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THE SITUATION ROOM
All Four Officers Now Charged In Death Of George Floyd; Obama Speaking About George Floyd's Death & Nationwide Unrest. Aired 5-6p ET
Aired June 3, 2020 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Joining us now, the Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison. Attorney General, thanks so much for joining us. I know you've had a crazy day today, a very, very busy day, a historic day indeed. You've now upgraded the charge against Derek Chauvin from third-degree murder to second-degree murder. What was the result of the new evidence that you got that resulted in this dramatic and very important development?
KEITH ELLISON, MINNESOTA ATTORNEY GENERAL: Well, we could just continue to investigate and gather facts. We work with our team. And we believe that the factual basis was there for this charge. It is unethical charge. It's a charge rooted in facts that we can prove. And so that's what brought us to this conclusion.
As you know, it's not allowable for me to comment on the evidence and talk about the investigation. But as information rolled in, it made it necessary for us to adjust these charges.
BLITZER: Can you share any of that information that came in?
ELLISON: Actually, it would not be a good idea, Wolf. I wish I could, no.
BLITZER: But it was significant from your perspective, you can say that, right?
ELLISON: Yes. I can say it was significant. It was important. And it bolstered our theory of what happened here.
BLITZER: Was there a new video that came in that the public has not yet seen that bolster this case?
ELLISON: We're gathering information constantly. There are -- we're collecting all types of information, including video information, as well as other types. And so all of that factored into the mix.
BLITZER: The other three police officers, I should say, ex-police officers are now facing charges of aiding and abetting second-degree murder and aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughters. Tell us how you landed on those charges. ELLISON: Well, if you assist somebody in the commission of a crime, then you can be held liable for that same crime. Even though the principal actor is the one who is driving the action for the crime, if you assisted, advised, helped, then you can be held culpable for the grounds of another.
BLITZER: The maximum sentence I take it for all four of these ex- police officers remains the same what 40 years, is that right?
ELLISON: 25 years is the statutory sentence.
BLITZER: For a second-degree murder is 25 years?
BLITZER: As you know, the Floyd family and their attorneys, they had wanted first-degree murder charges for Derek Chauvin, is that still a possibility, Attorney General?
ELLISON: We're continuing to gather evidence and if we get evidence to support that we can put in front of a jury, we will present that. At this time, we brought forth the maximum ethical charges we could, which are based on the facts that we have found.
BLITZER: I take it to three other ex-police officers. They either already have been or are about to be apprehended and arrested, is that right?
ELLISON: Yes, that process is ongoing as we speak.
BLITZER: And they will be held -- will they be eligible for bail?
ELLISON: In Minnesota, all offenses are bailable. But I don't know if they'll make it. That's something that's been yet to be determined.
BLITZER: You've actually called for the public to provide additional evidence if they have it. But at this point, do you believe you have enough evidence? You know, these cases, as you well know, Attorney General, there by no means easy to prove against ex-police officers. Do you have enough evidence right now or do you believe or fear there still may be some gaps?
ELLISON: No, we have enough evidence. We wouldn't even charge them without enough evidence. But at the same time, there are other pieces of evidence out there that may help reinforce evidence that we already have. That's why we want to encourage anyone who has videotape, anyone who has any kind of information to come forward to share that information with us. And we think that process is critical for people to continue to cooperate with us. Because we don't -- there are things out there that we may not know yet, but we do know enough to charge these cases out.
BLITZER: Because as you well know, and as you acknowledge and your men have a lot of experience in these areas, winning a case against ex- police officers is by no means easy. You got to go to a jury, one person on that jury can result in a hung jury. You can have a not guilty verdict. We've seen that happen when the evidence seems so powerful. We've seen that happened on many occasions. It's a serious problem you have right now, isn't it?
ELLISON: Yes, it is a big challenge. And, you know, it's hard for people to appreciate sometimes because they see, you know, like the Rodney King video, and it's like so shocking to everyone. But that Simi Valley jury acquitted those officers in that case. It took a federal trial to convict them of civil rights violations.
And by the way, Wolf, there is a parallel color of law, federal investigation going on right now. But also in the Walter Scott case, which is a more recent case, that jury hung and the state jury hung and that the fed's move forward on that one. Trayvon Martin was not a police case, but it was a quasi-police case. And we all know what happened in that case. So the fact is, is that these are difficult cases. And, you know, we -- that's why we have to work very hard and prepare very thoroughly.
BLITZER: And that could take up quite a while to get ready for a case of this enormous magnitude and historic perspective. But the video that we've all seen now and it is so horrific when we see that ex- police officer kneeling on his neck for almost nine minutes, it's so powerful. But when I hear you saying is you need more video, is the police body cam video, is that powerful as well?
ELLISON: What I can tell you is that it is consistent with what we have seen in the video that the world has seen. It offers various perspectives. And there's also other video out there. All of it reinforces our conclusions and the facts we put in our complaint. And so that's the story on that.
If there's more video and there well could be more, we want to see it. Multiple angles are helpful. You know, we have -- I have every reason to believe that the defense in this case is going to go to attack every single link in the prosecutorial chain. And we need them all to be strong. So if we have redundant evidence, that's OK.
BLITZER: Because that video alone that the public has seen that we've all seen is so, so powerful, so convincing. We hear awful chants, I can't breathe. We hear the public nearby saying you're killing them and stuff like that. But you say you want more video to bolster your case?
ELLISON: If it's available, we want it but we do believe we have enough now. I will say this, Wolf, you know, these cases are tough. The lawyers on the other side will be good. They'll -- Sadly, there's been so much of this kind of behavior that these other -- the defense counsel will be experienced. And they will be well-resourced.
So, you know, having more than one piece of evidence to prove a critical fact in the case would be very beneficial. So we want to continue to encourage people to come forward if they have it. But, Wolf, if I may, I hope that people know that this case, even after we win it, which we are absolutely committed to doing, that won't solve the systemic problem of our society. We need folks to get involved, we need people to work on police community relations, we need people to be a part of the cause of justice so that everybody can say, liberty and justice for all in our beloved America.
BLITZER: Yes, you make an important point, because you've also spoken about the challenges that these kinds of cases have had historically, they've been under prosecuted, but you feel you have a powerful, strong case that you can win this case. Can you walk us through a timeline because, you know, the American public so many of us want to see action, they want to see if quickly, how long do you think this trial, this whole process is going to take?
ELLISON: Well, it's not weeks. We're talking in terms of months. I don't think we're talking years. But we're certainly, we're probably a number of months before this case, we'll be in front of a jury.
BLITZER: And will there be a four separate trials for each of these ex-police officers, or will they all be together?
ELLISON: Well, that's yet to be determined. That will be determined by motion practice. And we will see that's something that is a fact yet unknown. But it's actually a strategic question that we need to discuss internally.
BLITZER: In your investigation, Attorney General, did you discover that all three of these other ex-police officers who have now been charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder, they were equally responsible, as far as your evidence points to?
ELLISON: From a legal standpoint, we believe they're equally responsible.
Their behavior, I think the facts will eventually show, varied from person to person somewhat, but all of them met the threshold for being charged under Minnesota Statute 60905. They are aided and abetted.
BLITZER: You've also spoken at times Attorney General about the weight of this historic moment and you see what's going on in major cities around the United States. What would you like to tell, first of all, the Floyd family and so many Americans who have taken to the streets, who are calling for justice right now?
ELLISON: I would tell you that every important advance in American history, women's rights, civil rights, has come because people peacefully got into the street, and they raise their voices and demanded change. And this situation is not going to be any different. But we also need people to know that the demonstrations, they might be dramatic, and they might be really powerful.
But the hard work of constructing a just society in which everybody can expect equal protection under the law is going to be done in church basements and meeting rooms and community meetings. And some of those meetings are going to go long. And some of those ideas are going to -- they're not going to be glamour, that there won't be cameras at these meetings, but they are absolutely essential for the real work to be done.
We need to ask people in all communities all over this country, can we sit down with your local police department and talk about how we can have use of force reviews, how we can talk about -- how we can work together in a way that can restore trust. Those are tough meetings, and they won't be fixed. Washington will help but they won't fix in Washington or in St. Paul. They will be at the municipal level, at the community level, community to community and that is how that good work will be done. And because that's the way things change in America, people sit and get together, listening to each other, making commitments to have a better way forward.
BLITZER: Very quickly before I let you go, I know you got to run. It's been a very, very busy day for you, Attorney General. What do you want the federal government to do the Justice Department? Because we know the FBI and others at the Justice Department had been looking potentially at civil rights violations involving these former police officers. What's your thought about what if anything you would like federal law enforcement authorities to be doing?
ELLISON: Well, I can tell you that our local U.S. Attorney in Minnesota, Erica MacDonald, is leading an investigation or what they call a color of law investigation such as civil rights investigation. I can also tell you that even Attorney General Barr made it clear to me that he is backing her 100 percent. I think that's a good thing.
We want to be bipartisan on this stuff. We don't -- we want to say justice is what we're pursuing without regard to political ideology. We want to make sure there's a just result for this family, this community. So we're working with our partners in the federal side. They've assured us that they are all in, and I know Erica MacDonald is. And so we're looking for them to look for what could have been a civil rights violation of Mr. George Floyd's rights, and they're pursuing that right now.
BLITZER: Thank you so much for joining us Attorney General. I know this is a really, really busy and important very historic day. You've got a huge challenge ahead of you. People might think it's a slam dunk, as you know, and as all the legal experts know, it's by no means an easy challenge that you're facing right now. We'll stay in very close touch with you. Thank you once again for joining us.
ELLISON: Thank you, Wolf. Keith Ellison is the Attorney General of Minnesota.
Let's go to Don Lemon and others to get some analysis. Don, very important day today. What do you think?
DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: As you say, I've said -- I've been riveted all day watching especially the events that unfolded, Wolf, later on this evening. Of course, the son of George Floyd, really heart-wrenching story or interview there, especially with our Sara Sidner I'm just speaking in front of the media even earlier before that. But I have to say this is a turning point. This is a turning point, when you have a commissioner from the New York City Police Department earlier, Dermot Shea, come on television and say we stand with the Floyd family that we cannot stand for what happened on that videotape. That it is an outrage.
I don't know if I've ever heard anything like that from the NYPD, certainly not from police departments around the country. This is a major, major turning point in this country and it is about time. Keith Ellison is right. Justice should be served. The wheels of justice should turn.
We would like them to turn a little bit more quickly. But on this particular matter, I think that they should proceed with caution. Meaning making sure they're dotting their i's crossing their t's. We have seen what happened. We all saw what happened with George Zimmerman and the Trayvon Martin case.
We all saw what happened in Baltimore when the officers were overcharge. We've seen it so many times where people think that they had a slam dunk case. And then all of a sudden it did not turn out the way people thought it would turn out. Even in Ferguson, the case didn't turn out the way many people on the ground, especially the protesters, the demonstrators, and the activists one, and many people in America.
So I think they should proceed with caution. But they should also make sure, as you said, the case is not tried in public that they do -- they're talking in the court and through court proceedings. And I think in the end, not only will the Floyd family prevail, but America will prevail with some essential change that is needed from police departments, and also from organizations other than police departments all over this country.
BLITZER: You know, Don, we're about to hear -- actually, we're ready to hear from the former president of the United States, Barack Obama.
BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And you are a hard act to follow. So, you know, I can't wait to see all the great things that you're going to be doing in the future.
Good afternoon, everybody. All the participants, all the panelists. You know, let me start by just acknowledging that we have seen in the last several weeks, last few months, the kinds of epic changes and events in our country that are as profound as anything that I've seen in my lifetime. And I'm now a lot older than playing and I'm going to be 59 soon.
And let me begin by acknowledging that, although all of us have been feeling pain, uncertainty disruption, some folks have been feeling it more than others. Most of all, the pain that's been experienced by the families of George, and Breonna, and Ahmaud, and Tony, and Sean and too many others to mention. Those that we fought about during that moment of silence.
And to those families who've been directly affected by tragedy, please know that Michelle and I and the nation grieve with you, hold you in our prayers. We're committed to the fight of creating a more just nation and memory of your sons and daughters. And we can forget, but even as we're confronting the particular acts of violence that led to those losses.
Our nation in the world is still in the midst of a global pandemic, that's exposed the vulnerabilities of our healthcare system, but also the disparate treatment. And as a consequence, the disparate impact that exists in our healthcare system, the unequal investment, the biases, that have led to a disproportionate number of infections and loss of life in communities of color. So, in a lot of ways, what has happened over the last several weeks is challenges and structural problems here in the United States have been thrown into high relief.
They are the outcomes not just of the immediate moments in time, but they're the result of a long history of slavery and Jim Crow and redlining and institutional institutionalized racism that too often have been the plague, the original sin of our society.
And in some ways, as tragic as these past few weeks have been, as difficult and scary and uncertain as they've been, they've also been an incredible opportunity for people to be awakened to some of these underlying trends. And they offer an opportunity for us to always work together to tackle them, to take them on, to change America and make it live up to its highest ideals.
And part of what's made me so hopeful is the fact that so many young people have been galvanized and activated and motivated and mobilized because, historically, so much of the progress that we've made in our society has been because of young people. Dr. King was a young man when he got involved. Cesar Chavez was a young man. Malcolm X was a young man. The leaders of the feminist movement were young people. Leaders of union movements were young people.
The leaders of the environmental movement in this country and the movement to make sure that the LGBT community finally had a voice and was represented were young people. And so when I -- when sometimes I feel despair, I just see what's happening with young people all across the country and the talent, and the voice, and the sophistication that they're displaying, and it makes me feel optimistic. It makes me feel as if this, you know, this country is going to get better.
Now I want to speak directly to the young men and women of color in this country who, as (INAUDIBLE) just so eloquently described, have witnessed too much violence and too much debt. And too often, some of that violence has come from folks who were supposed to be serving and protecting you. I want you to know that you matter. I want you to know that your lives matter, that your dreams matter.
And when I go home and I look at the faces of my daughters, Sasha and Malia, and I look at my nephews and nieces, I see limitless potential that deserves to flourish and thrive. And you should be able to learn and make mistakes and live a life of joy without having to worry about what's going to happen when you walk to the store or go for a jog or driving down the street or looking at some birds in a park.
And so I hope that you also feel hopeful, even as you may feel angry, because you have the power to make things better and you have helped to make the entire country feel as if this is something that's got to change. You've communicated a sense of urgency that is as powerful and as transformative as anything that I've seen in recent years.
I want to acknowledge the folks in law enforcement that share the goals of re-imagining policing. Because there are folks out there who took their oath to serve your communities and your countries, have a tough job, and I know you're just as outraged about tragedies in recent weeks as are many of the protesters. And so we're grateful for the vast majority of you who protect and serve.
I've been heartened to see those in law enforcement who've recognized -- let me March along with these protestors, let me stand side by side and recognize that I want to be part of the solution. And who've shown restraint and volunteered and engaged and listened, because you're a vital part of the conversation. And change is going to require everybody's participation.
Now, when I was in office, as was mentioned, I created a task force on 21st century policing in the wake of the tragic killing of Michael Brown. That task force, which included law enforcement and community leaders and activists was charged to develop a very specific set of recommendations to strengthen public trust and foster better working relationships between law enforcement and communities that they're supposed to protect, even as they're continuing to promote effective crime reduction.
And that report showcased a range of solutions and strategies that were proven, that were based on data and research to improve community policing and collect better data, and reporting, and identify, and do something about implicit bias and how police were trained and reforms to use the force that police deploy in ways that increase safety rather than precipitate tragedy. And that report demonstrated something that's critical for us today.
Most of the reforms that are needed to prevent the type of violence and injustices that we've seen take place at the local level. The reform has to take place in more than 19,000 American municipalities, more than 18,000 local enforcement jurisdictions. And so as activists and everyday citizens raised their voices, we need to be clear about where change is going to happen and how we can bring about that change.
It is mayors and county executives that appoint most police chiefs and negotiate collective bargaining agreements with police units, and that determines police practices in local communities. It's district attorneys and state's attorneys that decide typically whether or not to investigate and ultimately charge those involved in police misconduct. And those are all elected positions. And in some places they're police community review boards with the power to monitor police conduct. Those oftentimes may be elected as well.
The bottom line is, I've been hearing a little bit of chatter in the internet about voting versus protest, politics and participation versus civil disobedience and direct action. This is not a either/or, this is a both/and. To bring about real change, we both have to highlight a problem and make people in power uncomfortable, but we also have to translate that into practical solutions and laws that can be implemented and we can monitor and make sure we're following up on.
So, very quickly, let me just close with a couple of specific things. What can we do? Number one, we know there are specific evidence-based reforms that if we put in place today would build trust, save lives, would not show an increase in crime. Those are included in the 21st- century policing task force report. You can find it on Obama.org.
Number two, a lot of mayors and local elected officials read and supported the taskforce report, but then there wasn't enough follow through. So today, I am urging every mayor in this country to review your use of force policies with members of your community and commit to report on planned reforms. What are the specific steps you can take?
And I should add, by the way, that the original task force report was done several years ago, since that time we've actually collected data, in part because we implemented some of these reform ideas. So we now have more information and more data as to what works. And there are organizations like Campaign Zero and Color of Change and others that are out there highlighting what the data shows, what works, what doesn't in terms of reducing incidents of police misconduct and violence.
Let's go ahead and start implementing those. So we need mayors, county executives, others who are in positions of power to say this is a priority. This is a specific response.
Number three, every city in this country should be a My Brother's Keeper community because we have 250 cities, counties, tribal nations who are working to reduce the barriers and expand opportunity for boys and young men of color through programs and policy reforms, public private partnerships. Go to our website, get work with that, because it can make a difference.
And let me just close by saying this, I've heard some people say that you have a pandemic, then you have these protests. This reminds people of the '60s and the chaos and the discord and distrust throughout the country. I have to tell you, although I was very young when you had riots and protests and assassinations and discord back in the '60s, I know enough about that history to say there is something different here.
You look at those protests and that was a far more representative cross-section of America out on the streets peacefully protesting, and who felt moved to do something because of the injustices that they had seen. That didn't exist back in the 1960s, that kind of broad coalition.
The fact that recent surveys have showed that despite some protests having then been marked by the actions of some, a tiny minority that engaged in violence, that -- some protests having then been marked by the actions of some, a tiny minority that engaged in violence. That despite -- you know, as usual that got a lot of attention, a lot of focus, despite all that, a majority of Americans still think those protests were justified. That wouldn't have existed 30, 40, 50 years ago.
There is a change in mindset that's taking place, a greater recognition that we can do better. And that is not as a consequences speeches by politicians. That's not the result of, you know, spotlights in news articles. That's a direct result of the activities and organizing and mobilization and engagement of so many young people across the country who put themselves out on the line to make a difference.
And so I just have to say thank you to them and for helping to bring about this moment and just make sure that we now follow through. Because at some point, you know, attention moves away. At some point, protests start to dwindle in size. And it's very important for us to take the momentum that has been created as a society, as a country, and say let's use this to finally have an impact.
All right. Thank you, everybody. Proud of you guys. And I know that we're going to be hearing from a bunch of people who have been on the front lines on this and know a lot more than I do about it. Proud of you.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you, Mr. President. For everyone that's watching the president --
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: All right. So a very, very hopeful, very, very confident statement from the former president of the United States, Barack Obama, speaking for about 15 minutes. But saying there has been an -- all these horrible things that have happened here in the United States over the past few weeks, including the coronavirus pandemic. And now what we're seeing is, he says the situation resulting from George Floyd's killing by now ex-police officer in Minneapolis, he says there's an incredible opportunity right now in the United States for people to be awakened.
He is so encouraged by the faces he sees at these demonstrations, so many young people have been activated. He said they've been mobilized to take action. He said, it makes me feel optimistic. It makes me feel better. He clearly says, he clearly says there is so much work that needs to be done.
He specifically is urging every mayor in the United States, in his words, to review the use of force policy in their cities, to make sure that they are up to date that we don't see these awful murders that we've seen over these past several years here in the United States, specifically, of young black men by police officers. He says there is something different right now in the United States than from the '60s. He says, the protesters, the people on the streets represent a broad coalition. There is a change in mindset taking place that we can do better.
Don Lemon, strong words from the former president of the United States. What did you think? DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: Well, I thought the vacuum and leadership that we have been talking about now for over a week, when it comes to this particular story, I think he stepped in and fill that void just now. I was heartened to hear someone actually sound like a president, someone to actually sound like a leader, someone to actually offer comfort and hope to the American people. I had been longing and yearning for that as had million, tens of millions of Americans since it's all happened.
Really, and not just for this story, for what's happening here, this situation, but what's been happening for other situations as well. Finally, someone came out sounded like a leader of the free world, thanked the people instead of division, thanked the people who were doing it right, the protesters, and reminded us about how change occurs in this country. Reminded us that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was a young man when he fought for change. How Malcolm X was a young man when he fought for change. Cesar Chavez, young man, the people who fought for the LGB -- for LGBT rights, young people, the people who fought for women's rights, young people.
Many of them took to the streets in order to do it. It was peaceful sometimes, other times that those marches aren't peaceful. But I think he has acknowledged, Wolf, everything that we have said here, everything I've said and everything that we have been saying here, this is different than the marches that we have seen in recent history and the marches that we saw in the '60s.
Similar in that there are lots of people out there and they're upset and they're taking to the street and they're challenging their leaders and their government to step up and do better. But different in the kinds of people that we see, the diversity that we see of people and of young people. I said, excuse me, on this very program, before the President came out, and pushed all those people back with tear gas and horses and all of that, that those young people were out there were -- that was our future, yearning for us to understand and to come forward in the future with them. Those young people are our future.
The President -- the former president of the United States acknowledged that today. And which I also thought was very important is that he said, people have been discussing, there's been an issue about voting versus protests. This is not an either/or, this is a both/and.
We should be encouraging young people not only to all people to stand up for what they believe in, to stand up what they -- for what they think is right, to get out there on the streets and protest. Yes, like that sign you see now says Black Power, Black Lives Matter. Get out there. He says, make your government uncomfortable, make the people who are in positions of power uncomfortable, but that has to result in change.
I thought that the President -- the former president hit it off. I keep calling him president because he's the only one in this moment who's actually acting like a president and who's not dividing the country. So I was happy to hear him come out. And I hope the country now heeds to the words of this president.
And one more thing before I get off my high horse. Remember in 2014, when the former president started My Brother's Keeper, it was me and you and other folks who were on the air when he started that initiative, and we talked about how important it was, especially for young black men in this country for people of color, but for young black men in this country. That is the only time that the president said me, me, me or I when he talked about initiatives that he created in his administration to help other people. Not to help him get elected, not to talk about how important and how big his ratings are, and how great he is, but to talk about -- he talked about initiatives that he put in place to help make things better, especially on a local level where the decisions are made.
And I thought that was in stark contrast to the kind of -- if you want to call it leader that we have now.
BLITZER: And this --
LEMON: I thought it was impressive, and I was glad that he did it.
BLITZER: It was very strong, very impressive. And it was no accident that he has first on camera remarks on all of these developments happened at the My Brother's Keeper Alliance Town Hall. He specifically wanted to use that format to go out there and speak to the American people.
Let me bring Abby Phillip in, who's been watching all of this unfold. Abby, as Don said, the president -- the former president said, this is not a situation of voting versus protest, politics versus civil disobedience. It's not an either or it's important that the job get done that people get out there and do what needs to be done to eradicate this racism that's so sadly still permeates in our country.
ABBY PHILLIP, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Wolf. I thought that was incredibly important for former President Obama to say in part because I think he understands his role as being a bridge between these generations, between this younger generation that is a crying out for change in the streets, and an older generation that has actually been trying to sort of -- to say, we have to take a deliberate approach to this. They want people to vote. They want people to work within the system in addition to working outside of it.
So Obama knows that when he got elected, it was with the strength of younger people coming to the polls. Those people are still listening to him, many of them are out in the streets, and trying to explain how the path to progress works. And his view, which is both paths were operating simultaneously, I think is really critically important right now.
And I do think, again, as Don was saying, it is such a stark contrast to what President Trump has yet to do in response to any of this, which is to address the underlying problem here, the question of what is the government going to do for these people who are in the streets. Is there any response from the current federal government to what they are demanding and what they are asking for? And I think you heard the former president offering a very clear path for how you use the government to change what is going on.
There has been really silence on the other side of this issue. And instead, I think what we've heard a lot from the President and his allies is a reversion to the sort of culture war around issues of race that I think is -- we are seeing evidence that it is being rejected by a lot of the American public.
People who are black and white, and old and young, are basically saying, we see that there's a problem out there, and we think that it needs to be changed. And the sort of culture war from the 1960s is really not a sufficient answer anymore.
BLITZER: You know, one line, Abby, that really jumped out at the -- there was obviously no reference, no direct mention of President Trump and former President Obama's words, but one line did jump out. And I suspect there will be a lot of interpretations of what he meant when he said -- and looking at the young people looking at everyone out there and he knew millions of people would be watching around the world, especially here on CNN, he said, make people in power uncomfortable.
Those words were very, very significant. I suspect make people in power --
BLITZER: -- uncomfortable. He's referring to the leadership, whether it's local, state, or the President of the United States.
PHILLIP: Yes. And he is not trying to say that you should just be holding hands and singing Kumbaya. Sometimes these movements have to put really the ugliness of what people are fighting against in front of the public. I think he was very clear about that, that he said, at times, changing the past has happened in a sort of what we would call the peaceful way that people are often referring to Martin Luther King, you know, and those kinds of protests.
But there were a lot of other things going on at that time. And sometimes these protesters used the violence of others to bring forward the harshness of racism in this country. Barack Obama is no stranger to that. He is a student of that time period in America's history. And I think that he's trying to say to young people, it is OK sometimes to make people uncomfortable, to force people in power to listen to you.
It is not about condoning violence. It's about making sure that people understand that this is not just something that they can glance at and move on. They have to respond to the people who are in the streets. Many of whom are pushing back against these curfews that are in all these major cities across the country. They're protesting late into the night peacefully, but they're so protesting because they think that this is very important.
BLITZER: And there are peaceful protests going on. Once again, right now all around the United States looking at live pictures coming in from Philadelphia, but they're continuing in other cities, as well as the former President Barack Obama said make people in power uncomfortable.
We're going to go from coast to coast. We're going to take a close look at what's going on around the United States. These are historic moments that we're all watching. Our special coverage right here in "The Situation Room" continues after a quick break.
BLITZER: We're following all the breaking news. But as we're following the breaking news, there are peaceful demonstrations once again, unfolding in major cities around the United States.
I quickly want to check in with Alex Marquardt. He's here in Washington, D.C. Alex, originally you were down in Lafayette Park, but now what's happening? They're pushing you and others further away.
ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: They're all the protesters who have been gathering here by the White House, Wolf, in the last few days, keep getting pushed farther and farther away. I want to show you the huge crowd that has come out today. Despite the fact that we can't get closer to the White House than this. It is hard to obviously compare crowd sizes but this is a huge and peaceful crowd that stretches all the way up 16th Street. As you know, Wolf, that is that main drag that comes straight down into the White House. This has been a peaceful protest.
A short time ago, there was a prayer vigil that was held here, organized and led by Bishop Mariann Budde, who has been fiercely critical. She's from the Episcopal Diocese of Washington. She's been fiercely critical of that photo op that the President carried out right there at St. John's Church.
Wolf, this is as far as we can go. This is as close as we can get to the White House. This front row of federal officers is not only D.C. National Guard, but special operations teams from the Bureau of Prisons. That just speaks to this huge patchwork of different law enforcement agencies that have descended on Washington to help the other federal agencies that are normally based here like Secret Service and U.S. Park Police.
A number of the officers that I've seen are from Texas, from a prison in Beaumont, Texas, just east of Houston, which is really quite remarkable. But, Wolf, to your point, we are halfway up 16th Street. I know you know this area well. Protesters just a couple days ago were inside Lafayette Park, which is right in front of the White House. Then they got pushed to the edge of the park. Then a fence was put up.
And now the protesters have been pushed all the way back here. And you can see those two trucks there right on 16th Street, they are in fact blocking any view of this giant protests from the White House. So if the President wanted to look at this protest from the White House, right now, it is blocked.
Mayor Bowser, Muriel Bowser from D.C. came down here just a short time ago. I spoke to her I asked if she was worried about the increased presence of federal law enforcement in her city. She said that that is why D.C. needs to be the 51st state.
She also said that the presence of the U.S. military of -- of military forces in the streets of Washington is unconscionable. And she said, Wolf, that it may be illegal.
BLITZER: Yes, they're pushing the peaceful protesters further and further away from Lafayette Park. One block yesterday, second block today, moving up 16th Street. For those who know Washington, D.C., closer and closer towards K Street. And it's a huge crowd that has unfold very, very peaceful right now.
Alex, standby. Brian Todd is watching what's happening in Philadelphia right now. What are you seeing, what are you hearing, Brian?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, like many other nights this week, this crowd started in clusters of like dozens and then hundreds, now we've got thousands because they always coalesce together. Usually right around here at City Hall, we're on Broad Street, about to turn north, they've stopped to sit down and do some speeches and possibly do some praying and some of the testimonials that they've done and kneel downs and everything like that. That's what they're doing over here.
Come on over here, Andrew, and we can kind of show you maybe a broader view of the crowd. Wolf, this has been -- you know, as always this week very passionate, very energetic, talking about the racism against young African-Americans on the -- at the hands of police. They are doing testimonials, doing speeches, chanting a lot as they move forward. We think they're going to go toward Temple University here.
Now, a big part of the story this week has also been some of the tactics that police have used. The police have told reporters now that they're launching internal investigations into some of the tactics used a couple of days ago when massive amounts of tear gas were fired at demonstrators. Another big part of this is that the police here are trying to get their arms around, not only, you know, helping these protesters marched peacefully and getting to where they're going to go, but also fighting some of the looting and some of the other criminal acts that have taken place.
We can tell you that there have been about 140 explosions related to the unrest here, that's according to police. And there have been 50 ATMs that have been blown up with explosions. Police are giving us some indication that those could be coordinated attacks.
Andrew, if you want to pan back here really quick, we're going to show you the National Guardsmen in front of City Hall. All right, they're there to guard these critical buildings, while the police can get their arms around some of the other unrest in the city. And we're going to go back here.
Andrew, if we're going to start to move with the protesters now. So the police now can concentrate on not only helping these people marched peacefully, but also trying to get their arms around the looting and some of the attacks on ATMs here. It's been a kind of a strange situation with those bombings.
The curfew is coming up also in a few minutes, Wolf. They let them march after the curfew last night. We're going to see what happens when the curfew starts at 6:00 p.m.
BLITZER: 6:00 p.m., that's in a few minutes indeed. All right standby, Brian.
I want to go to New York City right now. Shimon Prokupecz is watching the demonstrations unfold there. Shimon, where are you and what are you seeing?
SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: We pass Time Square, Wolf, we're now on Sixth Avenue and around 43rd Street. So we circled around Time Square. We -- this actually started in Washington Square Park in the West Village. And we've just been marching and walking through the streets.
It's been peaceful, no problems as usual during the day when marchers -- the police allow them to walk through the streets, allow them to voice their opinions, allow them to express themselves. And as you can see, that's what's happening here and people holding signs, Wolf.
And this is what we see here in New York City on a daily basis. In during the day, peaceful. And the police allowing them to take the entire roadway. You almost see no police around these protesters. And it's a tactic. You know, the NYPD said this is part of how they're going to treat these marchers. They're going to let them take the streets, they're going to let them walk and they're going to try not to engage with them.
A lot of the officers that we do see are kind of on the outside. Some are on other streets just following along, Wolf. But the curfew here is set to begin in about two hours. We did see most of the peaceful protesters leave at 8:00 yesterday. And that's the plan today.
What happens after 8:00 is some of the other people, some of the agitators who come out and start trouble. So we'll see. We're two hours away from that, Wolf.
BLITZER: And if you look at the faces, as former President Obama said, so many young people have been activated to deal with this crisis that's unfolding in the United States right now. And he says that is so, so encouraging.
We're going to have a lot more on all of the breaking news unfolding here in the United States. The demonstrations are continuing. You're looking live pictures now coming in from Los Angeles. Much more of our special coverage right after this.
BLITZER: 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 major breaking news in the killing that has sparked a crisis in this country.