charged with murder. The state's attorney general now is prosecuting the case. He has asked for more time.
It seems right now, it feels like they will give him some, but they're not going to wait forever -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Miguel, thank you -- Miguel Marquez in St. Paul, Minnesota, for us, the state capital.
Shimon Prokupecz is in New York City right now, where there's some very, very large demonstrations unfolding.
Shimon, I take it they're all, the protests in New York, where you are peaceful, right?
SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: It's beautiful, quite frankly, Wolf.
You're seeing peaceful marchers. These are marchers. We have gone from Lower Manhattan by Police Plaza, where Miguel was just talking about. We're now on the Upper East Side. We're on 88th Street and First Avenue.
They have been marching the whole way up here from downtown. We circled around Gracie Mansion, which, as you know, is the home of the mayor, Mayor Bill de Blasio. They went around there, the police blocked them off a little bit.
They didn't want them to get too close. But it's been very peaceful, and people chanting holding signs, and saying, "I can't breathe, of course, and talking about Black Lives Matter.
So it's been a very peaceful day here so far.
The other thing I wanted to -- there's been a couple of remarkable moments. We walking along Third Avenue earlier, and the protesters came up to some of the police officers, the NYPD officers, saying -- and chanting, "Take a knee, take a knee."
And they had this encounter with these officers. It's very peaceful. And one of the officers said, "I'm with you, but I can't take a knee because of safety reasons." They were trying to defuse the situation.
There are some police officers lined up along the route that they're marching. But, for the most part, the police here are staying back, trying to avoid calm confrontation.
And, as you can see, Wolf, they have just been marching. And it's been a large crowd, thousands, as they continue to march. Now, it's 6:00, and we're two hours away from that curfew. It's unclear what's going to happen.
Some of the organizers of the march who were speaking on loudspeakers earlier said that they were going to keep going. At least they were going to try to keep going.
But they continually, along the route as well, have tried to defuse any kind of (AUDIO GAP) between some of the protesters and police. Of course, that curfew (AUDIO GAP)
BLITZER: It looks like we got -- we got a technical issue with Shimon.
Shimon, stand by. We're going to try to fix that. Shimon Prokupecz is in New York City, watching a very peaceful demonstration, a huge crowd. They're moving up the Upper East Side of Manhattan right now. We will see what happens.
Once again, that New York City curfew goes into effect now less than two hours from now, 8:00 p.m. Eastern, that curfew, according to the mayor, Bill de Blasio, will stay in effect at least through this coming Sunday. It will stay in effect from 8:00 p.m. Until 5:00 a.m. through Sunday in New York City.
We're also learning more tonight about the use of force against peaceful protesters right here in Washington, D.C., the nation's capital, before remarks by President Trump at his photo-op at a church right near the White House.
I want to go to our chief White House correspondent, Jim Acosta.
JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes.
BLITZER: Jim, what, we're told the attorney general, Bill Barr, actually gave the order. Is that right?
ACOSTA: That's what the Trump administration is saying this evening, Wolf.
They are doing some damage control, trying to clean up what went down yesterday in Lafayette Park. The Justice Department is claiming that it was Attorney General William Barr who made the decision to clear out the park of these peaceful protesters. Some of those law enforcement officers and military forces, as we know, used what appeared to be tear gas and flashbang, so the president could have a photo opportunity in front of St. John's Episcopal Church.
The claim that Barr made that call conflicts somewhat with what we heard from a senior administration official, who told us last night that the decision was made by the attorney general, along with Joint Chiefs Chairman Mark Milley.
Now, we saw for a brief period yesterday afternoon General Milley, as well as the attorney general, walking around the gates of the White House just before this operation took place. On top of that, the U.S. Park Police just released a statement defending the response to the protesters last night, saying that demonstrators were beginning to act violently.
We should point out, that is contrary to what multiple journalists, including reporters at CNN, witnessed at the time. They witnessed peaceful protesters before all hell broke loose yesterday evening.
The Park Police is also saying that the Park Police and other law enforcement agencies responding to the scene yesterday, clearing that area out, were not using tear gas. But, Wolf, we saw image after image of people who were protesting being treated for what appeared to be having been doused with tear gas or some other gas or pepper spray during this altercation.
So there is some cleanup, some damage control going on right now with the Trump administration.
In the meantime, Mr. Trump has been taking something of a victory lap today, patting himself on the back, at one point tweeting: "D.C. had no problems last night, many arrests. Great job done by overwhelming force. Domination," he said at one point, and then added: "Thank you President Trump," thanking himself.
But, Wolf, there were some White House officials I spoke with earlier today, Trump advisers, who were questioning the president's actions. One White House official told me the park should have been cleared out much sooner during the day, before this area got so crowded with protesters.
And earlier today, former Vice President Joe Biden, he also condemned Mr. Trump's actions. And here's what he had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JOSEPH BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: "I can't breathe. I can't breathe" -- George Floyd's last words.
But they didn't die with him. He's still being heard, echoing all across this nation.
The country is crying out for leadership, leadership that can unite us, leadership that brings us together. But I promise you this. I won't traffic in fear and division. I won't fan the flames of hate.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ACOSTA: Now, we should point out, right now in Lafayette Park, obviously, you can see huge crowds of protesters.
The Park Police, National Guard forces, they are gathered inside Lafayette Park. We have been seeing them gather all day long. One other thing we want to point out, Wolf, just down the street from the White House, just down Pennsylvania Avenue, to the west, over by the World Bank, one of those military trucks that we saw rumbling through the White House grounds yesterday has been set up to block traffic.
It appears, Wolf, that they're starting to expand that security perimeter that we saw last night around the White House neighborhood. And that is in advance of this curfew that's been set for later on this evening here in Washington, D.C. -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Yes, less than an hour from now, the curfew in the nation's capital, 7:00 p.m. Eastern, goes into effect. No one's supposed to be on the streets after 7:00 p.m. They're taking all sorts of dramatic steps.
All right, stand by, Jim Acosta.
I want to go only a few hundred feet away from where you are, right across Pennsylvania Avenue, Lafayette Park.
Alex Marquardt is on the scene for us once again.
BLITZER: Alex, it's a huge crowd.
Alex -- we're not hearing Alex.
ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: ... hours exactly...
BLITZER: Now we are.
MARQUARDT: ... from when we were on the air with you yesterday, when that crackdown began.
It is clear that a lot of people came out here today in response to what was a violent crackdown by Park Police and D.C. National Guard against the protesters last night, unprovoked. It was a peaceful protest.
Wolf, it is -- it has been a peaceful protest throughout the afternoon today. We have not seen anything, any projectiles thrown at the Park Police that are in there, at the Department of Homeland Security officials that are in there, at D.C. National Guard.
Of course, Wolf, the big change that we are seeing today is this huge fence that has been erected around the northern side of Lafayette Park. It's about eight feet high. It's made of steel. It's black. Those pieces are locked together, so that the protesters can't push them forward.
We have seen some protesters rocking them back and forth. But, so far, this has remained very much a peaceful protest, but angry -- but people are fired up, Wolf. They are angry.
You can see the name Floyd in that -- in yellow on that fence, that, of course, the last name of George Floyd, who was killed a week ago. And these protests are in response to that.
Wolf, Jim was talking about that statement by Park Police about what happened last night. They said that they had been attacked, that projectiles had been thrown at them, frozen water bottles, bricks, a caustic liquid.
Our team did not see that. As far as we could tell, it was an entirely peaceful protest. Then, at 6:35, as the president was going into the Rose Garden to declare himself the law and order president, the order was given to crack down on that peaceful protest, before, mind you, the 7:00 p.m. curfew, so that all of these protesters would be cleared out, so the president could walk across this park to St. John's Church for that photo opportunity to raise the Bible -- Wolf.
BLITZER: It's interesting, Alex, because that curfew here in Washington, D.C., goes into effect in about 45 minutes from now.
You have got thousands and thousands of people over there near Lafayette Park. They can't get into Lafayette Park because of those eight-foot fences that have just been built in the course of the last few hours.
But if you look down 16th Street, that -- this demonstration goes on through H, I, all the way past K Street, I think.
Yes, I'm going to ask my cameraman, Jay McMichael, to point the camera down 16th Street, Wolf. This is that main artery in the middle of Washington that comes straight down to the White House. So you can see the size of this protest. And you can see where those roads have been blocked off.
You raise a very good point, Wolf. This is not a federal curfew, of course. This is a city curfew that Mayor Muriel Bowser put into place yesterday. As you mentioned, it goes into effect in 45 minutes.
I have been asking people out here in the crowd whether they intend to respect that. Some said that they will be going home by 7:00 p.m. Others, as you might imagine, will stay out here longer to keep the protest going.
The question, Wolf, will become, how is it enforced? This is a city protest. Does that mean that the police of Washington, D.C., are going to be coming out here and trying to get people to go home and arresting them if they don't? Are we going to see a repetition of last night, where the forces from inside Lafayette Park come out to try to break up this protest and help the D.C. police enforce that?
But what is clear, whatever happens, is, the federal government, led by Donald Trump and the White House, is very much at odds with the city government of Washington, whose mayor, Mayor Bowser, said yesterday -- or said today, rather, about yesterday's protest being broken up there, that she was shocked and outraged -- Wolf.
BLITZER: She has not minced any words in her condemnation of what happened.
All right, stand by, Alex. We're -- less than 45 minutes from now, that curfew in Washington, D.C., goes into effect. We will see what happens, the thousands and thousands of protesters who have gathered here near Lafayette Park.
Brian Todd is in Philadelphia, where thousands of protesters are marching as well.
Update our viewers there, Brian.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, a very powerful scene here in Philadelphia.
These thousands of protesters just marched right by Independence Hall. Our photojournalist Andrew Smith is elevating his camera to give you a sense of just the volume, the numbers of the crowd here. They have been growing exponentially over the past hour. They have stopped on occasion to give speeches, to do sit-ins, very, very powerful stuff.
It's been very peaceful. I talked to a protest leader earlier. He says, we don't really have a particular agenda of where we're going. We're going to keep marching to get our message across.
Now, this is a critical juncture, because we're coming up right now to a highway, 676. And it was another exit on this highway, not far from here yesterday, where the protesters decided to go onto the highway.
Well, let's see what they're doing now. Some people are motioning them they want to go into the tunnel. Now, the tunnel does not go to the highway. The tunnel goes past the highway. This is interesting. This has to do with the dynamic of yesterday, Wolf.
This gentleman down here, he wants people to go into the tunnel with him. Other people are telling him, no, don't go. They want to encourage them to -- him to come back. This really has to do with what happened yesterday.
