Return to Transcripts main page


Large Protests Fill Streets in Many American Cities; NFL Brees: Never Agree with Disrespecting the Flag; Protesters Demand Justice, Fair Policing; Teammate Rips Brees for Anti-Kneeling Comments; 16- Year-Old Tennis Star Condemns Silence Against Racism; Hong Kong's Legislative Session Suspended Following Scuffle; Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Calls for Rush to Justice in Op-Ed; Houston Rockets Player Says It's Time for Action; Duchess of Sussex Speaks After Floyd's Death. Aired 4:30-5a ET

Aired June 4, 2020 - 04:30   ET



JOHN VAUSE, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back, everyone. I'm John Vause, thanks for staying with us.

More than a week of nationwide protests have included these large noisy crowds near the Trump White House. Last week demonstrators were practically at the White House gates. Now National Guard and police have expanded what it seems to be a security zone keeping protesters and reporters a few blocks away.

Floyd died while in the custody of four Minneapolis police officers. All four are now facing charges of murder or aiding and abetting murder. But that has not ended the demands for racial justice. This was the scene in downtown Los Angeles as a 9 p.m. curfew took effect. Many chose to be arrested even though they were given a chance to leave.

One of the NFL's top quarterback is facing blistering blow back after his comments about players kneeling to protest police brutality. When he was asked about it Drew Brees said he will never agree with anyone disrespecting the U.S. flag of the country. And he insisted standing when the national anthem is played is all about unity.


DREW BREES, NEW ORLEANS SAINTS QUARTERBACK: And is everything right with our country right now? No, it's not. We still have a long way to go. But I think what you do by standing there and showing respect to the flag with your hand over your heart is it shows unity. It shows that we are all in this together. We can all do better and that we are all part of the solution.


VAUSE: I spoke earlier with Michael Eric Dyson, an author and Georgetown University professor. I asked him about how we go from protest to actual tangible outcomes. And Drew Brees comments came up as we're speaking.


MICHAEL ERIC DYSON, "AUTHOR, WHAT TRUTH SOUNDS LIKE": You've got to raise the question and when you raise the question and you force the issues, then you begin to translate that into public policy. You know, some people have put forth ideas about defunding the police. Los Angeles, California, one of the biggest departments of police there, the LAPD has typically suggested it will shift $150 million of its budget towards other arenas that will enable, you know, the community to be able to address some of these issues.

So when we move from protest to purpose, from mass movement to mission it is extremely important to identify those public policies that will translate that concern. But even more broadly we've got to talk about a shift in attitude, disposition of understanding and interpretation. For instance, a white famous football player, Drew Brees, who is the quarterback of the New Orleans Saints, when asked the question about what was going on basically said, well, I will never -- in regard to Colin Kaepernick, the famous ex-footballer who took a knee to protest police brutality, Mr. Brees insisted rather much against the evidence that the whole issue was disrespecting the flag. And his grandfather had gone to war and that he wanted to respect those who had served in the military.

And others pushed back like Malcolm Jenkins who is one of his teammates now. Saying my grandfather went to that same war and yet when he returned, he did not get a hero's welcome. So the kind of deliberate blindness, willful ignorance on the part of some white people, of many white people, will certainly be a barrier, but it seems that many more white people are at least willing to be introspective and self-critical at this moment.


VAUSE: That's speaker, author and Georgetown professor Michael Eric Dyson who was speaking with me just a short time ago.

Well reaction from the NFL has been quick and emotional. Listen to Malcolm Jenkins, he's a teammate of Brees.


MALCOLM JENKINS, NEW ORLEANS SAINTS SAFETY: Unfortunately, he's somebody who doesn't understand that privilege. You don't understand the potential you have to actually be an advocate for the people that you call brothers. You don't understand the history and why people like me, people with my skin color, whose grandfathers fought for this country and who served. And I still protested against -- not against the national anthem, but what was happening in America, and what the fabric of this country is for or stands for.

