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ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT
Protests Growing Amid Demand to "Get Your Knee Off Our Necks"; Protests Underway as Mourners Honor George Floyd at Memorial; Protests Growing in Cities Across the U.S.; Protesters Across the U.S. Call for Racial Justice Hours After Memorial Honoring the Life of George Floyd; Military Leaders Condemn Trump Over Protest Response; Protests Happening in Cities Across the Country as Police Tactics Under Scrutiny Following George Floyd's Death; CEOs Speaking Out Against Racial Inequality Amid Protests. Aired on 7-8p ET
Aired June 4, 2020 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: For us, Kristen, thanks very much. Erin Burnett OUTFRONT continues our coverage right now.
ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: OUTFRONT next, get your knee off our necks rally cry today as the nation remembers George Floyd. This as protests are growing across the country at this hour.
Plus, an OUTFRONT exclusive, former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff for President George W. Bush, General Richard Myers is my guest. He's breaking his silence about the President threatening to use the U.S. Military against American protesters.
And Trump building a wall this time around the White House.
Let's go OUTFRONT.
Good evening. I'm Erin Burnett.
OUTFRONT tonight, get your knee off our necks. Unforgettable words from today's memorial service, honoring George Floyd in Minneapolis. Speaking to a sanctuary full of Floyd's family, friends and community leaders. You can see people there presenting here about the loss of Floyd and the loss for the African-American community.
Floyd killed 10 days ago while in police custody. His death sparking outrage and calls for justice across this nation. And tonight those protests are continuing. It is now a 10th day. Right now on your screen live pictures from Washington, protesters gathered near the Lincoln Memorial as well as in New York. Outpouring of support, touching Floyd's family.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RODNEY FLOYD, BROTHER OF GEORGE FLOYD: It's a beautiful thing, great love we're receiving and George Floyd is receiving, because he would love it. I wish he was here in presence in the flesh to see it. Because out of this great unity, he would bring it to you ...
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: And Reverend Al Sharpton entering the memorial with the message that Floyd's death will not be in vain.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REV. AL SHARPTON, PRESIDENT, NATIONAL ACTION NETWORK: George Floyd's story has been the story of black folks, because ever since 401 years ago, the reason we could never be who we wanted and dreamed to be in is you kept your knee on our neck. It's time for us to stand up in George's name and say get your knee off our necks.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: And that moving memorial service was this afternoon, protesters were around this country and now this evening gathering again.
Shimon Prokupecz is OUTFRONT live in New York. And Shimon, obviously, police presence where you are but some very large crowds are gathering as well, what are you seeing?
SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME & JUSTICE REPORTER: Yes. We're just an hour to go to curfew. There are still several large crowds all across Manhattan. There are some crowds in Brooklyn.
We're at the foot of the Manhattan Bridge here and I just want to show you, Erin, because this has become a flashpoint between protesters and the NYPD. Because at eight o'clock, they close the bridge and what happens is all these police vehicles and all of these things officers will then come stand in the middle here. They will put up barricades. They really want to prevent people from coming into Manhattan.
So what they do is they flood the zone here with officers. They don't allow any cars. They do it on both sides of the bridge. For now, the protesters are allowed to continue. They have an hour and the NYPD has allowed them in some cases to go as long as 9:30, as we saw last night, when they did start making arrests.
There are a lot of groups as you said out there tonight. They are still demonstrating, walking the streets, chanting and so police are still allowing them to do so obviously because it's before eight o'clock and we'll see as the night goes on how long the police will allow them.
But we're here because this is one of the central areas where police have been gathering, Erin.
BURNETT: All right. Well, Shimon, thank you very much and as you could see the aerial, Shimon talking about groups gathering upper West Side of Manhattan, several thousand in Brooklyn gathering around this city and in cities now across the country as in Minneapolis.
Friends, family and community leaders, civil rights leaders from all across the country gathered to mourn George Floyd. Sara Sidner is OUTFRONT. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Amazing grace ...
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SARA SIDNER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT(voice over): At the memorial in Minneapolis ...
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Praise God.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SIDNER(voice over): George Floyd's family took time to mourn.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PHILONISE FLOYD, GEORGE FLOYD'S BROTHER: ... that's it amazing to me that he touched so many people's hearts, because he's been touching our hearts. Everybody want justice. We want justice for George. He's going to get it. He's going to get it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SIDNER(voice over): Historic national demonstrations in Floyd's name are now well into their 10th day.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: What happened to Floyd happens every day in this country and in every area of American life. It's time for us to stand up in George's name and say get your knee all fine necks.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SIDNER(voice over): Less than a mile from the family memorial, the National Guard troops stood watch as three former police officers charged with aiding and abetting in Floyd's death made their first court appearance. All three were granted $1 million bail or $750,000 with conditions.
