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George Floyd's Brother to Attend New York City Memorial; Military Leaders Condemn Trump Over His Response to Protests; Drew Brees Apologizes After Backlash Over Flag Comments. Aired 1-1:30p ET
Aired June 4, 2020 - 13:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JOHN KING, CNN HOST: Thanks for spending time with us today. I hope to see you back here this time tomorrow.
Brianna Keilar picks up our coverage right now.
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: John, thank you. I am Brianna Keilar and I want to welcome our viewers here in the U.S. and around the world.
We begin with the day of mourning and reflection both for the family of George Floyd and for the national movement that was reignited by his death. Right now, in New York, demonstrators are gathered peacefully in Cadman Plaza Park. They will march across the Brooklyn Bridge the next hour.
In Minneapolis, a public televised memorial for Floyd gets underway here in an hour. A huge turnout is expected and we're going to bring that to you live.
Today is also the first time that three former Minneapolis police officers will face a judge after being charged with aiding and abetting the murder of George Floyd. We'll have more in that here in a moment.
First, I want to get straight to CNN's Athena Jones in New York. And, Athena, I know that Floyd's brother is expected to be there. Tell us about this and tell us about what you are seeing.
ATHENA JONES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Brianna. We are at Cadman Plaza in Brooklyn. And you can see people streaming in, a really diverse crowd streaming in for what is going to be a memorial prayer service for George Floyd. We expect to hear words of peace according to organizers from Terrance Floyd, the brother of George Floyd.
And this whole program is being led by a local civil rights leader, the reverend, Kevin McCall. We expect to hear words of prayer from him and also comments from elected officials and community leaders.
And we have been talking a lot about how diverse these marches have been, how diverse these demonstrations have been. We are seeing people of all ages, all races. And we also have with us now a member of the clergy, Brother Joseph Bach, who is the Franciscan Brother of Brooklyn. Talk to me why it's so important for you to be here and your past in this area.
BROTHER JOSEPH BACH, FRANCISCAN BROTHERS OF BROOKLYN: Well, I think it's important for us to be here just to stand in solidarity with our sisters and brothers who right now have been given a message if their lives don't matter and that their lives are -- can be wasted and thrown away.
And having spent 20 years teaching in black catholic schools and working with in the African American community, I felt an obligation. And also, as a Franciscan, I feel an obligation after our model, St. Francis of Assisi, to be here standing in solidarity with our sisters and brothers who are suffering.
JONES: And just tell us what your sign says.
BACH: It says, if you want peace, work for justice. This is a quote of Pope VI from the 1970s. And it's very much what is needed to be heard today as well. It's a message that is not old, it is not outdated and we obviously have lost that sense of justice, and when we have no justice, we have no peace.
JONES: Thank you, Brother, Brother Bach.
So you can hear from Brother Bach how important it is to be a part of this movement. And we talked a lot about how important clergy were to the civil rights movement of the 1960s and '50s. And so, we are seeing more of that today as we hear more and more people streaming in, elected leaders like Congressman Hakeem Jeffries and Yvette Clarke, could also be speaking later as well. Brianna?
KEILAR: Athena Jones in New York, thank you for that.
Mourners are also beginning to arrive at the sanctuary at North Central University in Minneapolis. And that's where CNN's Sara Sidner is live at the George Floyd's vigil. Sara, tell us what you are seeing.
SARA SIDNER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: If there is any place in the city that represents the absolute, love, kindness and care that people felt towards George Floyd and towards one another, it is here in the very area where he lost his life. We are standing outside the makeshift memorial where we have been for days.
This part of the city has been kept pristine because the people in this neighborhood said this is a sanctuary, this is not a place where you get to come and do any kind of destruction. We have already seen destruction. You have seen a man lose his life. They wanted this to be a place of peace, a place of coming together, a place where you can feel sorrow, but you can also express yourself.
