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Students Speak Out After Atlanta Officers Charged With Excessive Force; Defense Board Member Quits Over Attack On Peaceful Protesters; Coronavirus Pandemic Highlights Economic Inequality For Black Workers. Aired 7:30-8a ET

Aired June 3, 2020 - 07:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


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[07:31:25]

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Six Atlanta police officers facing charges this morning of excessive force for what they did while arresting two college students. The encounter was captured by police bodycam and we want to warn you it is very disturbing to watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

POLICE OFFICER: (INAUDIBLE).

(Police tasing two college students)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CAMEROTA: In just a moment, we will speak with those two students and their attorneys.

We want to bring in CNN's Dianne Gallagher. She is live in Atlanta with more. So what's the latest, Dianne?

DIANNE GALLAGHER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. So, Alisyn, look, Taniya Pilgrim and Messiah Young were on this street right here behind me in Atlanta. They weren't a part of the protests, we're told. They were actually just caught up in curfew traffic when the police approached their vehicle.

Now, look, the chief of police has said that she was shocked by the way, in her words, they were manhandled inside their car.

The district attorney, when announcing these charges yesterday, said that they meticulously went through seven different videos -- six body cameras as well as some local news footage that actually aired live in Atlanta at the time -- to determine these charges. Now, they range from aggravated assault and simple battery to damage of property.

Those students you can see in that very difficult-to-watch video, they sustained some injuries there. Messiah Young has a fractured wrist and arm, as well as receiving 24 stitches. The warrants out for the officers' arrest -- and here are the officers. Lonnie Hood, Willie Sauls, Ivory Streeter, Mark Gardner, Armond Jones, and Roland Claud. Now, Streeter and Gardner were fired on Sunday. Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms saying that after seeing that video, it was disturbing. They determined that they had to terminate those officers.

According to the district attorney, what was given for the reason for this action on the police report was they thought that the students had a gun. But they said when they went through that video that there was never a firearm mentioned whatsoever during the event and they didn't recover any whatsoever.

Alisyn, those officers have until June fifth, end of day, to turn themselves in. They will be released on a signature bond. The D.A. says it's because of the Covid-19 pandemic. They don't want too many people in the jail.

CAMEROTA: OK. Thank you very much for all of that update, Dianne.

Joining us now are Taniyah Pilgrim and Messiah Young, along with their attorneys Mawuli Davis and Chris Stewart. It is great to have all of you here with us.

I can't stop thinking about that video. I just want to -- to you, Messiah, and to Taniya, have you ever seen that video of what happened to you that night?

MESSIAH YOUNG, COLLEGE STUDENT TASED BY POLICE IN ATLANTA (via Cisco Webex): Honestly, not yet -- no.

CAMEROTA: Why haven't you watched it?

TANIYAH PILGRIM, COLLEGE STUDENT TASED BY POLICE IN ATLANTA (via Cisco Webex): I -- go ahead.

YOUNG: I'm not trying to relive that moment. At this point, it's a little too much right now and I'd rather just recover, honestly.

CAMEROTA: Yes.

Taniya, what about you?

[07:35:00]

PILGRIM: I actually have seen the videos and they just terrify me. It's like literally -- in the moment, I literally think this is the end. And then re-watching the videos, you see -- I guess you just see why I had the fear in me. Like, it was just so -- it was so uncalled for and just so unexpected.

CAMEROTA: I mean, I've seen it now at least half a dozen times, maybe 10 times, and I can't get past how aggressive and violent it all was.

Messiah, do you understand why the police approached your car in that way and broke your car windows? YOUNG: The main reason why I understand is I think we were trying to document what was happening to our friend. He was -- my Morehouse brother was being brutally manhandled and attacked and just needed to document this moment so if anything happened to him there would be some type of back-up for him.

CAMEROTA: Messiah, you got hurt during all of this. It's not a surprise, but what happened to you?

YOUNG: I have multiple injuries all over my body. My wrist is cracked, I have 20 stitches in my forearm, I have bruises all over my ribs, and I had a Taser in my back for about eight hours.

CAMEROTA: What do you mean you had a Taser in your back for eight hours? You mean that what they shot --

YOUNG: I mean, I --

CAMEROTA: -- it stayed in there?

YOUNG: Yes. Initially, some of them were removed. But I informed them that I still had a Taser in my back and it was not taken out of me until around 2:00 or 3:00 a.m., and I got tased at around 9:00-9:30.

CAMEROTA: Oh my God. And do you remember being tased? When we look at that video it looks as though you almost sort of lose control of your limbs. It looks as though you're kind of convulsing. What was it like in that moment?

YOUNG: It was probably one of the hardest moments that I've had to face in my life. I just -- I can't even fathom what happened. At this point, I'm just so far gone. It's like I'm trying to remove myself from that situation but it's really hard to cope with.

CAMEROTA: Yes. I'm sorry, Messiah. I'm -- I don't want us to re- traumatize you. I understand that you guys are still really raw from all of this.

And, Taniyah, I've read that you said that you just didn't know that you were going to survive that night. I mean, you -- what happened? When the cops came up did you think that you might be killed?

PILGRIM: Yes, I thought I might be killed. And the reason I thought that is because we -- there was nothing like done that was not right.

So when they're coming up to the car I'm just thinking like what could -- what could we have done? You know what I mean? Like, what could we have done to cause this? And when I think in my mind -- when I realized we haven't done anything -- you know what I mean? Like, nothing really warranted this.

So after I realized the -- just -- after I realized none of this really had a reason, I was just thinking OK, this is the end. Like, this doesn't have a reason so I can't really justify or think about do I -- like, are we going to -- you know what I mean? It's just like yes, we are. This doesn't have a reason and if this attacked happened -- I mean, I

didn't really understand like what other reason could it have been. I was just confused with the whole situation that it was over.

CAMEROTA: Of course, you were. I mean, of course, you were.

Messiah, is it true that you said to the cops -- you yelled to the cops I'm not dying today?

YOUNG: That really was my whole mentality once they approached the car. They literally swarmed the car and I just was shell-shocked.

I've seen this situation so many times, you know? Like, we have George Floyd. We have so many people dying and it's just senseless. Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, all these people are dying every day and people are out protesting for this reason, and it's still happening at these protests. We see this literally daily and it's just not OK.

[07:40:09]

CAMEROTA: Yes.

Mr. Davis, have the authorities given you any idea -- any explanation or justification for why they would think two college students who weren't even involved in the protests -- who were just in a traffic jam trying to drive through it -- would have a gun in the car?

MAWULI DAVIS, ATTORNEY REPRESENTING MESSIAH YOUNG (via Cisco Webex): Right. There is no explanation so they couldn't give one. They, again, as we've seen in the past, attempt to assassinate the character of these young people by saying there was a gun. There was never a gun.

These are two great college students from two fine universities from great families, so the typical character assassination that they attempt to do just won't work here.

That's why I think it was so important that the mayor moved swiftly, that the district attorney moved swiftly because the message has to be clear the culture and policing in America and in Atlanta must change. It must change immediately or innocent people --

CAMEROTA: Yes.

DAVIS: -- risk literally losing their lives.

CAMEROTA: And, Mr. Stewart, even when they survive -- I mean, I think that Messiah and Taniyah are giving us a great lesson right now in even if you survive an incident like that it stays with you. The trauma -- the physical trauma of what they endured, the emotional trauma, the fear --

I mean, that becomes embedded and it becomes -- I mean, we've heard -- we've heard over the past eight days from so many of our wonderful guests it becomes embedded in the entire collective conscience of black folks.

And, you know -- I mean, I just -- I see these kids -- these are great college students. I don't know how they are supposed to get past this.

CHRIS STEWART, ATTORNEY REPRESENTING TANIYAH PILGRIM (via Cisco Webex): Well, just look at where I am now. I'm up here in Minneapolis representing the daughter of George Floyd. That's the future of what happens to children that we represent now if we don't stop this. That's why Attorney Davis and I are fighting things so hard so that they don't become George Floyds.

CAMEROTA: Yes.

Taniyah, what was your thought when you heard that the six officers have been charged with excessive force?

PILGRIM: When I got the news that they were charged, I was -- you know, I was very happy because this is a -- this is a small step. Like, accountability is so important in all of this and so many times we see cops able to do things and not be held accountable for them.

And I'm happy that it's finally -- I'm happy that at least this is happening now. And I hope that this continues and I -- it has to continue, honestly. It has to continue or this won't end.

CAMEROTA: And, Taniyah, what about what I was just talking about with Mr. Stewart? What about the lingering effects of this? How do you begin to get past this?

PILGRIM: I haven't even -- I don't -- I haven't even processed the situation and everything that happened. I haven't even like sat down and took a moment to really think oh my gosh -- like, this just happened to me. You know what I mean? So I think the lingering effects are traumatizing.

Like, it all happened so fast there was no -- you can't mentally prepare for that. So when something so devastating happens when there's no preparation, there's no explanation, there's really -- there's almost no way to get over it.

All -- like, all we -- like, all I can hope for is like I said, is for people to be held accountable like -- because I don't want this to continue to happen and have more victims like us who are traumatized, who can't sleep, can't eat. I don't want that for anyone else. Like, this is disgusting. This isn't right.

CAMEROTA: Messiah, what do you want from our leaders? What can happen now?

YOUNG: Change is really all that needs to come from this. There needs to be a total reset in policing -- the culture of policing -- the way citizens and authority are -- react and interact with one another. It needs to be a sense of trust and safeness and security when dealing with law enforcement.

We just need to see a total shift in the way things are done because at this point, we're going to continue having these protests. We're going to continue losing black lives, brown lives, even -- there just really needs to be a whole new reform at this point. CAMEROTA: Yes.

[07:45:00]

Well, Messiah and Taniyah, our hearts are with you. We're thinking of you.

Thank you for explaining where you are right now emotionally with all this. And I think that you've made the case to everybody of just the huge ripple effect after something like this happens and we really appreciate it.

Mr. Davis, Mr. Stewart, thank you both for being there as well.

STEWART: Thank you.

DAVIS: Thank you.

CAMEROTA: NEW DAY will be right back.

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CAMEROTA: New fallout from President Trump's photo op at a church across from the White House. It led to peaceful protesters being violently disbursed. A former top Pentagon official is blasting the Defense secretary's role in this.

[07:50:00]

CNN's Barbara Starr is live at the Pentagon. What's he saying, Barbara?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, good morning. But I want to start with this, very briefly.

Late last night, the Pentagon announced a number of active-duty units now on standby in the Washington area. One of them is an Infantry battalion on standby in Washington to go onto the streets if commanders feel it is needed.

What has happened overnight is the chairman of the Defense Advisory Board has resigned from that position. James Miller was an Obama administration official but served currently on this important board.

And in his letter, he blasts Defense Sec. Mark Esper for his apparent complicity, if you will, in the clearing of that park by law enforcement. He says, "You may not have been able to stop President Trump from directing this appalling use of force, but you could have chosen to oppose it. Instead, you visibly supported it."

Now, a Defense official telling me that neither Esper or Milley knew that that walk into the park, in which Milley was in his battlefield uniform, would result in the photo op at St. John's Church. And they did not know this violent disbursal of protesters would take place.

Esper now telling NBC in an interview that he didn't know where he was going when that started. He thought he might be going out to thank National Guard troops and maybe to inspect a vandalized bathroom in the park. That is what they are saying to try and distance the secretary and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs from this entire affair.

I asked a Defense official did Esper and Milley get had by the president and that official told me they got had -- John.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right, Barbara Starr at the Pentagon. Thank you very much. Those words were remarkable.

So it wasn't long ago that the president was touting a record low unemployment rate for African-Americans, but the pandemic has reversed those gains and highlighted the inequality in the American economy.

Chief business correspondent and "EARLY START" anchor Christine Romans with that -- Romans.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT, ANCHOR, EARLY START: And, John, some tough numbers here. For African-American families it's a double hit -- a disproportionate impact on their health and on their employment.

The jobless rate has spiked from a record low in February to 16.7 percent in April and it's likely much higher now. We'll get an official number on Friday.

Job losses are even more severe for black and Hispanic women who disproportionately work in retail, hotels, and hospitality.

And for black Americans working John, there's the added anxiety of being a front line worker. African-Americans make up 11.9 percent of the labor market, but 17 percent of essential workers. They are grocery store clerks, warehouse workers, post office workers, cleaning services, health care, child care, social service, and they make less.

On average, black workers are paid 73 cents on the dollar for white workers. The typical black household has one-tenth -- one-tenth of the wealth of the typical white households. That's according to the Federal Reserve.

Now, smaller earnings and less savings, that makes it difficult to build wealth and to shelter through the pandemic. A recent Fed survey found black households were about twice as likely as white households to say they would have trouble covering their bills if they had an unexpected $400 expense.

John, these are the numbers I think that quantify systemic racism in America. Studies have shown blacks are the last hired and the first fired. That resumes with names perceived as black-sounding are less likely to get an interview.

And, John, even a college education is no guarantee. African-Americans with college degrees have less wealth than whites who did not graduate high school, John.

BERMAN: These are the numbers and these are the facts. This is the underlying system that we are now hearing so much about.

Christine Romans, thanks so much for being with us.

A night of mostly peaceful protests despite curfews in dozens of cities. Our coverage continues after this.

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[07:58:20]

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They're using the cover of protests to fill their pockets. They found out that somehow that it's all right -- it's part of a protest to loot.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Allowing people to break curfew -- police again taking a backseat, allowing these demonstrators to march.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Say his name.

PROTESTERS: George Floyd.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Even though they are not in compliance with the curfew, you can see they're sitting, they have their hands up.

MAYOR ERIC GARCETTI (D), LOS ANGELES: I look forward to the day when we get rid of a curfew, when we don't have National Guard, when our police officers don't have their helmets on.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This has taken on a decidedly different tone than what we have seen throughout the course of the entire day.

REP. JIM CLYBURN (D-SC): And if we don't choose wisely, I think we're seeing the demise of the greatest democracy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Alisyn Camerota and John Berman.

CAMEROTA: Good morning, everyone. Welcome to our viewers in the United States and all around the world. This is NEW DAY.

And this morning we wake up to a more calm America than we saw yesterday. Overnight, thousands of people protested but the protests remained mostly peaceful. There were hundreds of arrests, mostly for breaking curfew. There were pockets of looting, but on a much smaller scale than previous nights.

There were also powerful moments of silence. In Denver, protesters took a knee for nine minutes, marking the amount of time that George Floyd was pinned under the knee of a white Minneapolis police officer.

And in New York, this remarkable moment.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) PROTESTERS: Applauding health care workers.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CAMEROTA: That's the sound of protesters cheering for health care workers as they marched past a hospital.

BERMAN: Now, there were some pockets of violence overnight. In Washington, D.C., some clashes between protesters and law enforcement following peaceful protests earlier in the night.

END