A potential key witness, the passenger in Floyd's car that fatal afternoon says his friend did not resist arrest. Telling The New York Times Floyd was, from the beginning, trying in his humblest form to show he was not resisting. I could hear him pleading, "Please, officer, what's it all for?"
Minneapolis police have released 235 pages of highly redacted personnel records for the four officers involved in Floyd's arrest. They show Derek Chauvin, the officer now charged with second-degree murder had at least 17 previous misconduct complaints with the department. He was given a notice of suspension and was also reprimanded for removing a woman from her car in 2007. Alexander Kueng had been an officer less than six months at the time of Floyd's death.
Prior to joining law enforcement, the four men held a variety of jobs including working at McDonalds, Target, Home Depot and service in the United States Army. They now face between 10 and 40 years in prison if convicted in Floyd's killing.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REV. JERRY MCAFEE, SPOKE AT GEORGE FLOYD'S MEMORIAL: Psalms 27, the Lord is my light and salvation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SIDNER(voice over): Following the memorial service, Rev. Jesse Jackson paid a visit to the site where Floyd died.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REV. JESSE JACKSON, CIVIL RIGHTS LEADER: Laws must change for behaviors to change.
SIDNER: What do you think about how President Trump has handled this situation?
JACKSON: 1905 [00:01:34] reconciliation, not polarization. We need healing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SIDNER: And you hear Rev. Jackson there, he says what really needs to happen - the Reverend said what really needs to happen is policy change. This isn't just about protesting. It isn't just about showing outrage and about calling for changes, actually seeing policy change.
We saw some changes out here as well today. The Floyd family members who have not been able to come out here flew in from Houston came here today and they went to the very spot where George Floyd stopped breathing and they prayed, Erin.
BURNETT: Sara, thank you very much.
And I want to go now to Rev. Jerry McAfee. And you just saw him there at the end of Sarah's piece. He opened a memorial service today with a quote from Scripture. And I appreciate your time, Reverend, tonight. I mean, this is your community. You're a longtime leader there. A member of this community. What did today's service mean to you?
MCAFEE: Well, I thought it spoke on two levels, one, pain and possibility. The pain of a life that was snuffed out way too soon that we cannot get back contributed to by a system that has constantly and consistently been on our necks as African Americans in the state of Minnesota, Minneapolis and St. Paul in particular.
So to see the myriad of people that was gathered there from the different levels of government, who can do something with public policy as it pertains to us as a people that prayerfully that they would see that body, they would see that casket and John 12 would come up except a grain of wheat fall into the earth and die, it will bring forth no fruit.
If we don't allow this death to bring forth more life as a people and what I've discovered here in this city, it's called Minnesota Nice. But in the words of Ronnie Patterson (ph), for us it's been Minnesota ice.
BURNETT: So you opened the service today by quoting Scripture, what you just referenced now, but you opened with Psalm 27. It reads in part and we heard you say part of it there, the Lord is my light and my salvation whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life of whom shall I be afraid? When the wicked advance against me to devour me, it is my enemies and my foes who will stumble and fall. Why did you choose that passage, Reverend?
MCAFEE: Because it speaks volumes to what we need right now. Normally, one of the first levels of trauma and dealing with traumatic experience, you have a propensity and a tendency to disconnect from God. And what I wanted them to leave with, number one, the reality of God. Number two, that the possibility of relationship and then what God does for us.
There is no need for strength, if you've never experienced weakness. You can never appreciate light until you've been through the midnight. And so I wanted our people and others to understand that as weak as one may be, as dark as we may think it is, we have a relationship with the transcendent and sovereign God that can provide and do anything but fail. And in spite of trouble trials, tribulations and haters, we can make it.
BURNETT: Rev. McAfee, I appreciate your time. Thank you very much tonight, sir.
MCAFEE: Thank you. Bye-bye.
BURNETT: And now for now, Melissa Murray. She's Professor of Law at the NYU School of Law and LZ Granderson, L.A. Times Sports and Culture Columnist and Host at ESPN. I appreciate both of you being with us tonight.
Elzie, I just want to play for you how Floyd family Atty. Ben Crump described this moment today at the memorial. Here he is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BEN CRUMP, ATTORNEY FOR FLOYD FAMILY: What we endeavor to achieve is equal justice for the United States of America. And George Floyd is the moment that gives us the best opportunity I have seen in a long time of reaching that high ideal ...
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Obviously, of course, Benjamin Crump has been at the front of some of these horrible events and he thinks that this could be a moment that something changes. Do you think this moment is truly different?