I'm going to move out of the way and let our photographer take you into the memorial. This has grown and grown and grown and grown. And it is so quiet today compared to every other day. It is so peaceful today. There have been chants. There have been -- the family has been here. The attorneys have been here. The store owner is here, have talked to us. Mahmoud, one of the owners at the store that ended up calling the police on George Floyd, has spoken with the family. And there were tears, it was sorrowful. They apologized. And they said, look, we often don't call police. There just happened to be two younger guys in the call. But we don't call the police. We take care of ourselves here because we know what it means to call the police on people of color.
The people that owned this store actually are Palestinians, and they said, look, we know what conflict is and we try not to have conflict. But what you have seen here is the conflict is gone and the love and care and honoring of a man and his family has replaced that.
And everyone here has been helping each other. There are free lattes, there are free burgers, there are free burritos, there are free food, people can take food home. And that's because communities came together, churches came together, regular citizens have been buying hundreds of dollars worth of food just to make sure that their neighbors are taken care of. Brianna?
KEILAR: So beautiful. Sara in Minneapolis, Sara Sidner, thanks.
Also, there in Minneapolis this hour, the three fired police officers who were involved in Floyd's initial arrest will have their first court appearances. These are the three in addition to Derek Chauvin, who has been charged with second degree murder now.
These men are charged with aiding and abetting in the murder of George Floyd. Derek Chauvin there, his charges upgraded. Initially, it was third degree murder. Now, it is second degree. He will not face a judge until June 8th, so on Monday here.
CNN's Josh Campbell is outside of the courthouse. And, Josh, the personnel files for these officers were also released. So tell us what you are learning there.
JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Brianna. We have been digging through these records. And I think the thing that was so striking about this group of police officers is you look at the range of experience and then couple that with the fact that the officer that is charged here with second degree murder was the most senior officer of the group. Derek Chauvin had been on the job for over two decades as a police officer.
Now, looking through this file, we noted that he had several complaints against him over the years, at least 17 different allegations of wrongdoing by members of the public, that not so for the others. But, obviously, two decades versus experiences on the others, there's a wide range indeed. Two officers of the officers had only been on the force for just over a year or less, one of them only six months. So, again, the most senior person with the most experience charged with the most serious crime. Of course, all four will -- excuse me, three of those four will be presented behind me very, very shortly. And I want to give you a sense of what this scene is like, Brianna. You can see behind me a very heavily fortified government building. And the irony here is very thick. You see members of the Minnesota National Guard. We can't forget that they were called into this city, called up by the governor to protect critical infrastructure because of the protests stemming from the alleged actions of these officers. And, of course, three of those officers are now behind bars in that building waiting to see a judge.
Now, we expect this hearing to be very brief. We are told by the attorney general that this will be a long process, we are nowhere near trial, we've heard nothing about a plea. This is just a first step as people call for justice. It will start behind us here in short order, Brianna.
KEILAR: Josh, thank you so much for taking us there to the courthouse in Minneapolis.
While Keith Ellison has moved quickly with his decision to prosecute the three other ex-officers and upgrade the charges against Derek Chauvin in the death of George Floyd, Ellison has also tried to temper expectations about the outcome of this case.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KEITH ELLISON, MINNESOTA ATTORNEY GENERAL: Winning a conviction will be hard. I say this not because we doubt our resources or our ability. In fact, we are confident in what we're doing. But history does show that there are clear challenges here and we are going to be working very hard in relying on each other and our investigative partners and the community to support that endeavor
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KEILAR: I want to bring in now Vanita Gupta. He is the President and CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. And prior to that, she served as acting Assistant Attorney General and Head of the U.S. Department Justice's Civil Rights Division. Welcome. Thank you for being here.
VANITA GUPTA, PRESIDENT AND CEO, LEADERSHIP CONFERENCE ON CIVIL AND HUMAN RIGHTS: Thanks for having me.
KEILAR: I wonder if you agree with Ellison's assessment that winning a conviction is going to be hard to get.
GUPTA: Winning convictions in police misconduct cases are always hard to get. There's a lot of reasons for it. There is a much higher of success at the state level than there is often at the federal level because the standard that Justice Department prosecutors have requires the highest criminal intent proof there is in criminal law.
But I would say the facts in this case are so incredibly strong, facts that we have been watching, you know, with feeling kicked in the guts over and over again, the video footage of three officers on Mr. Floyd's body and Officer Chauvin on his neck for more than eight minutes while he was clearly pleading for his life and others around, witnesses were pleading and pure signs of distress.
He was restrained and handcuffed. There was no provocation. These are the kinds of facts that should make this really, I think, a slam dunk conviction. But the reason why I think Attorney General Ellison is cautioning expectations is that there have been a lot of cases where there has been evidence in juries carry implicit bias too, and we are all carrying implicit bias.
So, we need to temper our expectations, but I would say these facts are as bad as they come.
KEILAR: Okay, so it's as bad as they come, which means that if it's bad as they come in this case and the conviction is not secured, that's going to speak volumes about what is possible for justice in the case of people who died at the hands of police.
I wonder if maybe you can kind of explain this to us. I think the layperson looks at this situation. They look at that almost nine- minute video and they say, at a certain point, Derek Chauvin isn't really acting as a police officer, right? They look at him acting in a way that they consider to be cruel, just being cruel to another human being. At what point -- I mean, why does that protection still stand when it seems that he's not really in the moment and for really quite many minutes, he is certainly not serving as a police officer?
GUPTA: Look, I expect a conviction here and for the other three officers as well. I think that there is, to me, no question that these facts should meet a conviction not only at the state level but, to be honest with you, at the federal level too where the bar is so much higher. I don't see how even in jury that carries implicit bias can look at this as anything but a (INAUDIBLE) pool.
And it's why, in many ways, we saw swift condemnation by police chiefs around the country in a way that we haven't in a lot of these instances. There was nothing kind of within the books and the training. The defense council will try argue these things. But I think, looking at the facts of these case, I expect a conviction.
KEILAR: Okay. And I wonder when you hear about a friend of George Floyd who was in the car with him saying that Floyd didn't even resist, he didn't resist arrest, he was repeatedly asking why he was being arrested, he was trying to appeal to the officers about this not needing to happen. What does that account do in this situation?
GUPTA: I mean, all of it feeds the willful intent of the officer to engage in an intentional killing at that point. I mean, they're going to -- the case is going to involve also looking at training, how was Officer Chauvin trained, was there provocation, was there resisting arrest? None of those things actually exist. The factors in this case to me would make out a conviction both at the state and federal level because these are facts that really go to the state of mind of Officer Chauvin and go to the fact that he is acting without the kind of outside of the bounds of anything that even his own police chief thought was legal and permissible. KEILAR: Yes. Because if you look at that video, it's not police work that you see happening there. Vanita, thank you so much for your insight, Vanita Gupta, we really appreciate it.
When former Defense Secretary James Mattis resigned, he said he'd never criticize the president while he was in office. Well, that has all changed. Why he and other top American military voices are calling President Trump a threat to the country.
Plus, how the White House is stepping up security against protesters with a big-old wall.
And Drew Brees apologizes for his comments about disrespecting, but it's opened a broader conversation about unconscious bias in America.
This is CNN's special live coverage.
KEILAR: President Trump's threat to use military force on American protesters has led to a string of stunning rebukes from some of the most esteemed retired military leaders, the most blistering coming from Trump's former defense secretary, James Mattis, the retired Marine general writing in The Atlantic that he is, quote, angry and appalled by the president's actions this week.
Mattis writes that he never dreamed that, quote, troops will be ordered under any circumstance to violate the constitutional rights of their fellow citizens. He says, the president does not try to unite the American people, does not even pretend to try, instead he tries to divide us.
And agreeing with Mattis is retired General John Allen, who led U.S. forces in Afghanistan. He wrote this, quote, the president has failed to show sympathy, empathy, compassion or understanding. And Admiral Mike Mullen, a former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has been very reticent to weigh in on things, wrote this week that he too could not remain silent, saying that the president -- really ripping the president from forcing protesters from the street in order for the president to walk to a photo op there in front of St. John's Episcopal Church. Mullen said, quote, Trump laid bare his disdain for the rights of peaceful protest in this country.
Now, in response to James Mattis, President Trump tweeted a lie that he fired the general. Of course, Mattis resigned. Do you remember that? He resigned in protest to the president's decision to abandon the Kurds in Syria.
The only person who President Trump and President Obama both fired was actually Michael Flynn.
So, also new today, President Trump beefing up the physical barriers between himself and between protesters, especially those protesters who are outside his White House windows. Construction began before dawn on some additional fencing for the White House complex. Over the last several days, we saw protesters and police clashing repeatedly outside the White House and near Lafayette Park, which is there just outside of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
I want to go there to CNN White House Correspondent Boris Sanchez. Tell us what you're seeing there, Boris.
BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Brianna. A starkly different scene here outside Lafayette Park, and we've seen just 24 hours ago several dozen protesters have come here today. They've come and gone in several different waves. But one thing you'll notice that was different immediately from yesterday was that they're being allowed right up to the barrier that's been installed, and as you noted, reinforced here at Lafayette Park. Several concrete blocks like this one have been put down in different spots along the fence. It's also been expanded down to the Eisenhower Executive Building, just southwest of us.
Again, last night, the protests, very peaceful but very different. The law enforcement that was here had pushed them halfway down the block. This street, this intersection has been closed over the last several days. Today, as you can see, traffic is moving. It is open. And also, I want to note, if we can zoom past here to the law enforcement officers that are in Lafayette Park, they're not wearing riot gear. We haven't seen any law enforcement presence in this portion of Lafayette Park in that head-to-toe riot gear with shields that's we've seen in previous days.
D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser said that her team had been work with the federal government to try to limit that militarized presence that we saw just yesterday. Notably, no arrests in D.C. last night, zero property damage, as was related to the protesters that were here. And tonight, there is no curfew, Brianna. So, we're going to keep an eye on this and let you know if it changes. But right now, things remain mostly calm.
KEILAR: Yes. Last night, the curfew had been moved to 11:00 P.M. So, we'll see how tonight holds up. Thank you so much, Boris, for the report.
After his own teammates called him out, Saints' Q.B., Drew Brees, is apologizing for his comments about disrespecting the flag. Jemele Hill will join me live next on why the NFL has amnesia.
Plus, we're awaiting two live events, a memorial service in Minneapolis for George Floyd and this is happening as three of the officers charged with aiding second degree murder appear in court for the first time before a judge.
We'll be right back.
[13:25:00] KEILAR: Quarterback Drew Brees is condemning his own words one day after he made comments about NFL players kneeling during the national anthem. And before you hear Brees' apology, let's hear what the Saints player told Yahoo! Finance on Wednesday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DREW BREES, QUARTERBACK, NEW ORLEANS SAINTS: I will never agree with anybody disrespecting the flag of the United States of America or our country. Let me just tell you what I see or what I feel when the national anthem is played and when I look at the flag of the United States. I envisioned my two grandfathers who fought for this country during World War II, one in the Army and one in the Marine Corps, both risking their lives to protect our country and to try to make our country and this world a better place.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KEILAR: Now, Brees posted his regrets today saying in part, quote, in an attempt to talk about respect, unity and solidarity centered around the American flag and the national anthem, I made comments that were insensitive and completely missed the mark on the issues we are facing right now as a country. They lacked awareness and any type of compassion or empathy. Instead, those words have become divisive and hurtful and have misled people into believing that somehow, I am an enemy. This could not be further from the truth and is not an accurate reflection of my heart or my character.
Let's talk about all of this with Jemele Hill. She is a sports journalist. You probably know her and Contributing Writer at The Atlantic. And she also hosts The Jemele Hill is Unbothered podcast on Spotify, which you should definitely check out. Jemele, thanks for being with us.
I wonder what you think of what Brees said and his apology.
JEMELE HILL, CONTRIBUTING WRITER, THE ATLANTIC: So Drew Brees, unfortunately, was guilty of what too many African Americans, too many white people, period, often hear from white people, is that when we were talking about our experiences, he immediately centered himself as if, for one, he's the only person who is engaging in this conversation, who has had family members that have served in the military.
One of the first things Colin Kaepernick said was that he also had friends and family who served and maybe Drew Brees wasn't up on the history of why Colin Kaepernick chose to kneel as supposed to showing some other form of protest.