If you don't understand that other people experience something totally different than you.

[04:35:00] Then when you talk about the brotherhood and all this other (BLEEP), it's just lip service or its only on the field. Because when we step off this field and I take my helmet off, I'm a black man walking around America and I'm telling you on dealing with these things. I'm telling you my community is dealing with these things. And your response to me is, don't talk about that here, this is not the place. Drew, where is the place, Drew? I'm disappointed. I'm hurt. Because while the world tells you that you're not worthy, that your life doesn't matter, the last place you want to hear it from are the guys that you go to war with and that you consider to be allies and to be your friends. Even though we're teammates, I can't let this slide.


VAUSE: Quarterback for the Green Bay Packers Aaron Rodgers did not mention Brees by name but he said a few years ago we were criticized for locking arms in solidarity before the game. It has never been about an anthem or a flag. Not then, not now. Listen with an open heart, let's educate ourselves, and turn word and thought into action.

NBA superstar LeBron James just tweeted this. You literally still don't understand why Colin Kaepernick was kneeling on one knee. It has absolutely nothing to do with the disrespect for the flag and our soldiers, men and women who keep our land free.

The head coach of the Denver Broncos has apologized for a comment he made about racism in the NFL. On Tuesday head coach, Vic Fangio, said he does not see racism or discrimination in the NFL. A day later he said, I made a mistake. While he has never been the subject of racism, others on his team and staff have. Fangio says he looks forward to listening to his players and working with them to create meaningful change.

American tennis sensation Coco Gauff is calling out those who remain silent in the face of racism. The teenager was at a protest in Florida and you can hear the frustration when she spoke about her grandmother and her long fight against discrimination.


COCO GAUFF, U.S. TENNIS PLAYER: I think it's sad that I'm here protesting the same thing that she did 50 plus years ago. I heard many things just this past week and one of the things I heard is, well, it's not my problem. So this is what I have to tell you this, if you listen to black music, if you like black culture, and you have black friends, then this is your fight too.


VAUSE: Gauff is only 16. It is too young to vote but she told the crowd, it's in your hands to vote for my future, for my brother's future and for your future.

Well pro athlete and a victim of police brutality said the fight for social change must continue. Up next, how his experience with racism changed his outlook on his sport. But first, we head to Hong Kong where debate on a controversial bill

interrupted for hours because of a scuffle.



VAUSE: Welcome back, everybody. Just hours ago Hong Kong's legislative session was suspended following a scuffle as legislators debated a controversial bill which would make it a crime to disrespect China's national anthem. Two pro-democracy politicians who were kicked out after they took to the floor to disrupt the meeting.

CNN's Will Ripley live in Hong Kong. Not much of a scuffle. Certainly not compared to the South Koreans or the politicians in Taiwan. But it was enough to bring this session to a halt. But they're still going to vote on this bill, right? So where does it stand right now?

WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: So our producer spoke with some lawmakers. Who say they do expect the vote to happen tonight and they expect this bill to easily pass. This is something that kind of fits the theme of what we've been seeing. The theme of Beijing wanting Hong Kong to be more respectful. So when lawmakers and protesters were saying kind of derogatory versions of China's national anthem that was very upsetting to the Communist Party. They obviously then tell their handpicked lawmakers here in Hong Kong they want to do something. And since the legislature is set up, it's basically stacked always in favor of Beijing's interests despite the fact that there's widespread opposition to mainland policies, it is expected to pass.

Plus you have the police presence here investigating this scuffle that broke out between two democratic lawmakers. One of them even spraying some liquid around the room apparently. You can see how tense things are here around the city. This is a building you used to be able to walk right into. Now the barricades are up. But there are no protesters here. Even though this is the anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre.