Now, you have got others over here who are marching towards 676, the highway. I don't know if they have access to the highway from up here, but, if they do, they may try to get on it. If they try to get on it, the question is, do we have a scene similar to what we had yesterday, where protesters got onto the highway? The police used massive amounts of tear gas to get them off.
It was a melee. It was violent. People got hurt.
All right, they have convinced this man to come back up and not go into the tunnel. So, you have got, again, what happened yesterday very, very much on the minds of these protesters. Now, the question is -- we have got a lot of people on our side of the street going this way, and I think they want to turn down a regular side street.
That may bode well for them if they do that. It will probably put them in a bit of a better situation than it did yesterday, because the police -- we just saw tactical vehicles over here by the highway. And, again, I'm not sure if we have direct access to the highway here.
But, clearly, this is a flash point. This is a flash point because of what happened yesterday, when hundreds of people streamed onto that highway. They got crowded under an underpass. According to police, they menaced the police car, they shook it, they pounded on it, they threatened the cop inside.
And he was feeling threatened. Other tactical police arrived. They fired tear gas. I think what's going on now -- come on over here, Andrew. We're going to take a look.
I think what they're doing is basically deciding which way they want to go. Do they want to try to get on the highway? Hold on. OK. So some people are speaking. Some people are speaking.
This is a critical moment, because the question is, do they try to get on the highway? Do they come back here to our left, and go on to the regular side streets? This lady wants to go into the tunnel. She looks like she's alone.
A gentleman went down here earlier, and they -- and they got him to get -- to turn around, and they want her to turn around, but I don't think she's doing it. So, again, the tension from yesterday very, very much on the minds of these people.
I talked to one of the protest leaders. I said, how concerned are you that this is going to happen again if any slight provocation happens? He said he's very concerned. But he said, frankly, I'm concerned about all the stuff the police have been doing for decades.
So, they have a sense of realism here, but the tension from yesterday very, very much on the minds for people. We have people starting to move peacefully over here. And it does not appear now, at this second, Wolf, like they're going to go onto that highway, but, if they do, we could have another pretty bad confrontation.
And, Brian, the Philadelphia curfew goes into effect 8:30 p.m. Eastern, just a little bit more than two hours from now. And there are thousands of people on the street right now.
What happens if they don't want to leave the streets? What happens if they want to continue to protest?
TODD: Well, you very well could have a situation then, Wolf, like we had yesterday, where police -- there were protesters gathered in front of the police headquarters. There was a standoff.
They wanted to stay. The police even kneeled down in deference to them. That created a lot of positive energy. It drew applause. Then protesters started to disperse. But five minutes after that, the police moved in with tactical gear, heavily armored vehicles, riot gear, and it created more tension.
Now, the police then advanced on them with these tactics that we have seen before in these urban protest situations, where police form a very thick line of riot-clad policemen, and they chant at the protesters. They chant, "move, move, move," and they move very slowly.
That happened yesterday in front of the police headquarters. It ended well, because the protesters simply dispersed peacefully, and the rest of the night was pretty quiet, at least in that section of the town. So that may happen again when curfew time comes here, Wolf.
But I can tell you that crowd in front of the police station, when curfew hit last night, much, much smaller than this one. If curfew hits and the police decide to try to break this crowd up, it could get a little dicey.
BLITZER: All right, Brian, stand by, because these are live pictures coming in from the Lincoln Memorial here in Washington, D.C., on the National Mall like.
You see military personnel, you see authorities, law enforcement authorities there blocking people from walking up the stairs to the Lincoln Memorial.
But you see a lot of people already coming towards the Lincoln Memorial. These are protesters, peaceful protesters, but you see a potential standoff unfolding right there as well.
You see members of the U.S. National Guard. They're dressed in camouflage. You can see them there, plus Park Police, local police. There are a lot of police -- not necessarily local police, because this is the National Mall. But these are federal authorities. You can see the Washington Monument there from the Lincoln Memorial, as a lot of protesters showing up there.
They're over at the White House near Lafayette Park. They're over near the World Bank over on 17th Street. They're marching over there, but they're coming in big numbers. And, remember, remember, the curfew in Washington, D.C., goes into effect in a little bit more than a half- hour or so from now at 7:00 p.m. Eastern.
All these people, they're supposed to be off the streets by 7:00 p.m. And I'm nervous, wondering what's going to happen to those who aren't off the street -- streets of Washington, D.C., by 7:00 p.m. This is a serious situation.
We will keep showing our viewers these pictures.
But I want to bring in for some analysis now from North Carolina the Bishop William Barber. He is the co-chair of the Poor People's Campaign, the author of several books, including, "We Are Called to Be a Movement."
Bishop Barber, thanks so much for joining us.
What's your reaction when you see all these people on the streets, not only of Washington, New York, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, elsewhere around the country right now?
REV. DR. WILLIAM BARBER, PRESIDENT, REPAIRERS OF THE BREACH: America is in mourning. This protest is a form of mourning.
It's not the first time, but it's what happens after a long train of abuses and wounds that we have only put Band-Aids on before. So you see the screaming, the anguish, the tears, the rage, it's born of what -- kind of multiple pandemics.
We had the pandemic of poverty preexisting, of the COVID, and then COVID happened. It exposed the wounds of racism, the wounds of poverty, then COVID, all the death there. And then we had this public lynching, Wolf, right in front of us.
And it's like pouring wounds, the president's response to it, and the death itself pouring wounds. So when George said, "I can't breathe," it's like a collective gasp. It's like people saying, I understand what that means.
And we have got these interlocking injustices, systemic racism in all of its forms, systemic poverty, ecological devastation, denial of health care, the war economy, this false religious nationalism you saw on display with Trump yesterday.
And what's happening is, those things are trying to suffocate the establishment of justice and equal protection under the law. And the democracy is trying to breathe.
What you see, when you see people out on the street, the democracy is trying to breathe. Their presence actually means they have not given up on this democracy, because you don't mourn or protest what you think can't be changed.
They actually believe change is possible, and they're trying to get this nation to breathe. Trump is trying to suffocate it. McConnell is trying to suffocate it. And they're trying to get it to breathe, establishment of justice, breathe, equal protection under the law, breathe.
BLITZER: Bishop Barber, Don Lemon, our CNN anchor, he's with us. He has a question he wants to ask you.
DON LEMON, CNN HOST: Reverend Barber, as a man of faith, I have to ask you.
We all saw what unfolded on our television screens yesterday, and, sadly, for the peaceful protesters who were out there live as the president was trying to stage a photo-op.
But as a man of faith, I'm wondering what -- how you felt the president using the Bible and the church, the instruments and the represent -- the symbols that represent God and godliness and holiness as a prop and as something to help him be reelected come November, and as something to reach out to his base, to evangelicals and to Christians, not even going into the church, not even praying, not even opening that Bible, but just going there and using it as a photo-op.
What was your reaction?
BARBER: Well, first of all, Don, he wasn't even trying to reach evangelicals. He was trying to read this false form of white evangelicalism.
I'm an evangelical. There a lot of evangelicals. We have a whole council of Jews and Muslims and Christians who believe in the Bible, in the tenets of Jesus. And when you see this, it's not new now. It's not new in America. The slave masters did the same thing. Those who were promoted by presidents long before (INAUDIBLE) racism did the same thing.
George Wallace did the same thing, Richard Nixon. What they would do is, they would fan the flames of violence. And then they would call out and say they were the law and orders to try to solidify their base. And then they would claim they were doing it in the name of God and country.
It's an old, old trick. But here's what bothered me the most, as a bishop in the church and as a pastor, and more than 500 years of ministry on my father's side of the family. Somebody owns that house. It's not the Episcopal Church. It's Jesus.
And Jesus was real clear about what you're supposed to be about in his house. First of all, it's supposed to be a house of all people. It's not supposed to be a place where you use military to run from -- run people away so you can have some kind of private section.
Secondly, the Bible is clear that Jesus said, the spirit of the lord is upon me, preach good news to the poor, recovery of sight to the blind, set the oppressed free, healing of the brokenhearted, and proclaim the acceptable year of the lord. Unless Trump was going to do that, the only reason he should have gone
there was to repent. And so, because he didn't do that, used the military to push away innocent, peaceful, nonviolent protesters, what we saw was a violation of people's human rights, a violation of people's constitutional right.
But, for him, it was a shameful and heretical act of public idolatry. And everybody that participated who's been quiet about it, Barr, the folk that walked with him, you just saw a heretical act of public idolatry that we only used to see in the pages of the Bible, like with folk like Nebuchadnezzar and pharaoh and caesars and Herods.
That's where that is. But we can't get distracted. Why is he doing that? Because he doesn't want the nation to stay focused on all of his failures. He doesn't want the nation to stay focused on the 100,000. He doesn't want the nation to hear the cry from justice from our babies, white, and black, and brown, and yellow, and Asian, and poor, and young, and gay, and straight, because he knows, if America hears that voice and sees those tears, it's going to respond.
BLITZER: Bishop Barber, hold on for a moment, because Bishop Michael Curry is with us as well. He is the presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church.
And I just want to set the scene, Bishop Curry. What we're seeing right now is the Lincoln Memorial here in Washington. You have been there. I have been there. We have all been there. I'm sure many of our viewers have been there.
There are military personnel, military police standing there, preventing people from going up the stairs of the Lincoln Memorial. But they're protesting right now what's happening in our country, what has happened in our country eight days ago, what's going on right now.
I just want to get your reaction to what we're seeing.
REV. MICHAEL CURRY, EPISCOPAL CHURCH PRESIDING BISHOP: Well, as Bishop Barber rightly said, we're witnessing democracy seeking to breathe.
We're witnessing young people.
Notice that group is young people. They are black. They are white. They are Latino. They are Asian. They are Native. This isn't just black folk. This is the American rainbow crying out for America, to be America, for America to actually leave out the ideals that are part of our heritage that someone like Abraham Lincoln stood for.
And so these protesters are protesting that we have lost our way and we must find our way anew as a nation with liberty, justice, equality for all of God's children, all of God's people. They are a living, walking, breathing prayer for our nation.
BLITZER: What did you think of the way the president of the United States used prayer, the bible when he walked over yesterday to the St. John's Church, the historic church near Lafayette Park right across the street from the White House?
CURRY: Well, to simply walk over to a church and then take a bible and take pictures just after having people who were protesting peacefully and non-violently tear gassed is a walk in contradiction. If the president had gone over to that church, knelt down and said a prayer and then turned and addressed the nation and said to this country, we may agree and disagree on a great deal of things, but we can agree on this, we must heal our country, we must heal our land, we must bring our people together, we must reform our institutional law enforcement, that we must do whatever we can to make America the kind of place where people are not killed by police force, but where people can live and where our law enforcement can do their job to protect citizens and where citizens can now in trust law enforcement. We must make America truly America.