LZ GRANDERSON, SPORTS AND CULTURE COLUMNIST, LOS ANGELES TIMES: Well, it's definitely different in the sense of there's nowhere to run for the average American. Because the pandemic has had us in our homes, because the unemployment make Great Depression in proportion. There's just a lot of people who don't have the natural escapes. You can't go to a game, you can't go to the bar or restaurant, you can't go to the theater or the movies. In some cases, unfortunately, you can't even go to work.
So you're forced to sit here and deal with this reckoning. And so, yes, I do agree in terms of the environment from a citizenship perspective, this is the best opportunity. And then also politically, the people have always dictated the movement. We've always dragged the politicians with us and so now people are beginning to see there's a lot more cover in terms of political capital to actually get some things done. So, yes, I do agree with that.
BURNETT: So Melissa, at the memorial service, there were a lot of calls for justice, right? And you heard that from Benjamin Crump and from the Reverend. But at the same time, the bail hearing today, the lawyers for the three assisting officers who have now been charged, they all attack the strength of the government's case.
They say that Chauvin was on the force for a long time. He outranked the others. One of them, of course, had only been on the force for six months. How effective do you think those arguments could be in terms of getting those other three officers who now finally have been charged because of these protests around the country off the hook?
MELISSA MURRAY, LAW PROFESSOR, NYU SCHOOL OF LAW: Well, it all depend on how this plays out to a jury and, of course, the jury trial won't be immediate. It will happen sometime in the future, maybe even a year in the future and a lot will depend on whether the jury receives the understanding that the chain of command is something that these officers are trained to not only observe, but to follow at great pain.
And so I think it was an effective strategy for the defense and expected strategy for the defense to make clear that officer Chauvin was calling was calling shots and these officers were merely following directions. The big question, of course, will be for the prosecutor to show that what Officer Chauvin was doing was so outrageous, so lawless, in fact, that these officers were actually obliged to depart from his instructions and actually intervene and that'll be a question that the jury will have to weigh.
BURNETT: So LZ, one person who will likely be a witness to the trial, of course, is the person who was there, a Floyd's friend, Maurice Lester Hall. He was in the car when Floyd was arrested. He spoke today for the first time.'
He told The New York Times in part and I quote, "He was just crying out at that time for anyone to help because he was dying. I'm going to always remember seeing the fear in Floyd's face because he's such a king. That's what sticks with me, seeing a grown man cry before seeing a grown man die."
And, LZ, you talked about how people couldn't go anywhere and had to watch this video in a way perhaps that many Americans have not focused, frankly, on these horrific videos that have come in the past. This horrible moment. How important is this video in shaping the response that we're seeing across this country and frankly around the world right now?
GRANDERSON: I'm conflicted to answer that question. One, because of the video has been very effective in terms of getting the word out, building a coalition that, Erin, I've been covering protests and deaths of this nature for quite some time.
GRANDERSON: And participated in covering or being a part of the Rodney King protests back in the early '90s, so long, long time. So the video certainly has helped to rally people of different cultures and races and ages. I appreciate that.
But can you tell me which aspect of that video you've never seen before? Was it a part where you said I can't breathe? Was it a part in which an officer was there taking a play at person's life who's unarmed? Was it the lack of care during the process? Which aspect of this video has America not been exposed to already?
So, yes, on the one hand, the video was effective in helping to rally, but I also will ask the question of which part of the video hadn't we already see?
BURNETT: Yes, which raises the question of - and I know you're hopeful it'll be different, but that is the crucial question, right, facing this country as to whether change will happen because of this. I thank you both very much for your time.
You see Chicago people rallying still 10 days and people across this country are still coming out to have their voices be heard.
MURRAY: Thank you.
BURNETT: And next President Trump is facing an unprecedented revolt for his military leaders about what he wants to do to those very crowds, right, threatening to have the U.S. Military suppress the protests. Tonight, the former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff under President George W. Bush, retired four-star Gen. Richard Myers is OUTFRONT. An OUTFRONT exclusive.
Plus, the White House adding more fencing, more barriers around the White House tonight despite several nights of peaceful protests.
And another man who cried out I can't breathe dies in police custody, what happened?
BURNETT: Tonight, military heavyweights rebuking the President of the United States. John Kelly, a retired Marine, four-star General President Trump's former Chief of Staff - OK, I'm sorry about that. We'll be going to that in just a moment.
I want to take you right now, though, to Washington and our own Brian Todd, who is there at the Lincoln Memorial where there are live protests going on right now. Brian, what are you seeing?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Erin, we had a group of several hundred protesters here just a short time ago. They're now joined by several hundred others marching from another part of town. I don't know if they're coming from Lafayette Square near the White House or if they're coming from somewhere else.
But this crowd is about to get a lot bigger. The narrative here tonight is it's been very peaceful and that the confrontational attitude between the protesters and the police has really diminished tonight to the point where there really hasn't been any confrontation. The police and the National Guard have completely drawn back.
The curfew here has been canceled as it has in a couple of other cities we know. I'll have our photojournalist, Eddie Gross (ph), kind of take you in there and he'll lift this camera up a little bit as you see this group kind of marching to join this group here. Several spirited speeches here at the foot of the Lincoln Memorial.
Again, a far cry, Erin, from what it's been over the past several nights. When here there was some graffiti placed. There was some graffiti placed across the reflecting pond there, the World War II Memorial protests got ugly with tear gas here in Washington a couple of nights this week.
But again, the Mayor of D.C. Muriel Bowser has said she wants federal troops that have been here, she wants them out of the city. That means about 4,500 National Guardsmen from about 10 states. Now, they all haven't left yet, but we can see.
There's a marked difference in the way this is unfolding from the past few nights. The law enforcement presence is not visible. They have drawn back. National Guard troops have drawn back and it's been very peaceful so far. This crowd is about to get a lot bigger, Erin.
BURNETT: All right. Well, we'll see what will happen but, obviously, as we can see very, very peaceful right now. But interesting as that presence pulls back how much bigger that crowd is going to get. All right. Thank you very much, Brian. We'll be checking back in with you.
And as we're watching what's happening there and, of course, crowds building here in New York as well. It is just after that memorial for George Floyd which included calls for change in how black Americans are treated.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CRUMP: When we fight for the George Floyds of the world, but more importantly, when we fight for the unknown George Floyds of the world, when we fight for the Trayvon Martins of the world, when we fight for the Terence Crutchers of the world, when we fight for the Michael Browns of the world, when we fight for the Alton Sterlings of the world, when we fight for the Philando Castiles of the world, when we fight for the 1920 [00:02:12] of the world, when we fight for the Eric Gardners of the world, when we fight for the Sandra Blands of the world, when we fight for the Aumaud Aubreys of the world, when we fight for the Breonna Taylors of the world, when we fight for the Natasha McKennas of the world, when we fight for Stephen Clark of the world, when we fight for the list of these, what we are well we are really doing is helping America come live up to its creed.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: A very powerful moment. And OUTFRONT now, family members of two of the people you just heard Benjamin Crump mention; Clarence Castile is with me, his nephew Philando Castile was 32 when he was shot and killed by a police officer in Minnesota during a traffic stop. His girlfriend says the officer fired as he reached for his ID. And Sybrina Fulton, Trayvon Martin's mother. He was 17 when he was shot and killed by George Zimmerman, the neighborhood watch volunteer while Trayvon was walking home from a convenience store.
Sybrina is now running for a seat on the Miami-Dade County Commission. And Sybrina, let me start with you. That moment is one that is poignant for anyone watching. But for you as Trayvon's mother, what were you feeling as you heard your son's name from Benjamin Crump today?
SYBRINA FULTON: When I've heard my son name the last probably eight years, but it still hurts a great deal, but I have a lot of respect for people that continue to say Trayvon Martin. I have a lot of respect for them. It shows their support. It shows that they have not forgotten about Trayvon and the other people that you don't know about their names.
BURNETT: Clarence, I want to play something else from today's memorial and this is a brother of George Floyd. Here he is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
P FLOYD: It's crazy, man. All of these people came to see me my brother and that's amazing to me that he touched so many people hearts, because he's been touching our hearts. Everybody want justice. We want justice for George. He's going to get it. He's going to get it. (END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Clarence, we have seen protests across the nation demanding justice for George Floyd, protest that we've never really seen anything like in recent years. I mean have you ever experienced anything like we're seeing now for the 10th night live pictures of Fort Worth tonight, everyone gathering across this country.
CLARENCE CASTILE, NEPHEW, PHILANDO CASTILE, WAS KILLED DURING 2016 POLICE STOP: Well, good evening, Erin and Sybrina, first of all. But throughout my 59 years on this earth, I've never seen anything like this. But with all the loss of lives and death that's going on in our country, it's time for us to stand up and say enough is enough.
And this is a prime example of what it would be in working it can turn into in the future if we don't make some changes and gets some accountability.
BURNETT: Sybrina, after the not guilty verdict in your son's death, a moment that shocked so many in this country. Then President Obama gave a powerful speech, right, amidst that outrage over that verdict, he spoke and said that what happened to your son could have happened to any young African-American man including himself. Here's what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: When Trayvon Martin was first shot, I said that this could have been my son. Another way of saying that is a Trayvon Martin could have been me 35 years ago.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Sybrina, it was a moment that so many turned to in the outrage over that verdict. What are you looking to hear from leaders right now and from who?
FULTON: Well, we've seen some of the leaders that have come out such as Rev. Sharpton, Jesse Jackson, Jamal Bryant even Benjamin Crump. We saw the grassroots organizers to come out as well. But what I'm hoping to see is I want people to understand that the arrest of those officers for George is the first step and you really still have hope when there's an arrest and that's what we needed.
We needed to have an arrest. But now we need to make sure that they get all of their court hearings and the process continues so that they can get a prosecution, so that they can get a conviction, so that we can know that the person who took a life, who took George Floyd's life to make sure that that person is held accountable.
All too often, there's a loss of life that result of African-Americans and nobody is held accountable. And so this is the time where we were able to see the video because have we not saw a video, there would be a different narrative. And so the video was in place, we did not see your struggle, we did not see him resisting arrest and so they need to answer why did they take his life, why did that officer take his life and why didn't the other officers respond to what they were seeing. Blatantly we saw a man being killed because of the color of his skin.
BURNETT: I know that both of you have now changed your lives in so many ways with the great loss that you have endured and also you have turned that though to political action. Sybrina, you're now running for council. Clarence you have become a reserve police officer to try to improve relations between the community and police after your nephew was killed.
What message do you have for the Floyd family, for this country about what can be done between police and communities of color.
CASTILE: I would say to the Floyd family to keep the faith and believe that justice can be done. I was (inaudible) the same thing, keep the faith. I mean, if you can be a part of the process, learn to be a part of the process and become a part of the solution.
Our young people need to know that they can get educations, get jobs as lawyers, politicians, police officers and be able to protect your communities along with yourselves and your family.
BURNETT: All right. I appreciate both of your time so very much and I thank you.
CASTILE: Thank you, Erin.
FULTON: Thank you, Erin.
BURNETT: And next, tensions escalating between the President and military leaders over handling the protests. And tonight the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff under President George W. Bush, retired four star Gen. Richard Myers will weigh in. Our exclusive.
Plus, the President beefing up security around Washington as the city's Mayor says she wants the out of state troops out of the District of Columbia. We're going to take you there live.
BURNETT: Tonight, military heavyweights rebuking the president of the United States. John Kelly, retired marine four-star general, President Trump's former chief of staff, defending former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis after Mattis slammed Trump in a scathing statement, calling him out on the Constitution, on his leadership and much more.
And they're far from the only ones. Former U.S. forces Afghanistan commander, General John Allen, says President Trump's threat to use the military to quell protests, quote, may well signal the beginning of the end of the American experiment.
In addition to Mattis and Allen, there's the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff under Presidents Bush and Obama, Admiral Mike Mullen, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff under President Obama, General Martin Dempsey, and former NATO supreme allied commander for Europe, Admiral James Stavridis.
And, of course, the current defense secretary, Mark Esper, has now split with the president over his threat to use the U.S. military against Americans.
Let's just remind everyone what the president said in his address from the Rose Garden to America.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If a city or state refuses to take the actions that are necessary to defend the life and property of their residents, then I will deploy the United States military and quickly solve the problem for them.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: OUFRONT now, in an exclusive interview, retired four-star general, Richard Myers, the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff under President George W. Bush and now the president of Kansas State University.
General Myers, I appreciate your time tonight.
What is your reaction to the president of the United States threatening to use U.S. troops against American protesters?
GEN. RICHARD MYERS (RET.), FORMER CHAIRMAN OF THE JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF UNDER PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: Well, I think you just have to go back to the Constitution and the Constitution under the First Amendment, and all the articles and amendments, of course. The First Amendment, you know, guarantees the American people the right to protest their government and ask for redress for grievances. And there's nothing -- that's in accordance with our Constitution. So the people are doing what the Constitution allows and they should be allowed to do it.
BURNETT: So, you know, when you see the events around the White House, and as it unfolded on Monday night, of course, batons, rubber bullets, tear -- pepper spray used to disperse a largely peaceful crowd so that the president, of course, you know, it was cleared so he could go across the street for that photo-op in front of St. John's Episcopal Church, what went through your mind as a former, you know, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, former top military official in this land, when you saw that, sir?
MYERS: Well, the first thing was, was just absolute sadness. That people aren't allowed to protest and that -- as I understand it, that was a peaceful protest that was disturbed by force and that's not right. That should not happen in America. And so I was sad. I mean, we should all shed tears over that, that particular act. The other thing I thought, and this is probably very selfish, I just
-- I said, I'm glad I don't have to advise this president, because it would be -- and I'm sure the senior military leadership is finding it really difficult these days to provide good, sound military advice.
BURNETT: Well, it seems he listens to what he wants to listen to. I mean, you talk about seeing that. One of the things, you know, as I was sitting here watching that was the defense secretary, Mark Esper, and the current Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman, Mark Milley, accompanied the president to St. John's. And now, Esper says he didn't know he was going to the church for the photo-op, he didn't understand what was actually happening and his defense official (ph) says the very same of Milley, they said he did not know what the president was going to do.
What do you make of this situation? I mean, do you think they were just taken advantage of and co-opted? And what does that mean?
MYERS: Well, that can happen. Things happen fast around the White House, as we all know. And I think Secretary Esper, I believe him, that he may not have known where he was going, and I thought his statements afterwards were very appropriate.
I haven't -- and I will not talk to General Milley, he's got enough on his plate, but I do not know how he felt about that.
I've been -- I've been in situations where sometimes, when I was still in office, where you sometimes wonder if they're going to use you for a certain thing and, you know, you try your best not to be that person. And so, I felt -- actually, I felt sorry for them, too, frankly, that they may have -- I don't know. I do not have facts. So, I don't know if they were placed in a position that they were uncomfortable with.
BURNETT: So, when -- you know, you say, you know, you believe Secretary Esper as -- you know, he said he didn't know it was happening. The former CIA director, General Michael Hayden, former colleague of yours, you know, he says Secretary Esper should resign because of all of this.
Do you agree with that or do you think that's a step too far?
MYERS: Listen, last thing I'm going to do is ask the secretary of defense to resign. These are -- these are very difficult jobs.
I thought Secretary Esper's statement afterwards was appropriate and, you know, I think he brought back some of the words that perhaps had been used earlier about, you know, dominating the battlespace or whatever those terms were -- really inappropriate.
Let's go back to the Constitution, which every military officer and every public servant swears to support and defend. And that is the First Amendment as part of that, which gives people the right to peacefully protest. And on that particular incident, they were peacefully protesting. And that's -- that was unconstitutional. BURNETT: You know, you left your post, obviously, in 2005. And
obviously, I know you're running a university now, but you don't speak out often, General Myers, you don't. Yet you're choosing to now. Why? Why is this moment so important to you?
MYERS: Well, I -- there's -- there's something about the Constitution, you know, all the power in the Constitution is described in Articles I and II and they go to civilians. So as a -- even a former military officer, a former senior military officer, I think -- I still respect civilian authority and I'm loathe to criticize political figures.
And I'm not doing that tonight, I don't believe. But the situation we're in right now, I think -- I know General Dempsey pretty well. I know how he thinks about these things.
Secretary Mattis, General Mattis, General Allen, they all -- and Admiral Mullen, they all think, take all of this very, very seriously. They want our military to be nonpartisan and apolitical, not only in deed, but perceived to be.
And so, one of the reasons I don't speak a lot is I don't want our military to be perceived as being political. That's another big danger to our country. There are lots of dangerous, but that's a big one if the military becomes politicized or is used for political purposes.
BURNETT: It is -- it is an incredible moment in time, though, when you have all of these senior -- you know, you have people in the Defense Department, of course, who have stood up -- stood up now against what the president said and now leaders like yourself.
You know, that you feel this about the Constitution. You feel this about the moment. So you may not want to be political, but the person who's doing it, of course, is a politician, is the president of the United States.
And in another major development today, Lisa Murkowski, you know, the Republican senator who, you know, has often had -- you know, faced moral quandaries about how to handle things with this president, says she supports what General Mattis says and, in fact, she is struggling over whether to support the president in the next election.
I know you don't want to be political, but can you square a circle where the president is violating the Constitution and Republicans are still supporting him? High-level Republicans?
MYERS: I'll try it another way, Erin, because I'm kind of on one side of this argument, I know, but, you know, it's not the military that judges the person that the people elect. That's for the people to do in elections. That's for the Congress to do. And it's for the courts to do.
So we have two other branches of government that share power with the executive branch. And they're -- they are the ones that will ultimately -- and the people, ultimately judge the president. That's not for the military to do.
When the military gets in the position of judging the president, then we're no better than some of these republics where the military conducts a coup and off you go. That's not -- that's not where we want to be. I don't think we're close to being there, but I -- but there's always danger that things can go too far.
So, that's why I prefer to stay on the solid ground of what we support -- support and defend. That's the Constitution. And clearly, peaceful protests are part of the people's rights. And I'll protest alongside with -- alongside them.
BURNETT: Well, I appreciate your time so very much, General Myers. A powerful interview (ph).
MYERS: Thank you, Erin.
BURNETT: And OUTFRONT next, Attorney General Bill Barr defending his decision to use that force to remove protesters on Monday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAM BARR, ATTORNEY GENERAL: Projectiles being thrown and the group was becoming increasingly unruly.
(END VIDEOI CLIP)
BURNETT: Of course, it wasn't. And our reporter who was there is going to give you the facts.
And another black man who said "I can't breathe" dies in custody. His death ruled a homicide.
BURNETT: Breaking news. A U.S. Secret Service spokesperson telling CNN tonight that the fencing built around the White House will stay up until June 10th. President Trump beefing up those physical barriers today, and we can show you more fencing, and those fences are really high. They usually put them up around inauguration time around the White House, when you have those massive crowds. Obviously, also putting those concrete barriers moved into place.
And this comes as they've had consecutive days of peaceful protests. Trump calling Washington, D.C., actually, the safest place on earth. Not sure why you need to put that up then.
Alex Marquardt joins me now. He's there. Alex, for the first night in four days, where you are, no curfew. Brian Todd at the Lincoln Memorial was there saying crowds were getting bigger and bigger there. The mayor of D.C. says she doesn't want troops in the city.
So what are you seeing? ALEXANDER MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right,
Erin. And really, the fact that there is no curfew speaks to the peaceful protests that we have seen over the past few days. There were no arrests last night. The protesters had been pushed farther away from the White House. As you can see, we are much closer today.
But as you say, those fences there have been reinforced. There's a second layer there. There are big concrete blocks. There's a huge crowd out here tonight that has assembled once again at the White House. There have been protests all over the city.
Earlier today, we were at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, where thousands of people, mainly young people, high school aged, college aged, they turned out and kneeled in protest for eight minutes and 45 seconds. Of course, that was the length of time that George Floyd had a knee on his neck.
And to the mayor's point, the fact that protests have been so peaceful over the past few days, that reinforces her argument that this huge patchwork of federal agencies, federal law enforcement out in the streets of D.C. really is overkill. And the mayor slammed President Trump earlier today, saying that it was for the glorification of a man who is scared and alone -- Erin.
BURNETT: So Attorney General Bill Barr today defended the use of force on those peaceful protesters outside the White House. Here's how he explained it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARR: Projectiles being thrown and the group was becoming increasingly unruly. And the operation -- they were asked three times if they would move back one block. They refused.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Is that what you saw on Monday, Alex?
MARQUARDT: No, Erin, that's not at all what we saw. Of course, I can only speak to what we saw, but over the course of three and a half hours before that violent crackdown began, we saw not one projectile that was thrown at the police, we saw no violence that was aimed at the police, we didn't hear any mass warning given to the protesters to clear out.
They might have warned the protesters as they started their advance, of course. That would have been too late. Did the protesters throw something at them as they started their advance? That is possible.
But what is clear is those advancing forcing were firing all manner of projectiles at those protesters that made them cough, choke, tear up. This was a peaceful protest that was violently cracked down upon, Erin.
BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, Alex Marquardt. And that is the bottom line, it was a peaceful protest. And OUTFORNT next, police in Florida investigating a arrest that shows
an officer using his knee to pin a black American to the ground.
Plus, corporate America stepping up with things we've never seen before. All these statements coming out about race. Why now?
BURNETT: All right, these are live pictures. This is Denver. Protesters gathered in a dark. As you see across this country, in honor of the memorial of George Floyd. This is now the tenth day running of protests.
We are following the story now with echoes of George Floyd's tragedy. The county medical examiner ruling it a homicide after a black man was physically restrained while in the custody of the Tacoma Police Department. The man told the officers, quote, "I can't breathe", according to the sheriff's department.
OUTFRONT now, the Houston police chief, Art Acevedo, who has been an influential voice on police tactics.
And I really appreciate your time, Chief. You know, the man who died, got in a physical struggle with police, but this is the narrative. This is the case. This is the "I can't breathe" coming as this country is on edge.
What do you do about it?
CHIEF ART ACEVEDO, HOUSTON POLICE: Well, I haven't seen that case yet, haven't reviewed it, but you have to start by having a national law that prohibits the use of the chokehold of carotid, any type of control hold involving the neck, because in 2020, that really cannot be allowed. It's too dangerous. The only circumstance where anyone should be handling somebody's neck is if you're in a fight for your life and where deadly force would be authorized.
So, that's step one, and I'm hopeful that that will get done sooner rather than later.
BURNETT: So, let me ask you, Chief. You know, police in Sarasota, in Florida, are investigating an arrest from last month that we have video of, showing an officer putting his on a black man's neck to pin him to the ground. They say he was arresting arrest. The officer has been placed on leave.
So, is that what you're talking about literally, that you're talking about the carotid artery? But that knee on the back of the neck, that that should cease to occur?
ACEVEDO: The neck is a very sensitive area. Unless you are in a deadly force situation where you're in a fight for your life and where deadly force is authorized or would be authorized and objectively reasonable, we need a national prohibition against using the neck to control a suspect.
You can end up paralyzed or dead, and I don't know which one would be worse, but the bottom line is both would be extremely unfortunate.
BURNETT: So why does this keep happening? And how hard is it to get something on the national level?
ACEVEDO: We have 18,000 police departments in this country. That's 18,000 police departments with 800,000 police officers, most are honorable hard working professionals.
But departments are not all the same in terms of the training, the standards, the policies. And that we really need to take a look at our -- more critical policies we have and our more critical training in the case of those policies, and try to have an application that fits nationwide because whatever happens in the world of information, everything that happens, here we are, something happens in Minnesota, it impacts the standing and the relationship with police everywhere, whether Ferguson or Minneapolis or Houston or anywhere else.
BURNETT: And so, you know, in Houston, obviously, you faced questions as well. You're under pressure to release body camera video of Houston police officers that have occurred since mid April. So, what are you going to do about that? And is that something that is part of the solution?
ACEVEDO: Yeah, I think that the community made a huge investment in body-worn cameras. I think as a result the accountability continues to go up. But we have to have, again -- we can't have 18,000 policies because they're all used to impeach each other.
But we also have to take a step back and have a conversation as to when it's appropriate. There are unintended consequence when an officer in this city were to be charged with a crime out of a use of force, then there is so much publicity because we released everything, this is a diverse community. Next thing you know, we have a change of venue to east Texas or west Texas where it's not as diverse as this and you end up with an acquittal and now you just opened another can of worms.
So, we have to have that conversation. I'm in support of releasing body-worn cameras. We also have to look at what the families of the deceased want because I think that they need to have some say under some circumstances. And let's not forget that the six that we're talking about, individuals were armed.
They attacked officers in some. There were fights involved. And there was weapons involved and we shouldn't lose sight of that. But I'm not opposed to it, but we have to be thoughtful and look at all the unintended consequence.
BURNETT: All right. Well, I appreciate your time very much, Chief Acevedo. Thank you.
ACEVEDO: Thank you.
BURNETT: And corporate America now coming out again and again they're just on top of each other to get these statements out in ways we've not seen before.
Abby Philip is OUTFRONT.
ABBY PHILLIP, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It started as a trickle. Silicon Valley companies like Salesforce and Apple speaking out days after the killing of George Floyd, but now it has become an avalanche, as corporate America breaks its silence on race amid nationwide protests.
PROTESTERS: Don't shoot.
PHILLIP: The leaders of America's most powerful businesses are facing pressure from their customers and employees to act.
MARK STEWART, CHIEF OPERATING OFFICER, NORTH AMERICA FIAT CHRYSLER AUTOMOBILES: I say to you today, no more. No more. Racism of any kind is decisive -- divisive. It's ugly. And it brings about the worst of humanity.
PHILLIP: Ben & Jerry's, the Vermont-based ice cream company that is no stranger to activism, offering one of the most strongly worded statements, calling for concrete steps to dismantle white supremacy in all its forms.
CHRIS MILLER, BEN & JERRY'S CORPORATE ACTIVISM MANAGER: In order for us to make the kind of progress that we need as a nation and as a society, it requires us to acknowledge and to embrace some hard truths.
PHILLIP: Nike flipping its iconic slogan "Just do it" on its head, now pleading, for once, don't do it. Don't turn your back on racism.
And nine of Detroit's largest businesses including General Motors CEO Mary Barra, now coming together to pledge that they will push for action.
MARY BARRA, GENERAL MOTORS CEO: We will stand up against injustice and that means taking the risk of expressing unpopular or polarizing points of view, because complacency and complicity sit in the shadow of silence.
PHILLIP: It's a dramatic change for predominantly white corporate America. But for some, the outpouring of support for protests rings hollow. Democratic Congresswoman Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez blasting companies for releasing bland statements with a hashtag, tweeting, your statement should include your org's internal commitments to change.
Activists also penning this statement from the National Football League which they noted failed to mention policing or racism at all. And it comes four years after NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick's protest against police brutality prompted a threat from the league to punish players who knelt during the national anthem.
Today something has changed, and for the companies like Ben & Jerry's that have long spoken out, it's overdue.
MILLER: Typically, what companies do is use that power to advance their own narrow self-interests. There is a cost to that. That if the rest of the society is burning down around us, can't have a healthy company in a sick society.
PHILLIP: Abby Philip, CNN, Washington.
BURNETT: And thank you all very much for joining us tonight. Our coverage continues now with Anderson and "AC360".