And every year since this happened Hong Kong has held huge and peaceful vigils. But this year because of the coronavirus pandemic, the government says they're not allowing people to gather. They're shutting down Victoria Park and will send people away if they show up. People have been encouraged to still turn out, John, in groups of eight or less. Because the coronavirus laws here allow for only small gatherings. But police have warned if there are multiple groups of eight people gathered together that could constitute a large group and people could be arrested.

And we've seen in recent weeks protests police have been much more aggressive in their tactics. It almost seems like this national security law that China is expected to pass is already in place and in effect. Even though we don't know how it will be enforced. Because you, you know, have police officers that have basically been arresting people and clearing out areas before events have even begun.

This year if this protest is effectively stomped out, it will be the first time that Hong Kong has not held a large formal remembrance of Tiananmen Square. And of course, that is certainly something that the government in Beijing would be very happy about as they've been trying to basically erase it from the history books ever since it happened.

VAUSE: You've done a great job in mainland. No one knows anything about it. I guess Hong Kong is next. Get used to the heavy-handed Beijing. William, great to see you. Will Ripley, life for us in Hong Kong.

Well racism in America is like dust in the air. Basketball legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar describing what it's like to be a black person in the United States. More in a moment.


PROTESTERS SINGING "LEAN ON ME": We all need somebody to lean on. I just might have a problem that you understand. We all need somebody to lean on.




VAUSE: Well American basketball legend and social commentator, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar wrote an op ed for the "Los Angeles Times." Putting the George Floyd protest into a larger context. Here's part of what he wrote.

Yes, protests often are used as an excuse to some to take advantage, just as when fans celebrate a hometown sports team championship burn cars and destroy storefronts. I don't want to see stores looted or even buildings burned. But African-Americans have been living in a burning building for many years choking on the smoke as the flames burn closer and closer. Racism in America is like dust in the air. It seems invisible -- even if you're choking on it -- until you let the sun in. Then you see it's everywhere. As long as we keep shining that light, we have a chance of cleaning it wherever it lands. But we have to stay vigilant because it's always still in the air.

And speaking with CNN's Anderson Cooper, Abdul-Jabbar explained why he wrote that op-ed.


KAREEM ABDUL-JABBAR, NBA HALL OF FAMER: I tried to set up an analogy that people could understand. You know, there's another way of describing it. It's like the United States is this wonderful bus with great seats in the front of the bus but as you go further to the back of the bus the seats get worse and the fumes from the exhaust leak in and really wreck with people's health and their lives people. But the people at the front of the bus, they have no complaints. It's kind of like that.

When I describe the dust in the air, that dust accumulates in the lives of black Americans and it just eliminates all of the mechanics of democracy.


Democracy doesn't work for us. We are last hired, first fired. We have a different set of expectations from the criminal justice system. So many ways of American life discriminating against black Americans. And, finally, I think we've come to a moment of clarity here where it can result in such a horrible incident that we saw with Mr. Floyd's death.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: President Obama spoke today about -- and I'm paraphrasing because his words were far more eloquent than my memory of them -- but of essentially channeling the energy that we are seeing in this extraordinary outpouring and sustained outpouring to real systematic change. And I'm wondering how you think that is possible. I mean, do you think it's possible? Marching in the streets is extraordinarily powerful. Where does it lead to that makes real change?

ABDUL-JABBAR: Well I think it's possible, Anderson, if it leads to forming a political will within our country to do something. Something has to be done. It's not enough to say that was terrible and my thoughts and prayers are with you. That's not getting anything done. We have to -- we have to change the circumstances. It's been almost 30 years since the Rodney King incident. Did you see that as a routine traffic stop? If any white American had a relative get drunk and get stopped by the police and have that relative beaten like that, those people would be up in arms.

But yet 30 years passed, nothing has changed. There's been a lot more other dead black Americans and they've died really for no good reasons. Misdemeanors. Eric Garner died because he was selling cigarettes illegally. You know, these are trivial things to take someone's life over. And we have to get to the point where we have to do something about that. I think this will cause the political will maybe to grow and maybe we can get something done.


VAUSE: Anderson also asked Abdul-Jabbar about his thoughts on the charges brought against the four officers in the death of George Floyd. He said, that certainly is a step towards justice. And it is.

Global pandemic meant professional sports would be significantly different when they return. Many players, it seems, are changing as well. CNN's "WORLD SPORT" Coy Wire spoke with Thabo Sefolosha of the Houston Rockets who says the fight for social justice must remain a priority.


COY WIRE, CNN WORLD SPORT: Having been through an experience like that yourself, did you see yourself in George Floyd when that was happening?

THABO SEFOLOSHA, FORWARD/GUARD, HOUSTON ROCKETS: Yes. Yes, and I think every black man in America in my opinion, you know, from the 14 years I've lived here can feel that way. You know, it's -- again, it's that ultimate bullying. So I think it's just an abuse of power that you see in preschool musical bullying, you know. And it's at such a high level that the people have to be fed up. And something has to be done about it.

WIRE: As a former pro athlete, I don't know where my head space would be in light of the pandemic, amid racial injustice and protests happening all across the country. How is your heart and mind right now thinking about potentially going back to play?

SEFOLOSHA: You know, with everything that's going on, you know, the priority, the main priority should be about fighting for sustainable justice and can we do that while playing basketball? And I mean, obviously the athletes are not the only one that needs to step up and do things. So yes, I think it will be great to have the outlet in times like this for everybody. For the ones on the court and the people watching, but at the same time, myself and all the rest of the athletes with a platform. You know, it's time for action. And I want to really stress that. You know, I think it's for all of us to take it up and has to be about action right now.

WIRE: Do you think the country needs basketball back?

SEFOLOSHA: Good question. It can use some entertainment. Can use some spotlight to put your mind to somebody else. And I think it's times like this even that will be changing. You know, the rivalry I think is going to be a little bit different with other fans in the stands and what's going on in the black community. You know, especially sports like NBA where there's a lot of black athletes. I think the brotherhood and togetherness will be definitely felt.


VAUSE: Well, Meghan, Duchess of Sussex has called the civil unrest across the United States absolutely devastating. In a video commencement address to a Los Angeles high school, Meghan said George Floyd's life mattered along with the lives of many others. And she called on that graduating class to action.



MEGHAN, DUCHESS OF SUSSEX: We are going to rebuild and rebuild and rebuild until it is rebuilt. Because when the foundation is broken, so are we. You are going to lead with love. You are going to lead with compassion. You are going to use your voice. You're going to use your voice in a stronger way than you've ever been able to because most of you are 18 or you're going to turn 18 so you're going to vote. You are going to have empathy for those who don't see the world through the same lens that you do because with this diverse and vibrant open- minded as I know the teachings at Immaculate Heart are, I know you know that black lives matter.

(END VIDEO CLIP) VAUSE: Meghan hesitated to speak out about these issues. She did not want her words picked apart. She realized though the only wrong thing she said, the only thing wrong to say is saying nothing.

Thank you for watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm John Vause. "NEW DAY" is up next.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We demand justice.

QUINCY MASON FLOYD, GEORGE FLOYD'S SON: My father should have been killed like this.

KEITH ELLISON, MINNESOTA ATTORNEY GENERAL: Trying this case will not be an easy thing.

Winning a conviction will be hard.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Massive peaceful protests all across this country.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There are about several hundred protesters who headed towards downtown Brooklyn.

We saw a small group of them break off, surround a police car. That's when officers were called in for backup.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When I hear secretary Mattis speak out against Donald Trump, that's what we have been looking for.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He talked about providing America. We talked about immature leadership. This is a very broad, powerful statement.


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

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and all around the world. This is "NEW DAY." It's Thursday, June 4, 5 o'clock here in New York.

Overnight we saw some of the largest demonstrations yet in cities across America.