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THE SITUATION ROOM
Remembering George Floyd; Interview with NAACP President Derrick Johnson and Martin Luther King III. Aired 6-7p ET
Aired June 4, 2020 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: We want to welcome our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM on this national day of mourning for George Floyd.
A very stirring memorial service wrapping up in Minneapolis just a little while ago, family members and civil rights activists making new appeals for Floyd's death to spark real change and racial understanding in the country.
Mourners standing silently for eight minutes and 46 seconds. That's the amount of time Floyd had a police officer's knee on his neck.
Tonight, all four of the fired police officers who were at the scene face criminal charges. The three charges accomplices to murder appearing in court for the first time, their bail now set at a minimum of $750,000, this as widespread outrage over the killing of an African-American man in police custody continues to play out on the streets around the United States.
We're following protests in multiple cities right now.
Let's go first to CNN's Miguel Marquez. He's in Minneapolis for us.
Miguel, a lot of emotion where you are, as George Floyd was honored.
MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Just an incredibly emotional and difficult day here in Minneapolis and across the country.
The long goodbye to George Floyd has begun. The officers implicated in his death are now arrested and charged. And the people who have gathered here at his memorial are hoping that today is the beginning of real change.
MARQUEZ (voice-over): Moments of prayer and reflection at the first memorial service for George Floyd.
PHILONISE FLOYD, BROTHER OF GEORGE FLOYD: Everybody wants justice. We want justice for George. He's going to get it. He's going to get it. RODNEY FLOYD, BROTHER OF GEORGE FLOYD: I want you guys to know that he
would stand up for any injustice everywhere. Whew.
Can you all please say his name?
AUDIENCE: George Floyd.
R. FLOYD: Thank you all. Oh, my God.
MARQUEZ: As a city and the country mourn Floyd, killed by Minneapolis police, which has sparked 10 days of protest and outrage.
REV. AL SHARPTON, CIVIL RIGHTS ACTIVIST: The reason why we are marching all over the world is, we were like George. We couldn't breathe, not because there was something wrong with our lungs, but that you wouldn't take your knee off our neck.
We don't want no favors. Just kept up off of us, and we can be and do whatever we can be.
MARQUEZ: The three former police officers that either held Floyd down or stood by and watched made their first court appearance after being charged with aiding and abetting, second-degree murder, all being held on at least $750,000 in bail.
Police here have released highly redacted personnel records on the four officers, including a 2007 incident where Derek Chauvin, now charged with second-degree murder, was reprimanded after claims he needlessly removed a woman from her car.
KEITH ELLISON, MINNESOTA ATTORNEY GENERAL: It's very difficult to hold the police accountable even when there is a violation of law.
MARQUEZ: And there are new details from a friend who was in the car with Floyd during the arrest.
Maurice Lester Hall telling "The New York Times": "He was from the beginning trying in his humble form to show he was not resisting in no form or way. I could hear him pleading, 'Please, officer, what's all this for?'"
Today, thousands protested by walking across the Brooklyn Bridge, joined by Floyd's brother Terrence.
And as Floyd's life is remembered in Minneapolis, new questions are being raised about other cases of police using controversial neck restraints in Tacoma, Washington, Sarasota, Florida, and Sacramento.
SHARPTON: This is the time. We won't stop. We are going to go keep going until we change the whole system of justice.
MARQUEZ: Now, I want to give you a sense of just this area that -- where George Floyd died. It has become not only a memorial, but it's also become a community gathering place, where they are giving out -- people are donating from across the city and probably around the world to groceries diapers. You can even register to vote over here.
That's where the main stage has now been set up, which is -- only grows and get bigger by the day. This has become a place that all people from this city are now celebrating what they hope is going to be better days ahead and reform within the justice system here and across the country -- Wolf.
BLITZER: And let's hope that happens.
All right, Miguel Marquez in Minneapolis, thank you very much.
I want to go to the streets of New York right now, the protesters marching in George Floyd's memory.
Shimon Prokupecz is on the scene for us.
So, Shimon, set the scene for us. Tell us where you are and what's going on.
SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: So, Wolf, we're in Lower Manhattan in Foley Square. There are several hundred marchers here.
They came from Brooklyn. They were at the vigil for George Floyd in Brooklyn. You can see there's a banner here with "Justice for George Floyd."
And they have gathered here, after coming over the bridge to Foley Square. And what's really interesting here is, there are several police officers that are lined up here. And for the past several minutes, the demonstrators have just been chanting at the police officers and they have been standing here. And it's been peaceful.
The other thing, Wolf, which has been really most -- what has been interesting is just diverse a lot of the crowds, a lot of the marchers are throughout New York City. I was up at one uptown by Gracie Mansion. We were seeing the same thing there.
And just all across the city, there are several marches and demonstrations and of all sorts of different people and age, and really just people continuing to come together and express their feelings about what's happened, their anger and their emotion.
And so this will go on through the night, Wolf. As you know, this has been going on for several days. There is that curfew until 8:00. And so we will see what happens. But this is going to go on here for several more hours probably, Wolf.
BLITZER: I'm sure it will, not only there, but in other cities as well. Shimon, we will get back to you.
I want to go to Brian Todd. He's here in Washington, D.C. They're marching, the protesters.
Tell us where you're marching from and where you're heading, Brian.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, we're marching from the area of the White House. They say they're going to go to the Lincoln Memorial.
We have got a few more blocks to go. One thing that we have come to really respect about these protesters, many things, but one thing is that they are always in motion. They are mobile. We have been in Philadelphia. We have been in Washington, D.C., since midweek last week. And these people cover a lot of miles.
I think, between the two cities, I have walked about 50 miles in the last five days. So, what we're looking at now, tonight, is that city officials and protesters are hoping that this is going to be kind of a transition period into a new period of protests that departs from the past several days, a period where police are kind of not around, at least not immediately in the vicinity.
That's been the case so far tonight in Washington, a period where the police and the protesters work a little bit more hand in hand and do not have that kind of confrontation that they have had over the past several nights.
So far, so good tonight. It's been very peaceful. And what's been extraordinary is, law enforcement has really held back, no National Guard presence in the immediate vicinity of these protesters. The mayor wants them out of the city. And the mayor is extending a leap of faith in the protesters tonight by canceling a curfew for Washington, D.C.
No curfew. So, they're relying on these protesters to be peaceful. We will see if it gets there tonight, Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, let us know when you got over to the Lincoln Memorial. I'm anxious to see that see the setting over there as well.
All right, Brian Todd.
He's walking with the marchers here in Washington, D.C. They're from the White House, as he said, heading over to the Lincoln Memorial.
Joining us now to discuss everything we're seeing, the civil rights activist Martin Luther King III. He's the son, of course, of the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. He's joining us from Minneapolis, where he attended the memorial service for George Floyd today. Also with us is Derrick Johnson, the president and CEO of the NAACP.
To both of you gentlemen, thanks so much for joining us.
And, Martin, I know you attended George Floyd's a service, memorial service today. Take us inside the room where you heard very, very powerful and emotional words of remembrance from the family, powerful words from the Reverend Al Sharpton, among others.
So, what stood out to you?
MARTIN LUTHER KING III, PRESIDENT & CEO, REALIZING THE DREAM: What probably most stood out was the eight minutes and 46 seconds that we all stood up at the end of the service to realize that, for eight minutes and 46 seconds, an officer stood on a man's neck, and we all, the world, saw life breathe -- come out of this man.
But that was the most emotional moment for all of us.
BLITZER: It certainly was a very powerful, emotional moment.
And, Derrick, I know you weren't there, but you were watching it, obviously, very closely. This was the first of several memorial services honoring Floyd's life.
What does this moment represent from your perspective?
DERRICK JOHNSON, NAACP PRESIDENT: Well, it can represent several things.
It's the Emmett Till moment, when they had the funeral and opened the casket. It's is the Edmund Pettus Bridge moment, where John Lewis was beat on the bridge. And now it is time to walk across the bridge to get true reform and address structural racism.
But to walk across the bridge now is to walk to the polls on November 3, because all of what we're looking at is a result of bad public policy, systemic racism, and decades of neglect.
That neglect amounts to treating African-Americans and many other communities as if we're not full citizens, as if we're not full humans.
BLITZER: Martin, during the memorial service today, Reverend Sharpton specifically mentioned you during the service.
I want you to listen to what he said about this new era in the fight for civil rights here in the United States.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: We're going back to Washington, Martin.
That's where your father stood in the shadows of the Lincoln Memorial and said, I have a dream. Well, we are going back this August 28 to restart and recommit that dream, to stand up, because, just like in one era we had to fight slavery, another era we had to fight Jim Crow, another era we dealt with voting rights, this is the era to deal with policing and criminal justice.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: All right, Martin, so does this new era bring with it renewed hope, from your perspective?
KING: Well, it certainly does, because, while we are dealing with justice in the United States, people all over the world are demonstrating.
There has never been an incident -- the death of George Floyd galvanized the world for this time. There's nothing more powerful in all the world than an idea whose time has come. And institutional structures have to be restructured, so that justice can be received for all human beings.
This was obviously beyond an inhumane act. I don't know where the humanity is in America. We have got to call the humanity back. We're seeing the humanity, though, in many of these protests that we see throughout our nation and around the world.
BLITZER: Derrick, I know you addressed the issue of police brutality in a powerful new article in "The Guardian."
And I want to read a sentence or two from what you -- from what you wrote. You wrote this: "Too many black people in America are dying," you write. "Too many black people in America are dying. We die driving our cars. We die playing outside. We die baby-sitting. We die eating ice cream. We die sleeping in our own beds. We die and die and die at the hands of the police, who are sworn to serve and protect us."
When you see these diverse crowds gathering across the country day after day, a lot of young people out there protesting against the injustice that still very much exists in our country, do you feel we're finally reaching a potential turning point?
I think many people heard the cry from George Floyd. And it was a cry that many mothers, particularly black mothers, and say, this is not right. Any parent to see someone taking his last breath, saying, "I cannot breathe" and then begin to call on their mother, their deceased mother, and this -- just the inhumanity of that, eight minutes and 46 seconds.
We are done dying. It's time for all of us, black and white alike, to stand up and march to the polls in November. I keep going back to that point, because the demonstrations and the marches are absolutely crucial, but the change happens with public policy, which only can happen if people rise up across all of our communities and say, this is enough, and elect individuals who are accountable to the needs and interests of humanity, of our community, of all of our communities.
We are done dying.
BLITZER: Derrick Johnson, thanks very much for joining us.
Martin Luther King III, thanks to you as well.
We will stay in -- clearly stay in very close touch with both of you. Appreciate it very much. We're watching demonstrations, peaceful demonstrations, unfold here in
the United States right now. We have more information coming in.
Much more of our coverage right after this.
BLITZER: Peaceful protests continue around the United States right now, in New York, here in Washington, in Atlanta as well.
In Washington, they have been marching from the White House area over back towards the Lincoln Memorial. Brian Todd is with them. We will check back with him shortly, once they get to the Lincoln Memorial.
In the meantime, I want to bring in CNN political commentator Bakari Sellers. He's a former South Carolina state representative. And W. Kamau Bell, he's the host and executive producer of CNN's "UNITED SHADES OF AMERICA."
Kamau, while speaking at George Floyd's memorial service, Reverend Sharpton different -- referred in different -- to different areas in the fight for civil rights here in the United States. He pointed out from slavery to Jim Crow to voting rights to what we're seeing as this current era dealing with policing and criminal justice.
I'm anxious to hear how you see this moment.
W. KAMAU BELL, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I mean, this definitely feels like a turning point. And I think we can't separate that from the global pandemic.
People are at home now. People have the time to take in this news. A lot of times, when a video comes out of a black person being killed by a cop, black people are the ones who seek it out. White people will often reject it or even think they saw it, when they didn't see it.
But right now, everybody has the time to watch this and everybody is home already watching the news. So that's what makes this moment different. And people are -- there's already a level of desperation out there and a level of panic, and mental health is all over the place right now. So, this just adds to that.
BLITZER: It certainly does.
Bakari, today, we saw the celebration of George Floyd's life. You called it his home-going. But this celebration comes after so much pain. What did today's memorial service mean to you?
BAKARI SELLERS, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, Wolf, first today was just that it was a celebration, from Hezekiah Walker to Al Sharpton.
I mean, my heart broke, because we're used to seeing even Jesse Jackson deliver those words. But when you think about -- if you want to look at it through the context and the lens of both Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, just think about how many of these funerals they have actually preached, how many of these families they have actually comforted.
Today was a day where we set that aside, because it was a day for healing. And black people in this country are a perpetual state of grieving. And this is another one of those steps.
And this was a moment for the Floyd family, for this country to wrap their arms around him. Now, I'm only 35 years old, but I have seen way too many of these funerals of individuals who have died at the hands of law enforcement or, like my good friend Clementa Pinckney, who died because of the color of their skin.
And while I think this moment has the capacity and potential to be different, I want someone to actually prove me wrong with the steps they're taking after this moment of grief, because, Wolf, I want to know how many times we have to walk behind a casket like the one we had today with George Floyd before things actually change.
I mean, how many times do we have to do this, from Emmett, to Medgar, to Jimmie Lee Jackson, to Goodman, Schwerner, Chaney, to Henry Smith, Samuel Hammond, and Delano Middleton. Fast-forward to the people that we're burying during my lifetime.
I mean, I'm sick and tired of being sick and tired, to quote Fannie Lou Hamer, but, today, I just wanted to lift that family up, lift his daughter up, because, as she said from the shoulders of Stephen Jackson, her daddy changed the world.
BLITZER: Yes, I think she's right. She's only 6 years old.
Kamau, I want you to listen to something that the Reverend Al Sharpton said today during the memorial service. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: What happened to Floyd happens every day in this country in education, in health services, and in every area of American life. It's time for us to stand up in George's name and say, get your knee off our necks.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: All right, very powerful statements.
Kamau, will it lead people to examine their own actions?
BELL: I hope so.
But I have to say, I'm not that hopeful for it, because it's going to take a lot of work to change the system. I mean, let's be clear. While we have a big celebration for George Floyd, and he certainly deserves it and I'm happy his family is there, other black people died in and around this moment too. Tony McDade, Breonna Taylor, these are other black people who were killed by police officers who aren't going to get this kind of celebration. I see this as a celebration for all of them. But we can't act like that George Floyd is the only one.
If we want to really -- if we want to uplift this, we have to think about all the black folks who are dying at the hands of police.
BLITZER: Well, that's an important point, which raises the next question, Bakari. The Reverend Sharpton also said what happened to Floyd happens every day in this country.
He said, those words come as -- actually as we're learning some new and very harrowing new details about the murder of Ahmaud Arbery. I know you have been following that case closely. How disturbing are all these new details that are emerging, the details that came out in today's hearing?
SELLERS: You know, Wolf, I say this on the air often because I want it to sink into people's psyche, but there is a large segment of the population that does not give black people the benefit of their humanity.
And what I mean by that is, you cannot put your knee on George Floyd's neck for eight minutes, 40-some seconds and think that he's actually human.
In the Ahmaud Arbery case today, we found out that one of the gentlemen stood over him and called him an F-ing nigger. We cannot allow this to fester, because it is killing black people.
I mean, we know the type of hate, we know the lack of humanity, that people are looking at people of color within this country, and neither Ahmad, nor Breonna, nor David, nor George got the benefit of their humanity.
And to think about the last words that Ahmaud probably heard as someone was standing over him and taking his life being that degrading, for someone to kill someone and stand over them and say these things, I mean, that, for me, is visceral.
So, you go from grief to anger. And to be black in America -- Kamau is going to have to text me after this, because we have to check in with each other for mental health, because you go through these wide ranges of emotion just because of the color of your skin.
BLITZER: And I know you speak passionately. Both of you do. And I want to thank both of you.
An important note to our viewers. Bakari has a new book that has just come out. There you see the book cover, "My Vanishing Country: A Memoir."
Go ahead, get this book, read it. It's important. Guys, thanks very much for joining us.
BELL: Wolf, can I just say something nice? Can I just say something nice to Bakari?
BLITZER: Go ahead.
BELL: Because I think we have to share joy right now.
And I want to share joy with my brother, because I have seen you on TV all day talking to this stuff. You're paid for it, but this is a hard day at work.
I just want to say to you, my brother, you are wearing this pandemic well. I love the beard. I love the afro. I got a hat on mine because I had to cover it up, because it's nappy, not right now.
But you look great, brother. You're wearing the pandemic well.
SELLERS: Thank you, brother. I love you too.
BLITZER: All right, good.
BELL: Love you.
BLITZER: Nice to hear from both of you.
I noticed, Kamau, you didn't say anything about my beard. But that's all right. Never mind. You don't have to mention that.
BLITZER: All right, just ahead: As protesters take to the streets of the nation's capital, the White House is fortifying its security and defending aggressive tactics.
We will be right back.
BLITZER: We're watching the protests develop all across the country. Once again, Brian Todd is here in Washington.
Brian, you guys have just marched, I take it, from the White House to the Lincoln Memorial. You are there at the Lincoln Memorial right now. Set the scene.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right, Wolf, very nice scene here at the Lincoln Memorial. They have come all the way from the White House, several blocks. This young man in the fatigue hat has been leading them. He's actually just -- he's leading the crowd in some chants. It looks -- we'll ask our photo journalist, Eddie, to elevate his camera a little bit, give you a sense of the crowd here. I'd say it's at least a few hundred who have come from the White House. Their message is one of non-violence.
It's been a very spirited and kind of a happy crowd, I have to say, tonight, contrasting to the other night when there was graffiti at placed near the Lincoln Memorial and, you know, the World War II Memorial across the reflecting pond from here.
You know, again, we've talk about all night how protesters, police and mayor's office alike want this to be a night when they work together. They want this to be a night when there isn't a confrontation that has occurred over the past several nights.
So far so good, Mayor Muriel Bowser of Washington D.C. has lifted the curfews. She has cancelled all the curfews for Washington D.C. We're also told that Louisville Kentucky and L.A. County in California have also cancelled curfews. So that message of trusting the protesters is not being sent just here in Washington D.C. but all across the country, Wolf. We don't know if these people are going to move from here. We'll move with them if they do.
BLITZER: You know, Brian, I wonder if your photo journalist can show us the steps of the Lincoln Memorial right now. Because the other day, when protesters arrived at the Lincoln Memorial, we did see National Guard troops, we saw law enforcement there, park police. I want to just see, set the scene for us on the stairs going up to the Lincoln Memorial.
TODD: Sure thing. Eddie they're asking if you could show the stairs to the Lincoln Memorial. And, Wolf, we do have law enforcement over here. Eddie is going to swing over and show it. I'm not here -- I was not here when the graffiti was placed the other day, so I don't know exactly where it may have been, but we know there was graffiti a placed around on here.
But now, a very peaceful scene, law enforcement, of course, is kind of laying back, as they did around the White House. No National Guardsmen were seen around the White House. Mayor Bowser said she wants the thousands of National Guardsmen who came in from out of town, she wants them back out of town.
We have been told by a senior defense official with some active duty military have left Washington D.C. Several hundreds have going back to Fort Bragg and other places. Actually I'm going to keep a little voice here down, there having a prayer here, Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, I let -- just go ahead. A very different scene on the stairs of the Lincoln Memorial this time as supposed to the other day, when there was a lot of law enforcement and National Guard troops almost shoulder to shoulder blocking anyone from going up those stairs.
All right, Brian, we'll get back to you. Thank you very much.
Let's go to back to the White House right now. Our Chief White House Correspondent, Jim Acosta, is joining us.
Jim, there are new barriers to try to keep protesters further and further away from the White House. Tell us about that.
JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. The Trump administration is building what increasingly looks like a fortress around the White House. Early this morning, crews began extending metal fencing, a steel wall if you will, from Pennsylvania Avenue virtually all the way down to Constitution Avenue across from the National Mall, where Brian Todd is right now. That is on top of the fencing that already surrounds the White House.
And in addition to that, there remains this militarized and police presence in Lafayette Park around the White House. It's getting this area the look of something out of an authoritarian country, I have to say. It's certainly not the image of the people's house that the White House is come to be known as.
And on top of all of that, White House officials say, quote, all options are on the table when it comes to dealing with these protesters. That's the kind of talk that you hear the White House offer up when discussing things like North Korea or Iran. Now, they're talking that way about the protesters.
In the meantime, Attorney General William Barr, is defending the use of force to clear out Lafayette Park before the president's church photo-op on Monday, saying authorities had hoped to establish a secured perimeter earlier in the day but ran out of time. That is the claim coming from the attorney general.
And as for the stinging statement from former Defense Secretary James Mattis that had jaws dropping across Washington, that statement about the president that was sparked in part by that scene on Monday.
Former White House Chief of Staff John Kelly is defending the retire general, telling The Washington Post that Mattis, is an honorable man in his words. He also disputed the president's claim that Mr. Trump fired Mattis. Kelly says Mattis resign and that the president, quote, has clearly forgotten how it all actually happened or is confused that from the former chief of staff, John Kelly.
And in response to that statement from Mattis, we should point out some Republicans are starting to side with Mattis. Alaskan Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski told reporters earlier today, she agrees with the former defense secretary that the president is dividing this country. And she added that she is struggling with whether or not she's going to support the president come this fall, Wolf.
BLITZER: Interesting. All right, Jim Acosta at the White House. Thanks very much.
We're following all of these protests. We're following all the breaking news, much more right after this.
[18:40:00] BLITZER: Following the protests in New York, here Washington. I want to go to Atlanta right now. Nick Valencia is on the scene for us there.
So, Nick, set the scene, what are you seeing, what are you hearing?
NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Seventh night of protests here for George Floyd in Atlanta. And it's by and large peaceful, Wolf. We've seen the crowd sort of thin out over the days, but, certainly, they're still passionate.
And we had a surprise guest earlier today. Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms made an unannounced appearance to try to talk to the demonstrators. She was met with mixed reaction. Some people not wanted to hear at all.
I want to introduce to somebody who's been trying to get a meeting with Mayor Bottoms. Two men have been video since the beginning. Tell us what you guys want, what's your message?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm Alexander Lewis (ph). This is Leonard (ph). We've been here every day. We want a meeting. We are not walking anymore. We're not waiting anymore. We want a meeting to talk about real police reform. No more screaming. We want a sensible meeting that's reported to talk about police reform.
VALENCIA: What did you think when she showed up, the mayor, and the police chief as well was here?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I want to know what the purpose was because she wasn't talking to the people. She wasn't to talking to the people. We want to talk.
VALENCIA: What will it take, what will it take, a meeting and then the demonstrations are over, or --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No. We are going to be out here every night. This is 400 years of trauma and pain. And we're tired. We're tired.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We need laws change. Laws have to be changed. Police have to be held accountable. Laws change, real documentation.
VALENCIA: I'm so glad you got to share your voice today on CNN. Good luck, stay safe tonight. Curfew still full effect at 9:00 P.M. You also see the National Guard -- I'm sorry, the SWAT team police, as well as others in tactical gear. It has gotten a little more heated in the last few minutes, but that just -- you know, account that up, chalk it up (ph) to the passion of the crowd. They're clearly very passionate about this. And they think it's just one man. They're fighting for 400 years, Wolf.
BLITZER: Yes, they certainly are. And we can hear it and we can see it.
All right, thanks very much, Nick Valencia in Atlanta. We'll check back with you. Much more of our coverage right after this. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
BLITZER: We are seeing live pictures coming in from Nashville, Tennessee. There's a protest going on there. You see some officers from the Metro Police, Nashville Metro Police, they're down on one knee. They're participating in these protests at the same time.
In fact, we are following protests under way now across the country as well as the very emotional first memorial service earlier in the day for George Floyd. Joining us now, the presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church here in the United States, the Reverend Michael Curry.
Bishop, thank you for joining us. I assume you watched this closely as we did, the George Floyd memorial service. He was remembered.
What's your message to those who knew him and to all of those who are mourning his life around the country and indeed around the world?
REV. MICHAEL CURRY, PRESIDING BISHOP, EPISCOPAL CHURCH: You know, one of the message is -- one of the messages really is a message of our condolence and support for his family. We have to as a nation gather around them in this time of sorrow.
But the other message may be that his death must not be in vain and the deaths of others like him who have been victims of excessive police force must not be in vain. This must be a time and Reverend Sharpton really did say that a time and an opportunity to turn a tragedy into a new way of history, a new way of being to do the kind of hard work of reform, of policing in this country, to do the hard work of actually coming together across all of our differences, political, religious ideological, racial, coming together as Americans, working together to solve our problems so that this doesn't happen anymore.
BLITZER: At the memorial service, Bishop Curry, we did hear the Reverend Al Sharpton, at one point, he seemed to make reference to President Trump's photo-op the other night in front of a church here in Washington.
Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REV. AL SHARPTON, PRESIDENT, NATIONAL ACTION NETWORK: I saw somebody standing in front of a church the other day that had been boarded up as a result of violence, held the bible in his hand. I have been preaching since I was a little boy, I never saw anyone anybody hold it like that. But I'll leave that alone.
But since he held the bible, if he's watching us today, I would like him to open that bible.
(END VIDEO CLIP) BLITZER: You yourself, Bishop Curry, you condemned that photo-op at the St. John's historic church here in Washington, the use of force of peaceful protesters that proceeded it. I imagine you probably agree with the reverend's sentiment?
CURRY: Yes, you know, I really do believe that the president could have gone over to the church and opened the Bible and read from it where it says, blessed are the peacemakers. Opened it and read from it where it says, do unto others where you would have them do unto you. Read from it where it says, you should love your neighbor as yourself, and then invited the nation to a moment of silent prayer, asking everyone to pray for God to help with us, to find our way, to come together and to heal our land.
That would have been an example of moral and spiritual leadership.
BLITZER: What will it take, Bishop Curry, for our nation to learn from this moment and heal?
CURRY: You know, I'm going to say something that may not sound relevant, but I think it's profoundly relevant. We must make a decision about what kind of people we are going to be. We must decide that we are going to be a people whose personal lives, whose social and political and corporate life is going to be governed by a way of love for each other that seeks the good and the welfare and the well- being of the other, as well as the self.
And if you make that kind of commitment and if I make that kind of commitment, if the president makes that kind of commitment, if Reverend Sharpton makes that kind of commitment, then we can sit down and hammer out our differences and find a way forward together. But it begins with the determination that we really want this country to be a shining city on the hill and let it begin, like the song says, "let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me."
BLITZER: Well said. Bishop Curry, thanks once again for joining us. Appreciate it very much.
CURRY: Thank you. God bless you, Wolf.
BLITZER: And God bless you, as well.
More news just ahead.
BLITZER: Let's turn to the global pandemic that continues right now. The U.S. coronavirus death toll climbs above 107,000. Some 1,000 Americans died in the past 24 hours alone from the coronavirus.
Our national correspondent, Kristen Holmes, is joining us. She's here in Washington. Kristen, the country is still very much in the grip of this pandemic.
KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, absolutely, Wolf. And today, we got to hear from the CDC director about those faulty testing kits. Take a listen to what he said about the agency and its accomplishments.
HOLMES (voice-over): After months of near silence during the global coronavirus pandemic, the head of America's top health agency finally speaking out.
DR. ROBERT REDFIELD, CDC DIRECTOR: As you know, we've now done over 17 million tests.
HOLMES: CDC Dr. Robert Redfield testified before Congress today, defending his agency which was criticized for faulty COVID tests in the early days of the outbreak, as the virus spread unchecked across the country.
REDFIELD: The CDC developed within ten days a test from the time the sequence was published. And that test is not a flawed test. It works perfectly.
HOLMES: The coronavirus pandemic isn't the first time Redfield has been embroiled in a controversy during a national health crisis. In 1992, the height of the AIDS epidemic in America, the then army doctor and top AIDS researcher was involved in another scandal. Redfield presented findings from a study he was doing on a vaccine treatment for HIV at a prestigious AIDS conference.
Dozens of interviews and internal documents obtained and reviewed by CNN revealed fellow researchers accused Redfield of scientific misconduct, claiming he oversold the data and cherry-picked the results. Multiple officials attempted to rerun his numbers but failed to replicate the same results he had.
An internal military memo calling for an investigation shows that Redfield continued to publicly tout the data despite assurances in private meetings that he understood his past presentations to be in error and that he would refrain from repeating that error.
After a months-long investigation, the Army did not charge Redfield with scientific misconduct. But the then-lieutenant colonel was found in violation of Army code for his relationship with a conservative AIDS organization run by evangelist Shepherd Smith. Redfield served on the group's scientific advisory board.
The Army determines Smith's organization received information from Redfield and his lab to a degree that is inappropriate and that the group appeared to be an outlet for marketing Lieutenant Colonel Redfield's research.
The allegations hung over Redfield until his retirement from the Army in 1996, years before ending up on the short list to become President Trump's CDC director.
REDFIELD: Thank you, Mr. President.
HOLMES: Several former collaborators told CNN they did not think Redfield was a good fit for the job.
Now, amidst the COVID pandemic, some CDC officials describe a deep frustration with Redfield, blaming him for the sidelining of the agency and not doing more to advocate on its behalf.
One doctor who retired from the CDC in 2019 said that under Redfield, the agency had been handicapped and lamented that Redfield is not as visible as some of his predecessors. Quote: From the outside, we don't see him, we don't hear him. He often doesn't even come to the White House press conference. When he does, it's usually as wallpaper, silent.
HOLMES: So, Wolf, some very harsh words there. Now, as for Redfield's standing within the administration, a senior administration official tells me that President Trump still has confidence in Redfield, but several others say it's not so much confidence as it is a desire not to have a big shake up during a pandemic -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Kristen Holmes reporting for us -- Kristen, thanks very much.
"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" continues our coverage right now.