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Buffalo Officers Suspended after Video Surfaces of Man being Pushed to Ground; Protests Continue over Death of George Floyd at Hands of Police; Preliminary Trial Begins for Suspects in Death of Ahmaud Arbery; Robert E. Lee Statue in Richmond Will be Removed; Big Companies Take a Stand Against Injustice. Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired June 5, 2020 - 08:00   ET


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All caught on video. And I want to give you a warning here. This is difficult to watch.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's bleeding out of his ear.



BERMAN: He's bleeding out of his ear you hear them say.

So the official reaction raising all kinds of questions. The officers have now been suspended without pay, but it should be noted the Buffalo police initially seemed to lie about the incident, claiming that the 75-year-old man tripped and fell. You can see right there he was pushed.

Meanwhile, thousands of Americans poured into the streets last night in city after city, hours after a memorial for George Floyd in Minneapolis. The protests have remained largely peaceful and curfews have been ended in Los Angeles and Washington. There is new evidence the president feels cornered this morning. He's promising to actively campaign against a Republican senator who has been critical of him. And despite the largely peaceful demonstrations in front of the White House, he's promoting this idea that the protesters are terrorists.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Now to those four police officers arrested in Minneapolis and charged in George Floyd's death. Two of them are rookie cops. It turns out they were on the job for just days when this happened. They're blaming their senior officer, Derek Chauvin, for George Floyd's death. He's the arresting officer who put his knee on Floyd's neck for nearly nine minutes.

Joining us now to sum up another tumultuous week and where we go from here, CNN political correspondent Abby Phillip and CNN political analyst David Gregory. Abby, sometimes after incidents like this when we've all lived through this before -- I could go through the litany of cases of unarmed black men who were killed by police -- sometimes when there is an arrest, the protests die down. But this time it feels different. It feels as though we're in a bit of a different conversation because I think we've all realized the arrest doesn't necessarily mean justice. And often, more times than not, there are not convictions. And Keith Ellison, the Minnesota attorney general who is leading the charge against these four officers, has already kind of I think tried to have us temper our expectations in terms of whether or not he'll be able to get a conviction against any of these officers. And so where do you think we are today, and what will happen next?

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: I think that caution from Keith Ellison was probably the right thing to convey to the public. It is very difficult to convict police officers in this country. But you're right that the protesters definitely -- they do care whether or not all four officers were charged. But at this point, the protests really are about the more systemic problems.

And I think as the protests go on, we're seeing more and more videos like the one that you just showed of that 75-year-old man being pushed to the ground, police officers using force in ways that I think people are finding to be inappropriate and unjustified. And all of that is feeding into this sense, in this country, that there is something wrong, there is something that needs to be addressed and perhaps -- and fixed.

And on top of that, I think what is contributing to what we're seeing is the scale of these protests actually growing over the last several days is the feeling that this particular government, this White House, this president does not care about what they are protesting about. They have not addressed this issue of systemic racism at all, even when you have all the living presidents who are still alive today speaking out and saying, yes, this is a problem.

And I think that is actually galvanizing protesters to get out into the streets and say it is not OK to just ignore us. And I think until we see some progress on that front, you're going to continue to see people out in the streets in this country.

BERMAN: I do think another thing that might be galvanizing, though, in a different sense is the feeling that they are being heard in some places, the charges in Minnesota. I think the social, the greater social context here, what happened with Drew Brees, where he issued a statement that was clearly offensive, and he apologized so quickly because he heard what people are saying, that might be galvanizing people, too.

And when we talk about the systemic issues, David, that video out of Buffalo, and I don't know if we can show it again here, just so people can see how disturbing it is there, the police initially said that this man in their report tripped. But that's not what happened. You see he was pushed, and they ultimately had to own that. So there's a systemic problem here if the first instinct among some in law enforcement is to cover it up. And the video is making a huge difference across the board here. DAVID GREGORY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: And I think that's what's been

so transformative about this moment, in terms of awareness and perhaps politically, is that you got injustice being recorded in a way that is very much in concert with our times.


But it's the exact moment that we're in. We're in the middle of a global pandemic, which has hit the African-American community so hard. You have income inequality that we have known about for so long now that's being exacerbated by this pandemic. And then in that very moment, then we have African-Americans being killed and being recorded or being the target of racism the way the Central Park incident shows.

I just think in a moment when so many of us indoors are paying attention to what is happening around us, there has just been a real moment. And I think there's a lot of white people who are looking at this saying, yes, this is our work. This is not just the grievance of the African-American community, this is our work to challenge the political system, to make it a priority. And I think at the end of the week, as I said in the last hour, we were spending some time talking about, of course, this is fueled by the president, that there were domestic terrorists and there were looters and anarchists and outsiders. The truth is that those who have been committing crimes as part of protests has been a minority. What you have seen this week is the power and the purposefulness of nationwide protests. And it sent a really strong message.

CAMEROTA: To your point, David, I think the General Mattis, I thought it was very interesting, this law and order, this paragon of law and order, this military general who said don't be distracted by the looting, and that takes us away from this conversation that he feels we're supposed to be having.

Abby, there is a poll, a new ABC News poll, I hope we have it to show everyone, but I can read it, this is how people feel about the president's handling of George Floyd's death -- 66 percent of respondents disapprove, only 32 percent approve. And that's just interesting to take the pulse of the American people right now. And I don't know if you think that that is part of what is giving people like Senator Lisa Murkowski the latitude to say out loud that she doesn't know if she's going to be able to support President Trump in the upcoming election.

PHILLIP: Yes, I think a lot of people like Murkowski were, frankly, horrified by what they saw this week, and by the lengths that they saw the president willing to go in order to push this narrative about protesters for political purposes. And it is very difficult, I think, right now for a lot of Republicans who are supposed to be law and order Republicans hearing basically the kind of cream of the crop of the military establishment coming forward and saying this is not the way this country is supposed to work.

And it's going to continue to be difficult to defend this kind of thing, which is why I think we've also have seen the president pull back on some of this attempt to militarize the response to the protests, there is not support for this.

But one thing about that poll that I think we should keep in mind is that even while there are, I think, probably a majority of Americans who disagree with how the president is handling this and believe he's politicizing it, there are also some Republicans who support the president who don't think he's being tough enough. I think that might be one of the things that we're seeing out there.

BERMAN: Interesting point.

CAMEROTA: Abby Phillip, David Gregory, thank you very much for everything this whole week and beyond. Great to talk to you.

Across the country, protesters are demanding justice, of course for George Floyd, and Ahmaud Arbery. Prosecutors say that Arbery was chased, hunted, and gunned down in Georgia. His accused killers were in court on Thursday, and we learned appalling new details about Arbery's murder. CNN's Martin Savidge is live in Brunswick, Georgia, covering this for us. What did we learn, Martin?

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning to you, Alisyn. This was a preliminary hearing, which are usually routine and very predictable. So we weren't expecting what we heard yesterday.



SAVIDGE: It was a hearing that sounded like a trial.

These defendants --

SAVIDGE: Georgia prosecutors summed up their case against three white men accused of killing a 25-year-old black man running through their neighborhood.

JESSE EVANS, COBB COUNTY CHIEF ASSISTANT DISTRICT ATTORNEY: On February 23rd of 2020, the victim, Ahmaud Arbery, was chased, hunted down, and ultimately executed at the hands of these men.

SAVIDGE: The three defendants, Gregory McMichael and his son Travis, and William "Roddie" Bryan Jr., appeared via video link from the county jail. The McMichaels initially told authorities they thought Arbery was a burglary suspect. The prosecution says Arbery had done nothing wrong.

EVANS: The fact of the matter is there is no evidence that these defendants saw a burglary, saw any crime, had any subject of belief or even a hunch by these civilians that would authorize their choices that they made to chase after and ultimately gun down this unarmed victim in the middle of the street.


SAVIDGE: In fact, Arbery was out jogging the day he died. Friends say it is what he loved to do. Prosecutors detailed the events leading up to Arbery's death, saying all three men, using two pickup trucks, became a neighborhood hunting party, blocking and redirecting Arbery as he tried to flee. Before they finally cornered him, one of the suspects captured Arbery's final moments on cell phone video.

On the witness stand, the lead investigator in the case said 34-year- old Travis McMichael admitted to the first officers on the scene he deliberately shot Arbery three times with a shotgun. Then agent Richard Dial shocked the courtroom, recounting what alleged co- conspirator William Bryan says Travis McMichael said next.

RICHARD DIAL, GBI ASSISTANT SPECIAL AGENT IN CHARGE: Mr. Bryan said after the shooting took place, before police arrival, while Mr. Arbery was on the ground, that he heard Travis McMichael make the statement --

SAVIDGE: Arbery's mother and father were both in the courtroom. Defense attorneys denied Travis McMichael ever made such a slur, and say the men, two of whom were armed, merely wanted to talk to Arbery that day, when Arbery suddenly turned and confronted them, forcing Travis McMichael to fire in self-defense.

For two months, the investigation of Arbery's death by local authorities went nowhere. But when cell phone footage was leaked publicly, showing Arbery's death, state investigators took over the case, and arrests soon followed. Thursday, it was revealed there is even more video on the cell phone of William "Roddie" Bryan, one of the accused, showing the deadly pursuit.

In the end, the judge ruled there was probable cause to try the three for Arbery's murder.

JOYETTE HOLMES, COBB COUNTY D.A.: Where the evidence leads us is where we will follow. And that's what we did today.

SAVIDGE: For Ahmaud Arbery's family and supporters, it's the first step on the long road to justice.


SAVIDGE: The next step in this case is a bond hearing. I talked to defense attorneys. They expect that that will happen soon, and they do expect that their clients will get out on bond. If that happens, Alisyn, it will once again raise tensions in this case. Alisyn?

CAMEROTA: Absolutely. Martin, thank you very much for all of the reporting.

In the midst of all the protests against racism, a monument to Robert E. Lee will come down in the former confederate capital. The mayor of Richmond, Virginia, tells us about the impact next.



JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: It's an important moment to mark in history. A statue honoring Confederate General Robert E. Lee will be removed from Richmond's Monument Avenue. Virginia's governor says the decision is long overdue.


GOV. RALPH NORTHAM (D), VIRGINIA: We can no longer honor a system that was based on the buying and selling of enslaved people.

Yes, that statue has been there for a long time. But it was wrong then, and it is wrong now. So we're taking it down.

MAYOR LEVAR STONEY, RICHMOND, VIRGINIA: It is time to heal, ladies and gentlemen. Richmond is no longer the capital of the Confederacy.


BERMAN: Joining us now, the man you saw at the end, the mayor of Richmond, Virginia, Levar Stoney.

Mr. Mayor, thank you so much for being with us.

You know, everything that you just said and the governor just said has been true for over 100 years, since the statue went up in 1890. So what is it about this moment, this moment where this action is finally being taken?

STONEY: Yes, I think you're right. We have always known better. We have known better through the years of Jim Crow. We knew better during massive resistance.

And we have known better since we have seen a number of black men and women, you know, lose their lives, you know, due to the hands of law enforcement and with continued pleas. And now is the time for change.

It's a new day in the capital cities, a new day in Richmond, and these are symbols of racism. They have been symbols of racism for a very long, long time. They're symbols of racism that were there, that were put there to intimidate black and brown people and put them in their place.

And this is just a symbol of institutional racism that needs to go and we've been working towards this for a very, very long time. And now is the time. The time is now.

BERMAN: I just want to explain to people, the Robert E. Lee statue is on state property, that's a state decision to take that down. You also were taking all kinds of Confederate statues along the road down as well.

I want to put up so people can see it, you know this picture, the image of the Robert E. Lee statue over the last few days and on it, I think we have this picture, a projected image of George Floyd.

And people who haven't been to Richmond -- I mean, this Robert E. Lee statue is huge. It is huge.

STONEY: Yes, six stories.

BERMAN: Just reflect on what that is like to look at George Floyd's face on the statue of Robert E. Lee.

STONEY: So believe it or not, I lived in this city for over 15 years now, and I've run 10ks along Monument Avenue, I've never been up close and personal, why would I go up close and personal with a Confederate monument.

The other day I walked with peaceful protesters and was right up close from that perspective to see how massive this monument is. It is just -- the message they were sending a long time ago to put people in their place, particularly black people. To see now that image of George Floyd projected on there shows we have come a long way, but we have more to do. We have more to do.

BERMAN: You know, I'm so glad you put it like that. I hope people understand what it is like for an African-American to have a statue of Robert E. Lee in your city. Why would you go up and look at the Robert E. Lee statue. I just want people to think about what you said there for a moment.

But you know, you know there are people who oppose this move -- people in power, including State Senator Amanda Chase, who is running for governor, and I want to play you her argument, which is an argument that you hear. So listen to this.


VIRGINIA STATE SENATOR AMANDA CHASE (R), GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: It is our history. Do I think we should learn from it? Absolutely. And we should add, we should add to the monuments that are there.


Let's be honest here, there is a -- there is an overt effort here to erase all white history.


BERMAN: An overt effort to erase white history. Your reaction?

STONEY: You don't know how many times since I've been a young man who grew up in Virginia I heard people tell me, you know that's our history. That's your history as well.

And I always have to remind -- you know that that history means to me, I understand what it means to you, but I want you to take a step back and what that means to me. That history of the Confederacy was to ensure that people like me never hold the office of mayor, young black kids never get educated, then we are -- we'll just be cattle (ph) -- in property for the remainders of our lives. That's what the Confederacy was all about.

And even Robert E. Lee himself said that there should not be statues of him and others erected after the end of the civil war. And so, this is a reckoning that has been a long time coming, who are look forward to -- thankful to the governor, and we're looking forward to our ordinance before the city council and beginning the conversation to end monuments on Monument Avenue.

BERMAN: Mayor Stoney, we appreciate you being with us this morning, helping explain the situation to the entire country. Thank you.

STONEY: Thank you.

BERMAN: America's biggest businesses are joining the fight against racial injustice, but how deep is their commitment? That story next.



ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: After ten days of protests against racial injustice, America's biggest businesses are racing to catch the moment -- and perhaps catch up with their customers.

CNN's Abby Phillip has more.

Abby, what have you learned?


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 (on camera): And this is a welcome change, of course, but just take this, for example, there are just four companies in the Fortune 500 that are led by black people and there say push now to see more from these companies, actual practical steps that they can take to diversify their companies, their boards, their leadership, and invest more in black communities to reduce that wealth gap between black and white families in this country, Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: That is a really interesting byproduct of all of this. Abby, thank you very much.


BERMAN: All right. With the global pandemic and death of George Floyd, people all over the world are overwhelmed by pain, loss and grief. 2014 CNN hero Annette March-Grier's nonprofit helps thousands of families process grief.

Here's her insight on coping during these difficult times.


ANNETTE MARCH-GRIER, 2014 CNN HERO: Grief was already heightened with COVID-19. People lost jobs, family members, and then for the whole George Floyd incident to be witnessed nationally, this is now grief on top of grief.

PROTESTERS: No justice, no peace. MARCH-GRIER: It is a very sad, scary, angry time, not just for

African-Americans, anyone who has a heart. The tears, the yelling, even the violent behavior, these are all grief reactions.

Grief is messy. The grief of not having a safe community or to have your store looted, that's also grief. The way that we all can deal with grief constructively is to choose something positive, to take action and protest peacefully, reaching out to help someone in need. Act upon your grief to make positive meaning, so that you can deal with this in a healthy way.

PROTESTERS: What's his name? George Floyd! What's his name? George Floyd!