BLITZER: Bishop Curry, what's your message --
CURRY: If he's done that --
BLITZER: Yes, I want to bring Bishop Barber back in a moment. Hold on for one moment, I just want to get Bishop Curry. What's your message to all these young people, were seeing them sitting now just outside the Lincoln memorial near Washington, D.C., others are sitting near Lafayette Park. There's a huge crowd that has gathered there nearly half an hour away now from the curfew being imposed in Washington D.C. Bishop Curry, what's your message to these people?
CURRY: My message to them and, indeed, to our nation is we must enshrine the principle of love for our neighbor and love for each other that seeks the good and the welfare and the well-being of us all. That must be our guiding moral principle.
That must guide us in all laws that are effective, all policies that are lived. And in the way we relate to each other, they must stand up for the way of love and justice and compassion and goodness, and at the same time, bear that way of love and compassion and goodness in themselves.
We must be the change we want to see. And therefore, I would encourage them, stand up for justice and righteousness, but stand up in the way of love for every man, woman and child so that the day will come when happened to our brother will never happen to anybody else again.
BLITZER: Yes. And these are live pictures now coming in from near Lafayette Park. You see the huge fence that was built, eight feet high, to block people from going into Lafayette Park. You can see the White House in the background over there.
People are obviously protesting, they're angry, they're raising their hands, they're very, very upset. Huge, huge numbers of protesters here in Washington, Bishop Curry, but all over the country right now.
What's your recommendation? What should all of these young people do after the curfew, 7:00 P.M., less than an half an hour from now, goes into effect? CURRY: Well, I would submit that when the curfew is in effect, obey the curfew. Come out tomorrow and protest lawfully and non-violently. Make the case. Make the country aware that you come forward in the name of love. You come forward because you love our country. And because you love our country, you wanted to be a place where justice is done for all where everybody is treated equally as a child of God.
And so make your case, but make it in the name of love. And help us change this country, change its laws, change its practices, but to change it in the way of love.
BLITZER: Bishop Curry, thank you so much for joining us. Bishop Michael Curry is the presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church in the United States.
And Don Lemon is still with us as well. All of a sudden, Don, we see protesters there at the Lincoln memorial on the Washington Mall.
You see the Washington monument in the background. We saw them near the White House. Here in the nation's capital as well, huge, huge numbers. And we're at only 25 minutes away from this curfew in Washington D.C. going into effect. These are iconic locations, Don. Give us your thoughts.
DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: They are iconic locations and there are a lot of young people out there, very diverse crowd, if you really look at these pictures. And it's going to take longer than 25 minutes for these people to get home. So any hopes of that they would be abiding by a curfew, I think that has been dashed right now. So the question is what's going to happen on the steps of these iconic monuments, you know, the memorials that are there in Washington at the mall. So we're going to be watching to see what happens.
My question is though, Wolf, when you -- look, this is really great that we're seeing, what we're seeing right now is people sitting and listening speakers, or holding up their hands and holding at their fists, which is what protests should be all about. But there needs to be something that happens as a consequence of these protests, some change that's made rather than people just having to go to the streets and scream and yell at top of their lungs and push past, you know, lines that police would rather them not go past or officials that rather them not go past. Something has to come from this.
And so the question is, as I keep going back to, is what will the leadership do after this? How will the leadership handle this? What will police departments across this country do about this? What will Americans were sitting watching their televisions do about this? It cannot just be these young people who are out there on the streets every day, marching and walking, who are parched (ph), I'm sure, tired and thirsty.
And I'm not talking about rioters and looters. Let's forget about them. I am talking about these people who are now standing at the seat of power in the nation's capitol and begging for help. What will the people who are sitting here watching me and you every day in their homes or on their devices where ever they are. What will they do, what will we do to exact some change, to enforce some change in this country, because that what is needed.
These people are -- these young people are representative of the change that is needed for this country. Young people are the future of this country. Our future is crying out to us right now in front of our very eyes asking us to join them in the future with some needed change for America.
Are we going to respond? Are we going to step up? Are we going to meet the moment that they are so bravely in right now? Or are we just going to sit back and criticize or talk about how horrific this is and moan and put out off hashtags and send out black signs on Twitter and blackouts?
All of that is important. But what's the most important thing is visibility and action, and, obviously, voting. But just sitting in front of the Television, putting out a tweet, putting out something on Facebook, putting out something on Instagram, that is not going to do it.
All of the people sitting at home who are asking everybody, especially, I have to be honest, white folks are asking who are asking their black friends, whoever they knows black in their lives, what do we do, what do you want me to do. Do something. If you want to, go out and protest if you have the means. But be safe. I don't know how you socially distance when you protest. We're on the middle of a pandemic. I'm not suggesting anyone do anything that is not safe. But do something in your own life that makes a difference.
It's time for people to put that -- to let down their guards, stop thinking. Well, I'm not bias, I'm not racist, I don't have any racial blinds spots. I don't have -- stop thinking that. And think about, well, maybe there's the possibility is that I do and that even I as a 20, 30, 40, 50, 60, 70, 80, 90-year-old person can learn something. That's what's needed right now.
BLITZER: Yes. And we're showing our viewers, Don, live pictures from New York here in Washington, protesters moving peacefully on the street, expressing their anguish.
We did get a statement, Don, from the former president, George W. Bush, on the George Floyd killing. Among other things, he and Laura Bush said that they are anguished by the brutal suffocation of George Floyd and disturbed by what they call the injustice and fear that suffocate our country.
They go on to say, yet we have resisted the urge to speak out because this is not the time for us to lecture. It is time for us to listen, it is time for America to examine our tragic failures. And as we do, we will also see some of our redeeming strength.
A very strong, lengthy statement, Don, from the former president, George W. Bush, and the former first lady, Laura.
LEMON: They said much more eloquently than I said, exactly what I've just said. And I think that is a sentiment that should -- that is coming from just about everyone. And I have to commend the former president and the former first lady for that.
Yes, and even the former first lady and the former president who did serve this country for eight years should do something other than a statement. I think we all should do something other than a statement. And we should used our platforms for good. This is a call to action. So I commend them for doing that.
They are saying the right things. A lot of people are saying the right things. But right now, it is a question -- not even a question, it is about doing the right things. Are we going to do the right things in this moment?
If you don't do the right thing when you see someone dying on television from a police officer kneeling on his neck for eight minutes, if you don't do something when you see the videotape of someone who believe that they have the authority of a police officer shooting someone with a long gun on the street in Georgia, the life taken out of them in front of our eyes in the television, when are you going to do something? And so, if you don't do anything, there's not going to be a change.
And these images that you see now, this is nothing that -- compare to what's going to happen if no change is ever made. We will see worse images in the future. We've seen peaceful protest from the civil right movement, from the march on Washington.
And here we are, more than 50 years later, and we're seeing Washington D.C. again, and these marches are more violent or have been than the civil rights movement in some instances, because there was horrific violence in the civil rights movement. I'm talking about the march on Washington.
I'm not talking about walking across bridges. I'm not talking about people being hosed. That's a whole another story. I'm talking about the march on Washington.
BLITZER: Yes. And we see the Lincoln Memorial, on the left part of the screen, New York City, huge demonstrations unfolding as well. The curfew in Washington goes into effect in about 20 minutes or so. 7:00 P.M. Eastern. The curfew goes into effect to New York City tonight at 8 P.M. Eastern. Now, we're in 15 minutes or so from now.
Jeff Zeleny is over at the Lincoln Memorial for us. Jeff, we see military personnel armed, they are on the steps preventing people from going up the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. But they have now gathered, set the scene for us. You are there.
JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, I can tell you this is a remarkably peaceful assembly that is just wrapping up here. I'm going to pull down my mask so can hear me. This is a remarkably peaceful assembly. I'm going to lower my voice. As you can see there, the protesters here, the demonstrators are saying a prayer here. This is at the end of a long day of marching at the end of a long week, frankly.
But, Wolf, this demonstration here, you can see, yes, there are National Guardsmen, there are police as well, park police. There are no confrontations here, Wolf. There is no sense of that. I heard prayers, I heard calls for unity. I heard calls for justice.
The crowd, Wolf, is a mix of young and old, a mix of black and white. A Palestinian spoke. An older white man spoke, who said he was on these very steps, in this very spot in 1963.
Wolf, this is a sense of a different Washington, the Washington we have not seen, that was certainly different than 24 hours ago at the White House. This scene here, as you can say, is peaceful. It is about what these men and women are indeed calling for justice.
And they are well aware of the curfew hour coming, Wolf. Because several organizers said speak quickly, speak quickly, the curfew is coming. So we do now, are coming across up on the 7:00 hour. We will see if everyone leaves. But no sense here of any confrontation between these armed guards, the National Guards, men and women, and the police on the steps of Abraham Lincoln.
And, Wolf, as you reflect on a week, it is only Tuesday, Abraham Lincoln sitting there in the distance. The monuments are watching and seeing. This is a moment of history as well. But for this time and place, for now at least, Wolf, as we look over the Washington Monument, this here has been peaceful and protesting with the reason. Wolf?
BLITZER: Yes, it's been peaceful all around Washington, D.C., Jeff, near the White House. The protesters gathered right outside of Lincoln, of Lafayette Park, on Capitol Hill, down on Pennsylvania Avenue. They're peaceful, but this curfew goes into effect there at about 15 minutes or so here in Washington D.C., Jeff.
And I take it the folks are leaving the Lincoln Memorial now because of the curfew. Is that right?
JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: They are, indeed. There is a wide parameter as we were coming to this scene, it is set up about 10 blocks from the White House on one side and there is a wide parameter as we were coming to this scene, it is set up about 10 blocks from the White House on one side and for those familiar with Washington, Constitution Avenue on the other side. So, a very large perimeter this evening, an entirely different feeling than we've certainly saw on Saturday evening, Sunday evening.
Of course, the sun is up, and it's a beautiful night here in Washington, people are mingling someone bicycles but the vast majority are dispersing. They are following the order of the curfew. We'll see what happens with the rest of the city tonight, Wolf. But for now at least, this was a peaceful protests with a purpose and the reason, let's hope it's peaceful tonight in Washington, Wolf.
BLITZER: Let's hope indeed.
BLITZER: Alex Marquardt is over -- near Lafayette Park, right near across from the White House on Pennsylvania Avenue. Are folks getting ready to leave there, or are they still staying put?
MARQUARDT: It doesn't look like anyone has really budge, Wolf. When you have a curfew like this, especially after a violent night like last night after the park police pushed everyone out, this really could be a tipping point. So, if -- whether it's the Washington police or the police inside of the park and force that, that's when things could tip into violence.
So, we are seeing -- we have seen a very peaceful protest here. In fact, there was a nice moment, a touching moment when an African- American female officer from the Park Police inside Lafayette Park took a knee alongside protesters out here who are calling everyone to take a knee.
At the same time, just moments ago, we had to put on our gas masks because the police from the inside the park fired pepper spray at that front line of protesters right there at the fence as they started pushing and rocking the fence. Moments after that, a young man stood up and said if you are rocking that fence, stop.
So, I would say the vast majority of people are here for peaceful reasons. They want to keep this peaceful.
We have seen none of what the park police spoke about in terms of protesters throwing projectiles at the police inside. No water bottles, no rocks, nothing like that, which is what the park police happened last night. That is not something we saw.
So, right now, Wolf, this is very much a peaceful protest. We have seen little spikes intention like moments ago when they spread paper spray, but we are coming up, as you say, on the top of the hour, and that curfew was just 13 minutes time. And that will be the first test of where this is going -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Yes, I want your photojournalist, if you can show us the crowd, because you can see that is H Street, going deep down H Street. That's St. John's, the church, the historic church. And if you look down 16th Street, you can see this crowd goes on for block after block after block, to I Street, to K Street and beyond.
So this is a huge crowd, and you're absolutely right, Alex, it does not like anybody is getting ready to leave, even though the curfew is coming up in 13 minutes or so.
MARQUARDT: Well, so the crowd is blowing because it looks like some officers are coming up towards the front, but they're walking away. You're absolutely right, Wolf, this is a huge crowd. You have a better
vantage point than I do because I'm in the middle, but I certainly feel the magnitude of this crowd. As you say, it stretches both ways on H Street, stretching all the way down 16th Street, which is that main artery to the White House.
This is a crowd that even if they wanted to leave at 7:00, it would take a very long time to clear out. I can tell you there's going to be a lot of people here who do not want to leave. So if, the question becomes who is going to enforce this curfew?
We have seen the local police, the police who know the people who live in the city have a much lighter hand on the protesters. Last night, they did not really enforce the curfew until after a significantly after 7:00. But -- and last night, we also saw the federal officers, along with the D.C. National Guard, they have a much heavier hand.
So, has the backlash after what we saw last night has been significant enough that those officers in there will not to do anything and leave it up to the Washington, D.C. police? Will the Washington D.C. police, Metropolitan Police coming here and try to clear people out for that a curfew?
That is really what remains to be seen. But, yes, Wolf, it is a huge crowd here as we come up on this curfew.
BLITZER: Yes, it could be a very tense time indeed right here in Washington, D.C.
Alex Marquardt, standby.
I understand there is a lot of activity going on and Los Angeles right now. Stephanie Elam is on the scene for us there.
Set the scene, Stephanie, for us where you are.
STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, we are right now in front of city hall. We've actually started off in front of the Los Angeles police department around the country, marched over here, and then march to the 110, that up with another group and, were much large in the last time we spoke to you.
This group is now coming in front of city hall. I can tell you, a couple of things have changed. There's a -- the National Guard is now posting up around downtown, they are up here, and the LAPD do have on their helmets now.
However, that being said, this protest has remained very, very peaceful. Lots of chanting, you know, they are talking that they should prosecute killer crops, that has been chanted here. They also been saying, say his name, and chanting George Floyd's name here, but just a couple of seconds ago, a couple of cars pulled up in the middle of the crowd and people got out and opened up the trunk and, I was trying to figure out what they were doing. You can see this man is standing up there with a child, they open up the trunk and got out hand sanitizers and masks.
So I can say that most of this crowd here definitely is protected with the masks, but people are making sure that he's handing out water to the crowds, they're handing out hand sanitizer. They're all trying to be supportive of people here.
It has been very calm for the hours that we've been out here downtown, there have been some calls to try to get the people and the police there to kneel. They've been calls for that. They have not done that. They've not responded.
Earlier, Mayor Eric Garcetti did come out and kneel and speak to some of the demonstrators that were out here. But overall, I have to say, this crowd has gotten larger as we've gotten later in the day, and it remains very peaceful. People are being very respectful to each other.
And the other thing worth noting, this crowd is way more diverse than I have seen in previous times that we have had this discussion about Black Lives Matter in the country. This is a different makeup of the crowd, and I would say there's a lot more white people here, I see a lot of Asian people here, too. A lot of Latino people here holding up signs, Latinx for black lives. I've seen a lot of that here.
So, this seems and feels different than it has in previous years. There does seem to be a bit of a change here in how people are responding. There's even a chant at one people where people were saying, they wanted to stay down on their knees for over eight minutes, because they were trying to equate that to the part of the video that you saw that that former police officer had his knee on George Floyd's neck.
So, a lot of what you're seeing here, they're definitely tying it back to that video, and that being the real crucial reason why they are out here. Several people I've talked to said like this is the first time they felt like they needed to get out and protest, because doing things silently behind the scenes wasn't enough. And they felt like they needed to get out here, even if they were afraid of the coronavirus. They're just trying to do their part and be out here to protest, making signs and letting their voices be heard right now, Wolf.
BLITZER: Yes, Stephanie, I know that curfew in Los Angeles goes into effect a little bit more than two hours from now, 6:00 p.m. Pacific Time, 9:00 p.m. here on the East Coast. We'll see what happens.
Huge crowds in Boston unfolding, as well. I want to bring in Charles Ramsey, a CNN law enforcement analyst, former Philadelphia police commissioner, former Washington, D.C. police chief.
Chief Ramsey, that's where you and I met many, many years ago. We've worked together over the years. We're looking at these huge crowds in Boston, Los Angeles, New York, Washington, D.C.
I want your analysis. You spent years as the D.C. police chief. You see that huge crowd over there near Lafayette Park, 16th street. You know the area, H, I, K Street. You see a lot -- thousands and thousands of people. The curfew in Washington goes into effect in about seven minutes or so, so what's going to happen?
CHARLES RAMSEY, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, hopefully, nothing. Right now, the crowd is peaceful. You know, when curfews are put into effect, it's basically to control what we saw like last night, the night before, so forth, with looting and fires being set and so forth. Not for peaceful demonstrators, although a curfew is a curfew, so it impacts everyone.
But these folks now, as I'm watching, are people who are exercising their legitimate First Amendment rights. And if I were still there, as chief, I would just let them continue, as long as things didn't change, let the crowd just naturally dissipate a bit, because first of all, with that many people there, I mean, what are you going to do? You're not going to be able to really move a crowd like that.
And you could very well turn it into a very ugly situation. What I saw yesterday, when they cleared the park, I thought was very heavy- handed. I thought it was unnecessary. Of course, at the time, I didn't realize that the president wanted to clear it so he could have a photo op.
But I was -- I was confused when I saw it, because as you know, the U.S. Park Police are very adept at handling large crowds. And normally do not resort to those types of tactics. So I was surprised when I saw this yesterday.
BLITZER: Had you ever seen anything like that, Chief Ramsey, before?
RAMSEY: No, I --
BLITZER: That they clear out a crowd, peaceful demonstrators, Lafayette Park, Lafayette Square. They clear them out with gas and go in there with batons and they do so for the simple reason that the president wants to walk across Pennsylvania Avenue, through Lafayette Park to go have a photo op over at the St. John's Church.
RAMSEY: No, I haven't. And I think it's important to constantly remind our viewers that, you know, those are federal agencies. The U.S. Park Police, the uniformed Secret Service, not to mention the Metropolitan Police, which happens to be the city police, the largest one in the area there.
You know, listen, I can't justify it even remotely. People were peaceful and Lafayette Park, as you well know, is a common place more people to go and protest. I mean, it's rare to go there and not see anyone who's got a sign.
I mean, so, it was highly unusual. I was surprised. It had nothing to do with curfew, because this happened long before the curfew. I thought it was heavy-handed. And earlier today, when you look at that skirmish line now, it's Park Police. But earlier, it was National Guard. And I think that was intentional to send some kind of message that, you know, they're being strong or taking over, what have you. I think that's a huge mistake. I mean, this is our nation's capital.
And word is you have to utilize the National Guard in a support role. And I understand that. I've done it myself. They should not be the front line people in my opinion. I don't think it's necessary and I think it sends a terrible message around the world.
BLITZER: How awkward is it, Chief Ramsey, for the Washington, D.C., police force, members -- the police officers here in the nation's capital if they actually have to go in and do something in a situation like this to enforce a curfew and they're seeing peaceful protesters who are simply trying to express their outrage over wanted to George Floyd in Minneapolis?
RAMSEY: It would be awkward, but again, you've got a good mayor there in the District of Columbia. She's just doing what she thinks is necessary to bring some semblance of peace and order to the city, because they have experienced some rioting and windows being broken and that sort of thing. She's not doing it to try to break up peaceful protests, per se.
So, you know, I think right now, people are having that discussion. I would be surprised if the police right away moved in, right as the clock strikes 7:00. I mean, people are being peaceful. You look at the Lincoln Memorial, it was actually a beautiful thing to see. Young people changed the world.
And you know, it reminded me so much of the '60s, when, believe it or not, I was once a young guy, although I didn't have the courage to do what they're doing now. But that led to change. I became police chief in Washington, D.C. not because I'm so smart, because people sacrificed back in the '60s and protested and civil rights legislation was passed and things changed. Maybe not enough, but it changed enough for me to be able to be one of the beneficiaries.
So, you know, these movements are important. What I don't condone is violence, looting, and that sort of thing. That is unacceptable in any circumstances, in my opinion.
BLITZER: It certainly is. Don Lemon is still with us.
Don, this is a very, very sensitive moment right now, as we wait for the curfew -- curfews to go into effect here in Washington, an hour or so from now in New York City, in Los Angeles, in Philadelphia, Atlanta, Louisville, Chicago, Denver. This is a sensitive moment.
LEMON: It is a sensitive moment. But let me just co-sign, so to speak, what Charles Ramsey said. Everything he said, ditto.
These young people, we have to stop looking at them as somehow other or some -- to be afraid of or people who are just nuisances on our streets. These are brave people. They're brave young people. And I just hope that it doesn't turn violent tonight and I hope that people -- there's no destruction of property. And I hope that people start embracing the change that we need and help the young people who are out here fighting. That's all I have to say, wolf. BLITZER: Yes, it's a sad situation that has unfolded, but there is, as
Chief Ramsey says, there is hope now that the young people will do something to stop this situation from escalating, from exploding. There's understandable anger, of course, throughout the United States right now over what has happened eight days ago.
We're watching all of this unfold and we see the crowds that have gathered near the White House, crowds in Los Angeles, in Philadelphia, the crew curfew is going to go into effect in Miami very soon as well. As I point out, in Atlanta, huge numbers of people in Boston right now that has unfolded.
We'll watch it together with all of our viewers. This is by no means ending and our special live coverage here on CNN, of all of these developments continues right now with "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT."