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THE SITUATION ROOM
Three Other Officers Involved In George Floyd's Death Charged; Interview With NFL Player Malcolm Jenkins; Interview With Houston, Texas, Police Chief Art Acevedo; Protests Under Way As All Four Officers Charged In Floyd Death; Malcolm Jenkins On Floyd's Death And Racial Justice. Aired 6-7p ET
Aired June 3, 2020 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: We're following major breaking news in the killing that has sparked a crisis in this country.
All four fired Minneapolis police officers involved in George Floyd's death now face criminal charges. The Minnesota attorney general, Keith Ellison, making the announcement just a little while ago, saying he acted in the interest of justice.
The existing charges against Derek Chauvin, who was already in custody, have been upgraded from third-degree to second-degree murder. Arrest warrants have been issued for the other three police officers, ex-police officers now, who are also charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder.
All of them are expected to be in custody soon. We're watching to see how these new charges may impact protests across the United States, as we head into a ninth night of demonstrations, with curfews ordered in multiple cities from coast to coast.
Let's first go to Minneapolis, where George Floyd took his last struggling breaths.
CNN's Miguel Marquez on the scene for us.
Miguel, all four officers now charged in Floyd's death. Update our viewers. These are very historic and dramatic developments.
MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: And it certainly feels that way here.
I want to show you exactly how this memorial is starting to grow. This mural has been added in the last couple of days. It's incredibly striking. And in the very spot where Mr. Floyd took his last breath, they have now participated an angel on the street.
This news by people here met with great relief.
MARQUEZ (voice-over): A long awaited decision for George Floyd's family and supporters.
KEITH ELLISON, MINNESOTA ATTORNEY GENERAL: George Floyd mattered. He was loved. His family was important. His life had value. And we will seek justice for him and for you, and we will find it.
MARQUEZ: Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison announcing charges for the former police officer who kneeled on George Floyd's neck, killing him, will be increased to second-degree murder.
And the other three former officers who either helped hold Floyd down or stood by watching have been charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder. Ellison asking for patience as they work through the process.
ELLISON: Trying this case will not be an easy thing. Winning a conviction will be hard, but history does show that there are clear challenges here.
MARQUEZ: Just hours earlier:
BENJAMIN CRUMP, ATTORNEY FOR FAMILY OF GEORGE FLOYD: All the world is watching.
MARQUEZ: George Floyd's son stood at the spot where his father took his final breath.
QUINCY MASON, SON OF GEORGE FLOYD: I'm trying to get justice for my father. And no man and woman should be without their fathers. And we want justice for what's going on right now.
MARQUEZ: Family attorney Benjamin Crump making a powerful statement, that Floyd's death shines a light on inequality everywhere.
CRUMP: When George Floyd said, "I can't breathe," because, when he couldn't breathe, none of us could breathe. And so this is a tipping point.
MARQUEZ: Earlier today, Minnesota Governor Tim Walz visited the same hallowed ground.
REP. TIM WALZ (D-MN): For me, I have to personally and viscerally feel this. I don't think we get another chance to fix this in the country. I really don't.
MARQUEZ: And as protesters take to the streets across the country today, last night's protests remained largely peaceful. But as curfews passed in some cities, there was once again unrest. CNN cameras were there as looting continued in New York and in Lafayette Park across from the White House, where, after mostly peaceful protests, police used pepper spray through the fence directly at our camera.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Press. Press.
MARQUEZ: But in many cities, protesters and police came together. In New Orleans, police officers took a knee with protesters. In Boston, too, and in Houston, a protester praying with a police chief. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Amen.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Amen.
MARQUEZ: But as George Floyd's family continues to grieve:
ROXIE WASHINGTON, MOTHER OF GEORGE FLOYD'S DAUGHTER: She wants to know how he died. And the only thing that I can tell her is, he couldn't breathe.
MARQUEZ: Their hope, that his death will bring change.
MARQUEZ: And that sense of change, that sense of hope is apparent here.
This is the corner of 38th Street in Chicago. This is just a few feet where I was before. This whole area has become hallowed ground. It's also become sort of a community space, where they're bringing in water, food, barbecue, Pampers, everything that one might need in their household.
It has become a sort of place of celebration today, but also a place where they feel safe, especially during the recent crackdown here and the curfews. People have been staying here all night, protecting this area, protecting this, making sure this place is OK.
The one thing they're waiting for now is to see this process play out. The attorney general here in Minnesota asking for more time. They will give it to him for now, but they will be waiting for more results -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Yes, the attorney general of Minnesota, Keith Ellison, telling me in the last hour this process, these trials of these ex- police officers could go on for months right now. It's not a matter of days or weeks, for months.
All right, stand by, Miguel. We're going to continue to get reaction to all the breaking news that we're following.
I want to go to our chief White House correspondent, Jim Acosta.
Jim, ahead of these charges in Minnesota, President Trump, apparently, we're told, was stewing about new remarks by Defense Secretary Esper. Tell us about that.
JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. White House officials are stopping short tonight of saying President Trump has confidence in Defense Secretary Mark Esper.
Earlier this morning, Secretary Esper tried to distance himself from the president's threats to use active-duty U.S. troops on American soil to quell these protests in American cities. Esper said that kind of deployment should only be used as a last resort and that the U.S. has not reached that point yet in his assessment.
And here's more of what Secretary Esper had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARK ESPER, U.S. DEFENSE SECRETARY: I did know that following the president's remarks on Monday evening that many of us were going to join President Trump and review the damage in Lafayette Park and at St. John's Episcopal Church.
What I was not aware of is exactly where we were going when we arrived at the church and what the plans were once we got there. I was not aware of a photo-op was happening.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ACOSTA: Now, that Secretary Esper there claiming he did not know that the president was going on a photo-op at St. John's Episcopal Church on Monday and only found out as he was walking with Mr. Trump across Lafayette Square, after the park was cleared by police and National Guard forces, an operation that included the use of chemical agents on protesters.
The White House says Esper's claim is false that he didn't know he was joining the president on that photo-op -- Wolf.
BLITZER: You also asked the press secretary, Jim, about that ugly scene outside the White House Monday night that unfolded live on our air.
Do they still think it was a good idea to do what they did and remove those peaceful protesters the way they did?
ACOSTA: No regrets, Wolf, not one bit.
White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany defended the brutal tactics employed to clear out the park, including the use of those chemical agents that meet the definition of tear gas, according to the CDC.
We have the definition right here. McEnany tried to hide behind claims from the U.S. Park Police that officers didn't use tear gas and that the protesters were acting violently, and that's why the officers responded the way they did.
But the pepper balls used by the officers are tear gas-like weapons.
And here's more of what she had to say when I pressed her on this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ACOSTA: If the White House, president and his team had to do it all over again, would you have gassed and pummelled protesters to clear the park, so the president could have a photo-op?
KAYLEIGH MCENANY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: So let me first address, no tear gas was used and no rubber bullets were used.
ACOSTA: Chemical agents were used.
MCENANY: So, again, no tear gas was used. No rubber bullets were used.
ACOSTA: Others say they were tear gassed in that area.
MCENANY: No one was tear gassed. Let me make that clear. That's been confirmed by DOD and by Park Services as well.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ACOSTA: And the press secretary also tried to compare the president's photo-op at the church to the late Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill's visits to bombed-out sections of London during World War II.
But, of course, Wolf, Winston Churchill was visiting those neighborhoods in London to check on bombing survivors and survey the damage. The president went to St. John's Episcopal Church to hold up a Bible, two very different things, and a very lofty comparison, nonetheless, from the White House, a comparison that I think really fell on deaf ears and struck a sour note in that Briefing Room earlier today.
We almost just couldn't believe that the press secretary was making that kind of comparison.
The president held up a Bible over that church. It's nothing like when Winston Churchill was surveying bombing damage during World War II -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Yes, absolutely.
All right, Jim Acosta at the White House, stand by.
I want to bring in the Houston police chief, Art Acevedo, who's joining us right now.
Chief, thank you so much for joining us.
What's your response to these charges now for all four of these ex- police officers who were involved in the killing of George Floyd?
ART ACEVEDO, HOUSTON, TEXAS, POLICE CHIEF: Well, I can tell you we're grateful that the prosecution is moving forward.
The Police Chiefs Association and our -- and police chiefs across the country believe that that was a criminal offense. And when you stand there and you watch somebody commit murder, you're an accessory. And so this is what the community recognized.
They know a crime when they see it. And I'm just grateful that the justice for the Floyd family appears to be well on its way.
[18:10:03] BLITZER: Those other three police officers who have now been charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder, what should they have done, when they saw Derek Chauvin with his knee on George Floyd's neck for almost nine minutes as he was pleading, saying, "I can't breathe, I can't breathe," and people all around them, just bystanders, were saying, you're killing this guy?
You know, they should have intervened immediately. Just about every department that I have ever associated with, ours included, there's a duty to intervene. There's a duty to stop criminal conduct and serious policy violations, and they didn't do that.
And there's no excuse for it. This was an outrageous, egregious, inexcusable action on behalf of those -- on the part of those four officers. And I'm just grateful. And I know a lot of police officers, not just police chiefs, but police officers, are happy -- saddened it happened, but glad that the accountability and justice is starting to be served in this case.
BLITZER: As he announced the charges today, the Minnesota attorney general, Keith Ellison, said, "Our country has historically underprosecuted these matters, which has led to the erosion of public trust in police."
So what are you trying to do where you are to restore that trust?
ACEVEDO: You know, we're not immune from this. Policing is a very dynamic profession.
We had our own incident here involving a raid where one of our investigators put some false observation to obtain a narcotics search warrant, and the tragic death of two individuals in that home ensued during the execution of that search warrant.
And two of our officers involved in that false search warrant application, one has been charged with murder, and the other one's been charged with other felony offenses. It was our department that recognized something seemed awry early on after this incident, where four officers were also shot.
And so accountability is important. People know, again, that we have to hold officers accountable. But there's a lot more work that needs to be done. There's a lot more work that needs to be done nationwide, including a national prohibition against any type of carotid control hold to make it clear to all police officers that it simply is not acceptable.
BLITZER: Our anchor Don Lemon, Chief, he has a question he'd like to ask you.
Don, go ahead.
DON LEMON, CNN HOST: Chief, I thought it was an extraordinary moment today from New York -- NYPD Police Commissioner Dermot Shea, when he said -- and I quote here -- "On behalf of the entire NYC Police Department, the nation's largest police department, we stand with the Floyd family. We condemn what took place in Minneapolis," he said this afternoon.
I have never heard anything like that from a police department, especially one the size of New York City, the largest in the country. The former president of the United States said to that -- to this effect. He says that it was incumbent upon mayors and police chiefs to review the use of force policies in your communities and commit to uniform change and to implement those changes and talked about task force reports.
Do you commit to implementing those changes in your police department? Do you support what the NYPD said, and do you support what the former president of the United States said as well?
ACEVEDO: Well, actually, if you look at what we have been doing here, myself, as a chief, and the Ministry of Chiefs, we actually very strongly, very strongly came out against, like the day after we learned about the death of Mr. Floyd.
We condemned it without -- with any -- without reservation. We called for criminal charges. And all you have to do is go back and look at our statements around social media, statements over the last week-and- a-half.
We stand with NYPD. I'm glad that the commissioner made that statement, because we have already made it on his behalf as part of Ministry of Chiefs, and I have done it time and again as an individual chief.
So, there is hope. And I think and I believe with every cell of my body this is a watershed moment in this nation's history.
Look, the truth is, Don, that use of force never looks -- never looks pretty. It's always ugly. But the -- also, truth is that, disproportionately, inappropriate criminal conduct that is -- disproportionately impacts communities of color.
But here in Houston, in the last three years I have been here, we have had several officers that we in our investigation that used deadly force even when they shot somebody and the person didn't even die where we have actually, with the help of our district attorney, filed charges.
And so I think we have to do a better job of not -- of showing the accountability that is going on. Sometimes, it's not as quick out of the chute, but police officers sometimes have rights, and there's processes we have to follow that requires us to be a little more methodical, because we want to make sure we get it right, and we want to make sure that we make it stick.
And so I look forward to the conversation and I look forward to joining our activists when we put together some legislative proposals on their behalf as what we're promising. And then we're going to bring them in to see so -- what they think about them.
And then we're going to go to Congress and we're going to go to the state legislatures, and we're going to make this profession where it needs to be, which is with integrity for everyone and respect for everyone and with great outcomes for everyone, regardless of the socioeconomics or the color of their skin.
BLITZER: Very quickly, Chief, before we let you go, I know you have offered a police escort for George Floyd's body next weekend and his family during the memorial service in Houston next week.
He -- George Floyd was raised in Houston, grew up in Houston, lived in Houston. Has the family accepted your offer?
ACEVEDO: Oh, absolutely.
We have been hugging the family. We have been lifting up the family. We actually provided transportation for the family yesterday and security. You know, this is a national tragedy that really, in the eyes of African-Americans, it is the essence of when they see the face of George Floyd, they're seeing their brother and sister, their father, their uncle, their cousin.
And so this is a loss for everyone that believes that people should be treated fairly and lawfully and with respect, and not killed unjustly at the hands of law enforcement.
So, we're going to be there with that family. We have been with that family. We're planning with the family. And we're going to keep it safe, just like we did yesterday, when 60,000 Houstonians walked and marched in support of the family and of the justice for George Floyd movement.
And so we stand with them. And they need to know that we will support them and see them through this entire event.
BLITZER: So well said by the Houston police chief, Art Acevedo.
Chief, thank you so much for joining us. Thanks for everything you're doing in Houston. We are all grateful to you. Appreciate it very much.
ACEVEDO: Thank you. Keep us all in prayer.
BLITZER: Yes, we certainly will.
We will have more breaking news coming up here in THE SITUATION ROOM. We're about to go live to protests under way, very peaceful protests, right now, as curfews start to take effect in multiple cities.
Is there any change in the atmosphere now that all of those four fired police officers have been charged?
And I will have an exclusive interview with NFL great Malcolm Jenkins about his fight for racial justice and how George Floyd's death may be a catalyst for change.
BLITZER: We're just getting in a very, very strong statement from the former defense secretary, James Mattis, retired U.S. Marine, four-star general.
I'm going to read it to our viewers, because it's so, so significant. Listen to this. This is James Mattis just a little while ago.
"Donald Trump is the first president in my lifetime who does not try to unite the American people, does not even pretend to try. Instead, he tries to divide us. We are witnessing the consequences of three years of this deliberate effort."
Mattis goes on to say: "We know that we are better than the abuse of executive authority that we witnessed in Lafayette Square. We must reject and hold accountable those in office who would make a mockery of our Constitution. At the same time, we must remember Lincoln's better angels and listen to them as we work to unite."
A very strong statement from the former secretary of defense during the Trump administration, James Mattis.
Also breaking this hour, all four of the fired Minneapolis police officers involved in the death of George Floyd now face criminal charges. We just heard from the former President Barack Obama just a little while ago, speaking out for the first time on camera about Floyd's death and how it is affecting this country.
Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Part of what's made 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 have made in our society has been because of young people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Very strong words from the former president.
And Don, very quickly, I just want to get your reaction. James Mattis, the former defense secretary, agrees with you. He says that Donald Trump, the president who named him defense secretary, "is the first president in my lifetime who does not try to unite the American people, who does not even pretend to try. Instead, he tries to divide us."
That's coming from a retired four-star Marine general and former defense secretary during the Trump administration.
LEMON: Well, there's no question about it. And I don't see how it can be seen any other way. It is a truth in front of our eyes. I am glad that the former defense
secretary did it. I just wish he would have done it when he was in office, when he probably could have been more of an impact, because it has been obvious even before this president was elected of his divisiveness and his rhetoric and his tone.
And everyone thought he would pivot and he would become more presidential. And it seems to have gone the other way. Rather than rising to the occasion, rising to meet the challenges of the office, he has brought the office down.
And he is not acting in accordance, not even to a president, not even to a leader, not even to someone who is elected even to the lowest form of government.
The things that come out of this president's mouth, you wouldn't want to hear it from your child. And so those are the honest truths that we need to face in this country, that we need to face in the media. This isn't about some fake objectivity, some pretend thing that you have to -- because the president is doing something that's unpresidential, the president is lying, the president is using the instruments of government in a wrong capacity.
We can't sit here and pretend, well, what is the other side? Sometimes, there is no other side. There is no other side to bigotry. There's no fine people on both sides for every single event.
Sometimes, things are just right. Right is right and wrong is wrong. And you have to call this president out.
So, I think that especially us in the media and people who are in power, like James Mattis, need to, in their time, in their moment, when they have their platform, James Mattis -- I respect you as a general or what have you, but you should have been doing that and speaking out and telling the president that he wasn't acting like a leader when you had power and when you were in office.
Thank you for this, but more people need to speak out in the moment.
BLITZER: Stand by, Don.
I want to bring in an exclusive guest that we have right now, a two- time Super Bowl champion, Malcolm Jenkins. He's also co-founder of Listen Up Media to help advance social awareness. He's the executive producer of a new film called "Black Boys."
Malcolm, thank you so much for joining us.
You have been in a leader in this movement against police brutality for years now. So how does it feel to see those protests around the country, to see these four ex-police officers charged today?
MALCOLM JENKINS, NFL PLAYER: Yes.
I mean, thank you for having me, first off.
I think, you know, to see what is happening around the country, the amount of people that are in the streets voicing their concerns and their disapproval of the amount of racial injustice that has gone against the black community for centuries, people have had enough.
And they're tired of doing things the way that people want to, and they're demanding that things change right now. And I think the amount of the overwhelming pressure that is building up gives us a real opportunity and real hope that now is the time that we can actually change, radically change the fabric of this country, the trajectory of our black communities, but really the soul of America, and really stand firm and actually believe in the things that we promised through our Constitution and what the American dream is.
BLITZER: You wrote a piece in "The Philadelphia Inquirer," Malcolm, and you said that -- and I'm quoting now -- "Being black in the eyes of far too many police officers means my dignity and my life are not worth protecting."
So what steps are you pushing for right now from local officials when it comes to accountability?
I think we just lost our connection with Malcolm Jenkins, the two-time Super Bowl champ.
He's got very strong words. We're going to try to reconnect with him, because I want our viewers here in the United States and around the world to hear his words.
Let's reconnect with Malcolm Jenkins.
We will take a quick break. Much more of our special coverage coming up.
These are live pictures you're seeing from near the White House in Washington, D.C., right now.
BLITZER: Unfortunately, we're still having technical problems connecting with Malcolm Jenkins of the New Orleans Saints who's got very strong words on all of this. We'll see if we can fix that. But the demonstration, peaceful demonstrations right now are continuing around the United States. People are gathering once again protesting the death of George Floyd.
Brian Todd, you're in Philadelphia for us right now where thousands and thousands of people are on the streets.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. And this crowd is determined to put forth a couple of different messages. One, of course, is the outrage over the killing of George Floyd. Another is to show how determined they are and unified they are, determined to, again, keep coming forth with these messages. They've just stopped here in front of Temple University. They're making speeches here, doing a sit-in, and then they're going to maybe march further.
But another development that we've seen overnight that is important here is that Philadelphia city officials took down the statue of former Mayor Frank Rizzo. This is an attempt to heal the racial divide in this city. They took his statue down in the overnight hours about 2:00 or 2:30 in the morning.
All right, they want us to -- they're asking us to be quiet. Let me throw it back to you, Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, standby, Brian, we're going to get back to you. What a huge crowd in Philadelphia, also a huge crowd in New York City right now. Shimon Prokupecz is on the scene for us over there. Shimon?
SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, hi, Wolf.
So we're in Columbus Circle right outside. The crowd has stopped right outside the Trump Hotel and you can hear them chanting, black lives matter. Just take a look, Wolf. You can see, Dominic (ph) is going -- my cameraman, he's going to be zoom in here. And you can see all the police here guarding the hotel.
That wasn't the case yesterday. Actually, I marched with a lot of these protesters yesterday, and we were able to get closer to that hotel. Today, the police have closed this off even more. So, again, we're seeing some adjustment in their tactics here as they prepare for the evening.
But important, of course, you know, Wolf, as you said earlier, is how peaceful this demonstration, this march has been. And also when you look around, just how diverse the crowd is. And you have older people, you have younger people.
And the other thing that's been so nice to see is, as we walk down the different avenues, people were outside of their windows clapping, neighbors, people on the street cheering them on and really just New York City getting together and coming out for what is really an important moment in the nation, for the nation.
So we're going to -- right now, we're stopped here, Wolf, and I think their plan here is to continue on marching. Of course, we're about an hour-and-a-half away from the curfew, and we'll see how that goes.
Last night when we were here we stopped here around 8:00. A lot of the protesters stayed. The police did not bother them, did not tell them to leave. We'll see what happens tonight. And it looks like we're going to keep on marching here, Wolf.
BLITZER: We'll stay in very close touch with you, lots of folks on the streets of New York City right now, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., and other cities around the country, all peaceful demonstrations right now. I want to bring in two legal experts who can help us appreciate the enormity of what unfolded today with these new charges filed against these four former police officers. Joey Jackson, you're a Legal Analyst. Let me get to you first. Take us through these charges.
Derek Chauvin, the police officer -- ex-police officer charged with second-degree murder, originally was third-degree murder. The other three police officers charged now -- ex-police officer, I should say, aiding and abetting second-degree murder and aiding and abetting second degree manslaughter. Explain what these charges mean.
JOEY JACKSON, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: So, in essence, here's what happens, Wolf. What ends up happening is that people were speaking about first- degree murder. We know that's a non-factor here. First-degree murder is premeditation is planned murder, is that you deliberated the murder and intended to do it. The prosecutor here decided not to go with that, so that's not on the table.
Moving then to second-degree murder, there are two theories upon which you can pursue second degree murder in Minnesota. One is that you intended the death even though, for example, it was not premeditated or planned or that it was felony murder, meaning in the commission of a felony.
The next question then becomes if it's second degree murder and the commission of the felony, what felony is it? Well, clearly, you can argue that there was an assault that was taking place. And to the extent that you're assaulted, you have a sustained second degree murder charge. In the commission of a felony of that assault, if someone dies that constitutes and gets you that conviction.
The third-degree, which we know now, is off the table and which was upgraded from relates to engaging in something very serious and doing it in a depraved way. And so those are the distinctions.
Very briefly, Wolf, moving on as to the other officers with the aiding and abetting, there's a theory in law that if you aid, you abet, you encourage, you participate, you importune, you were otherwise involved in something, you are just as guilty, right? If you go rob and bank and you're outside and you're the lookout and the getaway driver, someone gets killed you're equally responsible.
And so the theory of the prosecution as it relates to these other officers is that they were aiders and abettors of that felony.
Now, you can see on a tape is -- we see the tape with respect to the knee on the neck for nine minutes. There's other tapes which suggest and show that there were other officers who were on top of him participating and then, of course, as the other officer who was there.
Final point, Wolf, why is this significant? It's significant because while they were on him, he was saying things like, asking for his mother, like saying I can't breathe, like saying you're going to kill me. And so to that extent, the prosecution believes that they can be successful in moving forward beyond a reasonable doubt, on the noted charges and as a result are pursuing them. BLITZER: Redditt Hudson, is with us as well. Redditt is the co-founder of the National Coalition of Law Enforcement for Justice Reform and Accountability. He's a Former St. Louis Police Officer. I want you to listen, Redditt, to the Minnesota governor, Tim Walz, just moments ago. He reacted to the new charges against these four former police officers.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. TIM WALZ (D-MN): This is a step today that the public wants to see.
Our justice system needs to make sure that justice is served. I would point out that the Floyd family is in town. Tomorrow will be a day of mourning and celebration of George Floyd life. But I think it's critically important for them to see and for Minnesotans to display to them that there's another side to us and to this state that they did not see last Monday night.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Redditt, you've dedicated your career to fighting for law enforcement reform and accountability. What do today's charges represent from your perspective?
REDDITT HUDSON, FORMER ST. LOUIS POLICE OFFICER: Well, I have to keep in mind at this point they're still only charges. Only I am optimistic because Keith Ellison is the prosecutor who was seeking those charges. And I think that has been a key development in this case.
Even with the video that we saw of the sadistic murder of George Floyd in the hands of another prosecutor was referenced earlier today, for example, that Mike Brown's case was dropped because the prosecutor didn't go after it aggressively. Well, that was a prosecutor who never went after any police misconduct aggressively.
So it matters that Keith Ellison is in that spot. And I want people to keep in mind, nationally, as we seek these reforms and as we seek accountability for law enforcement, which is key to all of this, Wolf, accountability is the first training that officers need. Accountability, you should be trained that you will be held accountable when you violate the human rights, civil liberties and civil rights of the people that you're sworn to serve. That has to be in place.
But I think now we're going to see some improvement in the process and I'm hopeful that we don't lose our commitment. The urgency of the moment, right, keeps everybody kind of sincere in their commitment in the space that we're in now.
But, historically, we've seen a case after case, as Attorney Crump rattled off earlier today, we have this energy and then we fall back to the default of white supremacy dominating everything by the sheer weight of its constant existence since this country was founded. This is that moment, that seminal moment where those in law enforcement, like the chief in Houston and others across the country, who have finally started to openly acknowledge what's going on, have got to be gaining some traction. And people like Marilyn Mosby, the aggressive prosecutor in Baltimore, Kim Gardner, the prosecutor here in St. Louis who goes after the police with a seriousness that has been unseen in our region, in our lifetimes, have to be supported if we're going to see the kinds of reforms that former President Obama was calling for earlier in your broadcast.
BLITZER: Yes, and look at these huge crowds in Los Angeles right now, peaceful protesters there, peaceful protesters all over the country. We're showing our viewers the pictures.
Joey, I interviewed Keith Ellison, the attorney general of Minnesota, in the last hour, and he acknowledged this case, despite the horrific video, nine minutes, that we all have witnessed is no slam dunk. Convicting police officers before a jury is by no means easy. We've seen several cases where the video was awful but the police officers went free. Either there was a hung jury or there was a not guilty verdict. You agree, this is not a slam dunk, right?
JACKSON: I do agree with that, Wolf, for the following reasons. The first is an attitudinal reason, right? There's an attitude in the country that tends to favor and benefit law enforcement, right? They wouldn't do that, right? Something had to be amiss. And so, attitudinally, they're given the benefit of the doubt and that becomes problematic.
I think just taking a step back today is a big step forward in our history. It's a big step forward because it talks about the issue of accountability. There's a reluctance to charge, there's a reluctance to indict, there's a reluctance to prosecute. Now, you have that. So the attitude is a big thing.
The next thing, of course, is our system requires that all 12 members sitting on a panel in a jury have to be unanimous in suggesting that a person is guilty. That's a very difficult thing to do. People have disagreements. They have -- he didn't do, I didn't see, I don't know. And so, in order to get them together, it's important and represents a bar.
And then the final thing is our standard of proof, beyond a reasonable doubt. You're going to hear arguments chipped away. Do you believe they're guilty, but do you believe that very high standard beyond a reasonable doubt?
So he has his work cut out for him, but I think it's an important first step with respect to seeking justice, moving attitudes in the right direction of protecting everyone on the street no matter your color, no matter your race, no matter whether you wear a badge or no matter whether you don't. And so this is a very important step forward, Wolf.
BLITZER: And Redditt, you know, Joey makes a very important point. There're 12 people on a jury. You only need one to say not guilty, you've got a hung jury in that particular case, and it's very hard to go ahead and convict police officers, even ex-police officers.
How differently do you believe -- and you've studied this for a long time, Redditt -- how differently are police officers treated in the justice system?
HUDSON: Oh, it historically has been two separate justice systems because we were always able to fall back on that narrative of heroism, risk and sacrifice that's been reinforced ad infinitum everywhere in our society about the work that we did. But I think that's changing with cellphones and video evidence providing objective records to a national audience of what actually happens. I think we're going to see them lose some of the traction they've had over the years.
But what I want my law enforcement colleagues who I commend for stepping up and making statements about how wrong this is to understand and they know this intrinsically -- they know this instinctively, they're going to be in for a fight not only from those main stream society people who want to maintain the status quo but from within their ranks especially when it comes to local police unions. When you hear the Minnesota, the Minneapolis police union chief saying don't rush to judgment after we've seen a man brutally murdered right before our eyes.
When Eric Garner was murdered, Pat Lynch, the union boss in New York City, strutting around with his chest out and chin up talking about the fine officers in his department.
And here in St. Louis where we have one of the worst police unions in the countries, SLPUA spokesperson Jeff Roorda, who had a Mike Brown day on the anniversary of Mike Brown's death who was killed ten minutes from my house on the anniversary of his death.
These are the people who are going to push against the progress they see not in the criminal justice reform arena but nationally as it relates to us coming to grips with the institutional racism that has clouded our country for all of our lifetimes.
BLITZER: Redditt Hudson, thanks so much for joining us. Joey Jackson, thanks to you as well.
And our viewers are seeing live pictures from Los Angeles right now. You see thousands and thousands of people on the streets of Los Angeles right now. They're protesting peacefully not only in L.A. but here in New York, in Washington, in Philadelphia, all around the country right now.
We're going to go from coast to coast, check in to see what's going on. Much more of our special coverage right after a quick break.
BLITZER: Once again, I just want to point out to our viewers, we had a very, very significant statement just released by James Mattis, the former defense secretary during the Trump administration, a retired four-star Marine Corps general who said this about the president and his behavior over these past few days.
I want you to listen to what James Mattis is now saying about the president of the United States.
Donald Trump is the first president in my lifetime who does not try to unite the American people -- does not even pretend to try. Instead he tries to divide us. We are witnessing the consequences of three years of this deliberate effort.
And General Mattis goes on to say this: We know that we are better than the abuse of executive authority that we witnessed in Lafayette Square. We must reject and hold accountable those in office who would make a mockery of our Constitution. At the same time, we must remember Lincoln's better angels and listen to them as we work to unite.
A very strong statement from the former defense secretary of the United States, blasting the current president of the United States who originally named him defense secretary in his administration. We'll continue to watch the fallout from that.
But, fortunately, Malcolm Jenkins is joining us once again, the two- time Super Bowl champ from the New Orleans Saints. We had some technical issues.
You posted a little while ago, Malcolm, a very emotional video responding to your teammate Drew Brees. This was after Brees repeated that he doesn't think players should kneel in protest.
Brees said this: I will never agree with anybody disrespecting the flag of the United States of America.
So what will you say, Malcolm, to anyone who doesn't understand the goal of taking a knee, raising a fist or protesting as we see thousands of people in the United States on the streets right now doing?
MALCOLM JENKINS, TWO-TIME SUPER BOWL CHAMPION (via telephone): Yeah. I think unfortunately for -- in 2016 when Colin Kaepernick first took a knee (INAUDIBLE) sat down during the national anthem to protest police brutality and to stand up about the injustices that happen in black and brown communities all over the country for centuries, we didn't listen.
In fact, we took his message and we made it about the flag, we made it about the military and made him anti-patriot. He's unpatriotic because he's standing up for his rights.
And I think right now what we see is what happens fast forward four years, and 400 years of ignoring that message, and we have somebody in the White House who is willing to divide us enough that we have to address those issues and I think we're seeing thousands and thousands of people that are fed up, that have done all of the op-eds, that have voted, that have participated and talked into their elected officials, that have marched and been peaceful, and now, we're stuck with people who don't have hope and a generation that will -- that will refuse to go back to the status quo.
And so, I think it is to the detriment of the country that we ignored Colin Kaepernick's message and the message that came from, you know, before (INAUDIBLE) generation before us.
BLITZER: Malcolm, if there's an NFL season and let's hope there is an NFL season coming up or if the NBA gets ready to start playing once again, Major League Baseball, when they play the national anthem, what do you -- what do you anticipate will happen, the players when they listen to the national anthem, will they, like Colin Kaepernick, go down and take a knee?
JENKINS: Wolf, at this point in time, I'm more concerned about what are athletes doing on the polls and what are athletes doing with their platforms every single day to be able to talk to elected officials, to be able to put pressure on the people with the amount of media that they can generate. I don't care how many people want to kneel for the national anthems and then go home and don't do anything, because that doesn't necessarily change anything.
We needed that to spark a national conversation and it did, with the amount of guys who then took that action and put it -- took that demonstration and pushed it toward action, it wasn't enough. And that, right now, we're challenging not only the African-American players and athletes and influencers who have a space where they can use their voices to push this forward.
We're calling on our white brothers and sisters, the same guys who call us family, the same guys who talk about being a brotherhood, where is the brotherhood when we step off the field?
I heard something, Wolf, there was a joke, we talk about white people who are usually allies and who can sit in with black people, we say they're invited to the cookouts. This is the cookout. This moment right here is the cookout and we need everybody, no matter who you are, what race, background, to step up and change.
BLITZER: And on that point, I know, Malcolm, you're working on a film called "Black Boys," and I want to show a clip -- show our viewers a clip. Watch this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRIS LONG, DEFENSIVE END, PHILADELPHIA EAGLES, RETIRED: I think a lot of people are actually feeling like if they acknowledge some of these things, then they're guilty like they did something wrong. You didn't do anything wrong. The only thing wrong that you could do is ignore it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: So what role can athletes, do you believe, play in the fight that is ongoing right now for social justice?
JENKINS: Athletes have always played a role in fighting for social justice, from Thomas Smith and John Carlos to Muhammad Ali, it's always been part of that. And I think right now when you played the clip from Chris Long, somebody I respect a great deal because he came in not -- and he wanted to be in the ally but he didn't want to be in the front -- in the forefront and he didn't want to take over or co- opt the movement. He wanted to learn.
And when he came along with this and see what we're doing, asking questions, you know, digested the information, he figured out how to be an ally and not to feel guilty what has all happened, but to feel responsible for changing it and being a part of pushing it forward.
BLITZER: You know, Malcolm, we heard from the former President Barack Obama a little while ago, this hour, and he had some words. And I want to read a sentence or two from what he said and get your reaction.
The former president said -- said this: I want you to know -- and he was speaking to young African-American people out there and he was also referring to his own two daughters.
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 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.
I don't know if you heard the former president's word, but he was very, very powerful and he was upbeat that things potentially could change.
JENKINS: Yes, I did. I thought those were powerful words, and unfortunately, thought, the same things that a lot of black parents in this country have to tell their kids because we know that nobody else is going to tell them that. And, in fact, they might learn the opposite.
And so, I think, hopefully, this moment can push us to a point where not only does Barack Obama or any black parent tell their kid that they're important, that their lives matter, that they have a place here, that they're -- that they can be individuals, but that the rest of the world reaffirms that, as well.
BLITZER: And the former president, he was hopeful, he was upbeat in his words. He said: So many young people right now have been activated. They have been mobilized.
He sees an incredible opportunity right now for people to be awakened, and he said this makes me feel optimistic, it makes me feel better.
Malcolm Jenkins, thanks so much for what you're doing. Thanks so much for joining us. We appreciate it very much.
I know you've got a message for your fellow athletes out there. We'll see what happens not only with you and them, but on the streets of America as we watch all of these demonstrations unfold.
Thanks, Malcolm, for joining us.
JENKINS: Thank you for having me.
BLITZER: All right. We're going to continue our special coverage here on CNN. Lots more coming up. You can see the protests unfolding here in Washington, D.C.
Our special coverage continues right now with "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT".