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Police Chief Marches with Faith Leaders; Governor Apologizes to CNN Reporter; Sports Figures Demand Justice; Arrests During Protests in LA. Aired 9:30-10a

Aired June 3, 2020 - 09:30   ET



CHIEF TODD AXTELL, SAINT PAUL, MINNESOTA, POLICE: And I'm very encouraged at the outpouring of -- of support from our community and our officers.

Yesterday, I had officers with me while I was reading before roll call in tears over what's happened. It's a -- it's a tragic time for everyone. And I just want to be able to say that.

You know, I think it's a false choice to -- to think that you can't decry injustice within the criminal justice system and systems throughout this entire country and also support the great women and men of law enforcement throughout this entire country who are good human beings. I think we can do both.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: The fact that you had some of your officers in tears I think speaks volumes.

I wonder what you think about the National Security Adviser Robert O'Brien saying to our Jake Tapper earlier this week when asked if he believes there is systemic racism in some police forces in America, he said, no, unequivocally no there is not. There are just some bad apples. Do you think there is some systemic racism?

AXTELL: Well, of course there is. It's not just in police departments across this country. My goodness, there's systemic racism within pretty much everything in this country. Look at the discrepancies -- the disproportionate rates when you look at healthcare, when you look at jobs, when you look at economics, when you look at policing. I mean the list goes on and on and on. If we turn a blind eye to that, we're never going to move forward together.


AXTELL: But as the St. Paul police chief, you see there is systemic racism within some police departments. And you -- and you -- and you run one of them.

I wonder what you thought when you saw these numbers, we can put them on the screen, Chief, but CNN did a deep dive into the Minneapolis Police Department since 2012 and the use of choke hold and neck restraints. Of the 420 people they were used on, 65 percent were black, in a city where only 19 percent of the population is black.

What do you think when you see those numbers?

AXTELL: Well, when I look at disproportionate, the stops throughout this entire country, whether it's a -- whether it's a chokehold, whether it's a traffic stop, the list goes on and on and on.

And I have said throughout my entire career that until we fix the systemic racism throughout our communities, throughout this country, people who are underserved, as I said earlier, with economics, housing, healthcare, education, if we don't fix those issues, they're going to continue to intersect with the criminal justice system at higher rates and we have to do something about that.

HARLOW: Yes. You know, I keep thinking about parents and conversations that we need to have with our children and how young those conversations need to start. And I was going to ask you, you know, what's your message to black mothers and fathers that are scared to, you know, have their kids just walk down the block, but I think even more, sir, what conversations do white parents need to be having with their children about white privilege, about systemic racism at an early age so they don't grow up into adults who carry out things like this?

AXTELL: Yes, I think that's a wonderful point. Regardless of our background and the color of our skin, we have to have these courageous conversations early. We know that human beings aren't born to be racist. We know that it's a learned behavior.

And sometimes we have to check ourselves of how we talk about things, how we approach things, how we view the world and share that with our children and our young people so that they have a better opportunity to grow up in a society that there's less of these blocks and hindrances into people of color with our entire -- throughout the entire country.

HARLOW: You've said in the last few days, integrity, respect for all, compassion, empathy, these are qualities that are nonnegotiable as law enforcement professionals and human beings.

I wonder if you could share with us if those are conversations you are having with your officers, some of whom are coming to you in tears. What are you saying to them right now about the humanity of all of us that needs to be respected?

AXTELL: I visited with hundreds of officers over the last few days within the St. Paul Police Department at roll calls and other venues. My message is very simple, that I am -- I'm proud of the great officers that we have in this agency.

We have been dealing with traumatic and challenging times. But I'm also very clear, and I -- and I wanted to make sure that all chiefs and sheriffs throughout this country join me in this clarion (ph) call to our officers, when they watch that video, if they think, in any way, shape or form that that's acceptable or reasonable uses of force, I told my officers, if they think that's reasonable, I want you to turn your badge in to me and do it immediately.


HARLOW: Chief Axtell, thank you for your work and for your time today.

AXTELL: Thank you very much.


JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: CNN's Omar Jimenez joins us now from Minneapolis. He just spoke with the governor of Minnesota, Dan Walz.

Omar, tell us what the governor had to say.

OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jim and Poppy, the governor made his first visit to this intersection behind me since this happened over eight days ago now. In his words, he wanted to feel some of the visceral pain that his community here has felt so visibly over the course of, again, just the past week. He also spoke about why and what his priorities are moving forward about how important this moment is here in the state.

Here's a little bit more of what he had to say.


GOV. TIM WALZ (D-MN): Omar, thank you for -- thank you for the professionalism. Thank you for understanding. And I'm deeply sorry. And you can know that we've -- we've -- we've made other mistakes on this as far as making sure that you have access, but protocols and everything else as we're learning have to change because we have to create the space for you to tell the story.

JIMENEZ: Of course, Governor. And one thing I just want to ask, did you get a chance to look at the memorial? I was doing a report. I missed. How does it feel to be at this site that has drawn attention to your state for all the wrong reasons?

WALZ: Well, it's very personal. We wanted to try and get down here early, I'll just say that, because I -- I very much worry about white politicians appropriating black pain and that's certainly not it. But I think it's -- for me, I have to personally and viscerally feel this. I -- you know, it's unfortunate. I've become friends with mothers only because their sons were killed. And that was what the catalyst for us becoming a friend. But that personal and feel the community down here and the pain.

And I think try and understand, I'm part of that community, not as governor, but then that responsibility. So it's very mixed emotions. Very hard. I was watching a gentleman -- just the sense of compassion and humanity he had for everyone, for everyone involved in this, and all the lives that are destroyed.

And so I think the biggest thing we're -- this just candidly me is, I don't think we get another chance to fix this in the country. I really don't. I don't think that's hyperbole. I just -- I think being at the heart of this and seeing the community's pain so viscerally, this is -- this is going to have to be that change we look for. So I'm, again, deeply sorry that that happened. I appreciate you being back out here again covering.

JIMENEZ: I appreciate your help in all this.

WALZ: Yes.

JIMENEZ: And I know it's been a tough week. Thank you, Governor.

WALZ: No, thank you.


JIMENEZ: And his apology was, of course, for the arrest that my crew and I went under, the cuffing and detaining back on Friday.

But you heard the more significant aspects of his answer there, talking about the fact that they don't have another chance in his view to get this right. And that's significant because, remember, these protests aren't just about what happened this past week. It goes back to decades of relationships between the police and the community. I think he realizes, you hear him there, at the moment that the state is in, and he realizes how high the stakes are.

Poppy. Jim.

SCIUTTO: Omar, it was the state patrol, of course, that arrested you on Friday. Has the state patrol made any statement, apology or response to that?

JIMENEZ: They issued an immediate response on Twitter after that happened on Friday. Part of which was not 100 percent factual. But the governor came in and apologized in a press conference there. But since then, no, they have not reached out to me personally, as the governor has a few times now.


Yes, as you know, of course, the tweet said that it had confirmed that you were a journalist, when, in fact, on tape many times you said that you were, showed your credentials.

Omar Jimenez in Minneapolis, thanks very much.

Overnight, in Los Angeles, a third straight night of a curfew not keeping protesters off the street, with many gathering at the home of the L.A. mayor, Eric Garcetti. We're going to have a live update coming up.



SCIUTTO: You may have noticed this. Several sports figures have taken to the streets to help lead the fight for justice after George Floyd's killing. Former NBA Rookie of the Year, Malcolm Brogdon, he's been one of them. This weekend, Brogdon came back to his hometown of Atlanta to helped lead peaceful protests there. His message, the moment is now.


MALCOLM BROGDON, INDIANA PACERS GUARD: You know, we don't have to burn down our homes. We don't have to -- we built this city. This is the -- this is the most probably black city in the world. In the world, man. So, like, let's take some pride in that. Let's focus our energy. Let's -- let's enjoy this together. This is a moment. We have levered right now. We have a -- we have a moment in time. People are going to look back, our kids are going to look back at this and say, you were a part of that.


SCIUTTO: Joining me now is Indiana Pacers Guard Malcolm Brogdon.

And, Malcolm, it's good to have you on. And we appreciate your lending your voice out there.

I want to ask you about a message you've said. You said it's important for us to stay outraged.

Tell us what you mean by that.

MALCOLM BROGDON, INDIANA PACERS GUARD: Absolutely. And, you know, thank you for having me on this morning.

But what I meant by that comment, that honestly comes from a -- a famous really black mind in James Baldwin that once said, to be black in America is to -- and to be conscious is to be, you know, in a constant state of rage.


And that means, you know, not numbing yourself to what's going on, not ignoring it, even though it's going on nearly every week, but continuing to expose yourself to it, continuing to watch these deaths. And, you know, I think rage and anger and emotions allow you to, you know, act and take action.

SCIUTTO: You, in your comment we just played there and elsewhere, you have called for peaceful protests. What do looting, other acts of violence, again, by a minority of those showing up on the streets, what does that do to the broader message to you? Are you concerned about that?

BROGDON: You know, honestly, I don't -- I don't want to focus on it. I think that America, I think that mainstream media has to refocus their energy not on the oppressed, not on the results of a -- of a broken system, but on the oppressors. On the people that are really initiating these acts.

I think once we focus on the system, the system is broken. It's -- it's a system based on systematic racism, on keeping a specific population of people down. Once we focus on the system, we start to see the inconsistencies in it.

We start to see that black men are policed and incarcerated at a rate five times as high as -- as black -- I mean higher than white people. We start to see that black people make up 12 percent of the population, but we are 32 percent of the prison population. These are the things that have to change. These are the things that once you look at the discrepancies, they are standing right, they're standing right at you.

SCIUTTO: And you see another data as well, for instance, the institution of the death penalty, black perpetrators versus white perpetrators, even with the same crime.

But you mentioned levers of power. In that moment, in streets there, with the bullhorn, you talked about, we have levers. What are those? And as you look forward to November, is voting a primary lever of power, of influence?

BROGDON: Absolutely. You know, that's one of the main messages that I preach is voting. And I think, you know, a lot of the black community doesn't believe in voting. We don't -- we, you know, voter suppression is real in Georgia. Historically, we're one of the worst states with voter suppression. So I think it's important that we vote locally, at the state level, federally, but especially locally. I think that's where we can have the most change.

When you look at local voting, you have the most say in who your elected officials are. It's one community. It's more condensed. And black people can have more of a say on who is representing them, you know, on the local level and how policies can change and be reconstructed so that they benefit us.

SCIUTTO: Yes. You mentioned the local level. And that, of course, is something that Barack Obama, for instance, he specifically identified earlier this week that the local elections, local leaders really matter on these issues.

But before we go, what is a first positive step you'd be looking for change. I mean there's legislation that's been discussed by some that gets at the issue of police immunity from prosecution for the -- for the abuse of power. What's a first step that you would look at as substantive change now?

BROGDON: A first step would be bringing the three remaining cops in the George Floyd case to justice.

And, overall, a larger step looks at, you know, police and law enforcement reform. We need to go back through all the policemen, all the law enforcement that has had, you know, unjust acts on their resumes, on their track records, and we need to make a decision on whether or not they still need to be working those jobs.

We need to have -- we need to have a retraining of policemen, of law enforcement, that allows them to go forward and not over police black neighborhoods. Not racially profile black men. So these are the things that need to happen immediately in order for us to see change, if you want people to stop looting. If you want people to stop being so outraged and so angry, we have to see change now.

SCIUTTO: Malcolm Brogdon, we appreciate having you on. We appreciate your voice. Thank you very much.

BROGDON: Thank you.

SC And we'll be right back.



SCIUTTO: In Los Angeles overnight a change, largely peaceful protests demanding racial justice.

HARLOW: Our Stephanie Elam has been following the progression of pain in that city for days.

And, Stephanie, such a striking moment last night with the mayor.


We saw some very large protests here in Los Angeles. One of them being here in Hollywood, where I am. But yesterday we were in downtown Los Angeles. There were protesters there.

And then there were some that went outside of the mayor's house in a neighborhood here called Hancock Park, where you saw the mayor come out and speak to the people there after he had already been out and kneeled with some faith leaders and spoke with some protesters out there earlier in the day.


But one thing that's really notable about the protesters that were out yesterday downtown is that we saw a lot of people who were out protesting for the first time in their life. This was something that they felt very strongly that they needed to respond to, especially after seeing the video of that former police officer. Listen to what this one man who wouldn't -- who just only wanted to tell me his name was Ryan had to say about why he felt this was the time he had to come out.


RYAN, PROTESTER: I've been doing everything else I could, whether it's donating, running for my local congressman, you know, spending -- applying the message on social media. But I felt like I had to take physical action. And if not yesterday, then today.


ELAM: You can feel the passion in his voice when he was speaking about that.

Out here today there's still about 1,000 National Guard members here on the streets in Hollywood. That will probably continue as the curfew is expected to be in place again tonight at 6:00 p.m.

Jim and Poppy.

HARLOW: Stephanie, thank you so much for bringing that to us.

This morning, a senior defense official says the defense secretary and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, quote, got had by the president regarding that photo op at St. John's Church. That official, as Jim has noted, going unnamed. More on that ahead.