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THE SITUATION ROOM

Outrage Grows in Buffalo; Minneapolis Votes to Ban Police Choke Holds; Interview with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar; Protest Of Police Shoving Elderly Man To Ground; Now: Protests in Multiple Cities Across U.S.; Goodell: NFL Was "Wrong" for Not Listening to Players' Race Concerns. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired June 5, 2020 - 18:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[18:00:00]

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: The city also plans to require police officers to intervene when inappropriate force is used.

Also breaking, there's outrage in Buffalo, New York, after a 75-year- old man was shoved to the ground by police during a protest. Demonstrators are taking to the streets of Buffalo this hour. We're also learning about backlash within the police department, after two officers were suspended over this incident.

We're told that 57 members of the Buffalo Police Department have resigned from the police Emergency Response Team in protest. They haven't resigned from the police department yet.

Let's get some more on all these late-breaking developments.

CNN's Jason Carroll is joining us right now.

You're there on the ground in New York City. We see protesters peacefully demonstrating once again. What are you seeing, Jason? What are you hearing?

JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, it was the voices of thousands of people echoing throughout the streets of Manhattan as they marched through the streets of Manhattan, shouting the names of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, who would have been 27 years old today.

As you look right now, they have marched over to the steps of Penn Station, the post office here. They say they're going to continue marching and having their voices heard throughout the night and past the 8:00 curfew.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CARROLL (voice-over): Eleven days of nationwide protests, anger, outrage and a call for change after George Floyd was killed with a police officer's knee on his neck.

This is the message on a street leading straight to the White House, the words "Black Lives Matter" now emblazoned in yellow paint. Part of that call for change, renewed scrutiny on police. In Minneapolis, the City Council voting to ban the controversial choke hold and vowing to work towards systematic change in the department.

All four former police officers in the department are in jail, charged in George Floyd's killing, this as a growing number of disturbing police incidents on video are emerging. In Buffalo, New York, two officers have been suspended after a 75-year-old protester was pushed and left bleeding on the ground, and initial message from police described as a man who tripped and fell.

GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): When I saw the video, I got sick to my stomach.

CARROLL: Fifty-seven members of the Buffalo Police Emergency Response Team have resigned from the team, but not the department, in response to the suspension of the officers, who say they were simply executing orders.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, my, God that looks so scary.

CARROLL: In Tacoma, Washington, a new video posted to social media appears to show officers violently striking Manuel Ellis as he lies on the ground. A second video also appears to show officers holding Ellis while he's on the ground and telling him to put his hands behind his back.

Ellis died after being physically restrained by police. His family is calling for four officers involved to be fired. The medical examiner ruled his death a homicide.

MARCIA CARTER-PATTERSON, MOTHER OF MANUEL ELLIS: He was a blessed child, OK? He was blessed. He was good and did not deserve to be murdered at the hands of the police.

CARROLL: And in Atlanta, new video of a woman being body-slammed by a police officer, breaking her collarbone, at a protest May 29.

No word yet from the Atlanta Police Department on whether the officer involved will face disciplinary actions, while, in New York City last night, a small sign of hope, as a police chief in Brooklyn de- escalated a situation with protesters by shaking hands and listening.

(on camera): As an African American law enforcement officer, I mean, how does that make you -- how does that fit with you?

JEFFREY MADDREY, NYPD ASSISTANT CHIEF: Well, I'm a black man, but I love being a police officer. So I'm not resigning. And I'm going to continue to make sure everybody's safe.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CARROLL: And, Wolf, New York's governor has announced that, next week, he plans to introduce what he's calling significant police reform legislation called Say Their Name.

He says part of that legislation will include banning choke holds and also appointing a state attorney general to investigate any allegations of police misconduct.

Back here in New York City, though, again with these protesters, Wolf, they say they're going to continue marching, once again continue having their voices heard past tonight's 8:00 curfew -- Wolf.

BLITZER: A huge crowd in Manhattan, where you are right now, and probably going to get bigger as the night goes on.

All right, thanks very much, Jason, for that report.

Now to President Trump facing growing criticism of his response to demonstrations for social justice, the president tweeting tonight against those who take a knee, for example, in protest.

Let's go to our chief White House correspondent, Jim Acosta.

[18:05:00]

Jim, the president invoked George Floyd's name today at an event over in the Rose Garden at the White House to celebrate the new jobs numbers.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: He certainly did, Wolf.

The president made the claim that police killing victim George Floyd somehow approves of Mr. Trump's job performance. The president is still hiding from reporters' questions, though, about his handling of this week's protests. The president tried to turn reporters into props today, as White House staffers rearranged the chairs at a news conference this morning to make the journalists sit close to one another in the middle of this coronavirus pandemic.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ladies and gentlemen.

ACOSTA (voice-over): It could be the most Trumpian departure from reality yet, as the president suggested police killing victim George Floyd is giving a thumbs up to Mr. Trump for his job performance this week.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Hopefully, George is looking down right now and saying, this is a great thing that's happening for our country. This is a great day for him. It's a great day for everybody.

ACOSTA: Just days after his administration tear-gassed and pummeled demonstrators outside the White House, the president defended his harsh tactics, urging other mayors and governors to militarize their response to the protest.

TRUMP: This was like a piece of cake. And I really am suggesting, because if you look at Minnesota and the great success we had there and other places, you will end up looking much better in the end. Call in the National Guard. Call me. We will have so many people, more people than -- you have to dominate the streets. You can't let what's happening happen.

It's called dominate the streets.

ACOSTA: The president pointed to the latest unemployment numbers as a success story, comparing the economic hardship during the coronavirus pandemic to a hurricane.

TRUMP: You have a horrible hurricane in Florida or Texas, and it's devastating. And then the hurricane goes away, and within two hours, everyone's rebuilding and fixing and cleaning and cutting their grass. And I have seen it in Texas. I have seen it everywhere.

ACOSTA: Mr. Trump is also touting the jobless numbers as proof African American prosperity. But hold on. While the jobless rate dropped to just above 13 percent and white unemployment is on the decline as well, black unemployment is not.

A reporter tried to ask about that but was cut off.

TRUMP: I'd like to sign this bill. This is a very different thing.

And, by the way, what's happened to our country, and what you now see has been happening is the greatest thing that can happen for race relations, for the African-American community, for the Asian-American, for the Hispanic American community, for women, for everything.

ACOSTA: As for the brutal clearing of Lafayette Park on Monday ordered by the Trump administration, the U.S. Park Police is now acknowledging protesters were tear gassed.

After initially denying tear gas was used in a press release, a Park Police spokesman told the Vox Web site: "It was a mistake on our part for using tear gas, because we just assumed people would think C.S. or C.N., two types of tear gas."

The spokesman acknowledged other agents were used, adding: "I'm not saying it's not a tear gas, but I'm just saying we use a pepper ball that shoots a powder."

Tell that to the White House.

(on camera): Chemical agents were used.

KAYLEIGH MCENANY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: So, again, no tear gas was used. No rubber bullets were used.

ACOSTA: Others say they were tear-gassed in that area.

MCENANY: No one was tear gassed.

ACOSTA (voice-over): The D.C. government is making its own statement about the protests, adding a Black Lives Matter mural and street signs to the area across from the park.

The president lashed out on Twitter, complaining: "The incompetent mayor of Washington is constantly coming back to us for handouts." Mayor Muriel Bowser, who learned the Pentagon is now beginning to pull U.S. troops out of Washington after her request to withdraw all extraordinary law enforcement and military presence from the district, fired back at the president.

MAYOR MURIEL BOWSER (D), WASHINGTON, D.C.: You know the thing about the pot and the kettle?

ACOSTA: The president is also getting feedback from former White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, who echoed the stinging criticism from former Defense Secretary James Mattis, who accused Mr. Trump of dividing Americans.

JOHN KELLY, FORMER WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: I think we need to look harder at who we elect. I think we should start, all of us, regardless of what our views are in politics, I think we should look at people that are running for office and put them through the filter. Are they -- what is their character like? What is their -- what are their ethics?

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ACOSTA: And late today, a House Democratic aide tells CNN that Pentagon leaders have refused to testify before the House Armed Services Committee next week.

The committee had requested that both Secretary of Defense Mark Esper and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley appear in person before the committee next week to explain the military's role in responding to the protests.

Wolf, it should be pointed out that Esper and General Milley participated in that photo-op with the president at the church on Monday. And we should also note the president has not taken any questions from reporters since that photo-op at the church on that horrible day last Monday, Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes, the reporters in the Rose Garden earlier in the day tried to ask questions.

ACOSTA: We tried.

BLITZER: But the president didn't want to respond.

All right, thanks very much, Jim Acosta at the White House for us.

Joining us now, the NBA legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. He's an outspoken advocate for social justice.

Kareem, thanks so much for joining us.

I know you have said that you hope this horrible incident will lead to a moment of clarity here in the United States. But there needs to be political will before they can certainly be any real change in our country.

[18:10:10]

Do you believe that will exists right now?

KAREEM ABDUL-JABBAR, FORMER NBA PLAYER: I think that people are starting to understand what the situation is and what it has been for 400 years, for black Americans especially.

And when they finally get it, I think they can have the political will to ask for change, because, without the support of all Americans, nothing is going to happen.

BLITZER: We're seeing, Kareem -- and you have seen it as well -- viewers have seen very disturbing videos from around the country of police aggression towards peaceful protesters.

What does it say to you that some of these peaceful demonstrators continue to experience the very police brutality that they're protesting?

ABDUL-JABBAR: Well, I think the police probably feel like they're under fire. And maybe they have -- they're responding emotionally to what other people have had to deal with for a long time.

The fact that some police don't respect everybody's rights is what the problem is. And they're having a hard time understanding that they are part of the problem. And until they understand that, that problem is going to persist, you know?

BLITZER: Yes, you make an important point.

You wrote a very, very powerful opinion piece in "The Los Angeles Times." I want to read a couple sentences from that piece for our viewers.

"Maybe the black community's main concern right now isn't whether protesters are standing three or six feet apart or whether a few desperate souls steal some T-shirt or even set a police station fire, but whether their sons, husbands, brothers and fathers will be murdered by cops or wannabe cops just for going on a walk, a jog, a drive, or whether being black means sheltering at home for the rest of their lives because the racism virus infecting the country is more deadly than COVID-19."

You say that, when we look at these protests, we should see people who are right now being pushed to the edge again. Is that what you're saying?

ABDUL-JABBAR: Yes, I think that the people, especially black Americans and brown people, Hispanic people, who have to deal with, any time a cop has a bad day, they might take it out on us.

And that's hard to deal with. And you have to live your life trying not to cross any lines with people who can be very, very touchy, and all of a sudden your race is an issue. And it's a bewildering thing to deal with. And it's hard to negotiate. I remember, since I was a child and a teenager, how do you figure out

if somebody has a racial animus or not? It's impossible. And, as Dr. King said, we have to judge people by the content of the character.

BLITZER: Yes, we do.

The president tweeted this tonight just a little while ago, and I'll put it up on the screen, Kareem: "There are other things you can protest, but not our great American flag. No kneeling."

What's your response to the president right now, when he tweets stuff like that?

ABDUL-JABBAR: Well, the president has his agenda. It has nothing to do with reality.

He's referring to Colin Kaepernick taking a knee because he was dealing with the very issue that ended up taking George Floyd's life, the unnecessarily violent response of police officers to black Americans. That's what Colin Kaepernick was about. That's why he took a knee.

(COUGHING)

ABDUL-JABBAR: Excuse me.

And probably in this football season, he will see more people taking these, because the issue is still there. And NFL players have a number of activists in their midst who will make sure that this issue remains in people's minds until we can find a way to remedy it.

BLITZER: Yes.

ABDUL-JABBAR: And I think everybody better get ready for that.

BLITZER: Yes, if there's an NFL season, I'm sure you're right. And I wonder if it'll happen in the NBA, MLB. Let's see what happens in other sports events, because people are very, very angry right now.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, thank you so much for joining us. Thanks for all the important work you're doing.

ABDUL-JABBAR: Thank you, Wolf. Have a great day and stay safe, huh?

BLITZER: Yes, please. You stay safe as well. I'll see you one of these days, probably sooner, rather than later.

Thanks so much for joining us.

ABDUL-JABBAR: Hope so.

BLITZER: OK.

Just ahead, I'm going to speak live to the mayor of Buffalo, New York, about the very disturbing video that we have now seen of an elderly protester, a 75-year-old man, being shoved to the ground by police and the reaction in his city tonight.

[18:15:06]

Also, we're watching protests building around the country right now, including right here in the nation's capital, in Washington, D.C., where a recording of the reverend Martin -- Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., his final speech, "I have been to the mountaintop," is being played to protesters right near the White House.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: We're following the demonstrations that are continuing all across the country.

In Minneapolis, you see protesters. They're walking on the streets there. In Buffalo, New York, you see protesters there as well.

[18:20:02]

We will be speaking shortly to the mayor of Buffalo to respond, to give us the latest on this horrible video that we saw earlier in the day. Much more on that coming up.

Meanwhile, there's powerful new criticism of President Trump's response to demands for social justice after George Floyd's death.

Let's break it down with our CNN political correspondent Abby Phillip and our White House correspondent John Harwood.

Abby, during this, the 11th night of nationwide protests here in the United States, the president seems to be focusing not on addressing systematic racism in the country, but on the economy right now. Give us an update on that.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes.

At the press conference this morning, the president was really buoyed by this economic news, which was unexpected, and it was good. It is good that the numbers are heading in a positive direction. But then he also seemed to say that it was the solution to the problem of racism in this country.

He suggested that this is the solution to what we're seeing all over the country. In fact, my friend Yamiche Alcindor asked him why he hasn't released a plan to address systemic racism. And the president said he's going to focus on the economy, that the economy is going to be that solution.

Now, Wolf, I don't think I have to tell you or really anybody else that we have had periods of great economic growth in this country that have not solved racism. And so it's unlikely that that would be the solution to this problem now, but it's just more evidence that this is a president who really does not want to address this issue.

He's had multiple opportunities. It's been a week-and-a-half since this issue really burst into the public sphere. And we have gotten really nothing on that topic from him.

And I think that we can now expect that nothing will be forthcoming.

BLITZER: Yes, it's important.

John, we're also learning that top Pentagon officials, the secretary of defense, Esper, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Milley, they're refusing to testify before the House of Representatives next week to explain the U.S. military's role in responding to these protests.

So what does their refusal to appear indicate to you?

JOHN HARWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: It's pretty obvious, Wolf.

Monday turned into a huge fiasco for the White House. He has now been effectively repudiated by the U.S. military. That is to say, his own defense secretary reversed course, rejected his suggested policy solution. You have got Jim Mattis, the defense secretary, coming out with incredibly harsh criticism, two former chairs of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

And extending examination of those issues, under hostile questioning from Democrats, is simply going to make this fiasco a bigger fiasco.

I just want to add one thing to what you and Abby were discussing about the president and systemic racism. The president has next to no interest in addressing systemic racism, and neither does his party. Keep in mind, Pew Research Center poll last year asked Republicans; 77 percent of Republicans said the biggest -- of white Republicans -- said the biggest problem with racism in the United States is people falsely claiming racism; 84 percent of white Republicans said that we have done enough to give equal rights to blacks or gone too far.

This is not a party that has an appetite for addressing this issue. And that's a very clear, clear division with Democrats.

PHILLIP: And, Wolf, can I just add quickly to that?

Even while that is absolutely true for the Republican Party, there's now more evidence that they are out of step with the public at large. The new ABC News/Ipsos poll that was out today showed, back in 2014, when they asked about whether they thought that the Michael Brown case in Ferguson, Missouri, signaled a broader issue, only about 42 percent of Americans said yes.

now, when people are asked about whether George Floyd's case indicates a broader systemic problem, it's 74 percent. So we're talking three- quarters of the American public now feels like there is a systemic problem that needs to be addressed here.

And the Republican Party and the president are completely out of step with that.

BLITZER: Well, there is a systemic problem of racism that clearly still exists in significant ways here in the United States.

Abby Phillip and John Harwood, guys, thanks very much.

Just ahead, we're going live to Buffalo, New York, where a protest is now under way, after a 75-year-old man was pushed to the ground by police.

I'll speak with the mayor of Buffalo about that, the fallout within the city's police department, lots to discuss when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:29:17]

BLITZER: We're following breaking news on the response to a really stunning incident in Buffalo, New York.

Police caught on video shoving a 75-year-old man to the ground during a peaceful protest. Two officers have been suspended.

And, tonight. I'm told that 57 members have resigned from the Buffalo police Emergency Response Team to protest the suspensions. They haven't resigned from the police department, just from that unit. I'll speak to the mayor of Buffalo in just a moment.

But, right now, I want to go to CNN's Vanessa Yurkevich. She's on the scene in Buffalo for us.

Vanessa, how are local residents there responding to this, all of this tonight? I see you're walking.

VANESSA YURKEVICH, CNN BUSINESS AND POLITICS REPORTER: Yes, that's right, Wolf.

I'm walking with a group of peaceful protesters here in downtown Buffalo.

[18:30:02]

They started at city hall, the site where that gentleman, Martin Gugino, was pushed by those two police officers.

Now, the majority of people here today say they have been out protesting before. But some say that after what they saw last night, they are now standing here today, walking in protest against racial injustice and police brutality.

Now, there is a curfew in effect this evening and some county officials are concerned that it may become more tense as the night goes on, but a lot of the protesters I spoke to here today, Wolf, said that they are going to be observing that curfew. But as we know, Wolf, that gentleman, Martin Gugino, was pushed by those two officers after curfew at 8:00 P.M. Wolf?

BLITZER: Yes, and we saw him hit his head and we saw blood flowing from his head on the sidewalk there. Vanessa Yurkevich, I will get back to you. Thank you very much.

Joining us is the mayor of Buffalo, Byron Brown. Mayor Brown, thank you so much for joining us, especially on a critically important day like this.

As you have said, the police officers involved in this very disturbing incident were suspended without pay, but now 57 other police officers have resigned from their emergency response unit in solidarity with those suspended two officers. So what message, Mayor, does that send to everyone in Buffalo, my hometown, calling for police accountability?

MAYOR BYRON BROWN (D-NY), BUFFALO: Our message, Wolf, is that the City of Buffalo and its residence will be protected, our businesses will be protected and we will protect the right of people to peacefully protest in the City of Buffalo.

Our Buffalo Police Department has contingency plans. They have been working with other law enforcement agencies at the local, state and federal level. I am very thankful to the support that has been provided to us from Governor Andrew Cuomo. We have a large contingent of state police in the City of Buffalo who are embedded with the Buffalo Police Department.

BLITZER: Are those 57 police officers who resigned from that unit going to face any consequences for this?

BROWN: We are concerned that we focus on the safety of our community. We're not focusing on that action right now. We are focusing on delivering public safety services. There are many officers on the Buffalo Police Department that are on the job, that have been working around the clock, that have been working with very little sleep, that have been working to exhaustion. I certainly thank them for the work that they are doing.

The vast majority of our officers are working hard to protect and serve the community to ensure the safety of our residents, the safety of our businesses and the ability for people to exercise their freedom of speech rights in the City of Buffalo.

BLITZER: That video was so awful. The man, Martin Gugino, 75 years old, he went to the hospital, he said to be stable but serious condition. How do you think he and his family feel seeing that 57 police officers are taking the side of the police officers who actually pushed him to the ground? And what was so awful is when he hit his head and we saw a blood coming out, they continued walking away, as if nothing had happened.

BROWN: Well, let me say that my concern is for Gugino. Yesterday, when I saw that video, my immediate thought was for his health and would he be okay. That was a specialized unit, the emergency response team, that is taught to move in that kind of foundation.

As part of that team, there are medics embedded with the team, people who are trained to provide health, first aid. Those medics immediately provided assistance to Mr. Gugino and helped safely get him into an ambulance and transported to Erie County Medical Center.

So assistance was rendered. The officers in the front formation are not supposed to provide assistance because there are medics a little further back that are prepared and trained to deliver first aid.

BLITZER: As you know, Mayor, the police originally showed the statement saying that the man simply tripped and fell. What does that say about how police might act when there is no video to capture their actions, because we all saw that awful, awful video, the original police statements was simply not true?

[18:35:04]

BROWN: It was an error, a fast moving, very volatile situation, information coming into a police command center from the field. The initial information was wrong. In an attempt to report out quickly to the media and to the community, that inaccurate information was provided. As soon as the accurate information was obtained, that initial report was corrected.

The police commissioner took immediate action when he saw the video and immediately suspended the two officers involved without pay. I might also add that is an area of the city of Buffalo that is heavily camera with municipal cameras and that certainly would have been part of any investigation.

BLITZER: So, I know you support, totally support and condemn what those two police officers who were suspended without pay did. But do you also condemn what these 57 other police officers are now doing, resigning from their unit in protest?

BROWN: I think it was an action inspired by the union, the Police Benevolent Association in Buffalo, putting pressure on those officers and indicating that they would withdraw support for those officers if they needed union support.

I think that was a wrong action. I don't think unions should behave that way. Unions are there to protect the worker and workers' rights. But that was not an act to protect the worker. That was an act to intimidate police officers and to not protect the residents of our community.

BLITZER: Well good luck, Mayor Brown. As you know I am from Buffalo. I love Buffalo. And it hurts me to see these kinds of things unfold in my hometown. But I know you are on top of it. And we'll stay in close touch with you. Mayor Byron Brown of Buffalo New York, I appreciate very much, thanks for joining us, good luck.

BROWN: Thank you, Wolf. Thank you very much.

BLITZER: And be safe out there. It's a tough situation as we all know.

BROWN: Very difficult all across the country.

BLITZER: Yes, it is. It's not just in Buffalo but it's all over the United States right now. We're watching these live pictures coming in from Atlanta right now, huge crowds gathering there. We're watching all of these developments. Much more of our special coverage coming up right here in The Situation Room.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:40:00]

BLITZER: Well, take a look at this. We're showing you some live pictures on the left, in Washington D.C. starting to rain, but the crowds have gathered with umbrellas there right across the street from the White House Lafayette Park and St. John's Church right over there. We're watching that closely.

On the right side of your screen, you see Miami, where you see police cars have gathered to prevent protesters from going on to an interstate over there. It's a tense situation in Miami right now. We're watching all of this closely.

We're also following up on the breaking news, the backlash in Buffalo, New York, after two police officers were suspended for shoving an elderly man during a protest.

Let's bring in two former police chiefs. Scott Thompson headed up the Camden, New Jersey Police Force, and Charles Ramsey led up the police department of both Philadelphia and Washington, D.C., he's now a CNN Law Enforcement Analyst.

Chief Ramsey, what do you make of those 57 police officers in Buffalo, we've just interviewed the mayor there, resigning from their emergency response unit to show their solidarity with those two suspended police officers following that very, very disturbing incident.

CHARLES RAMSEY, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, first of all, anybody who watches that video and thinks that's okay, there was absolutely no need to take that kind of action. If they shoved him and didn't mean for him to fall, the fact that he was laying there, you got a pool of blood gathering around in his head, I mean, it's just unacceptable.

And if they think that's okay, and if they think the chief overreacted in terms of suspending them, as far as I am concerned, let them go. But I would take it a step further, I would hope they resign from the department. Unemployment being what it is, it wouldn't take much to replace them. So, we don't need that kind of attitude in our business.

We're in a time of crisis right now across the country. And for you to quit, no, that wouldn't fly with me.

BLITZER: That's an important statement. Chief Thompson, what do you think?

SCOTT THOMPSON, FORMER CHIEF OF CAMDEN COUNTY, NEW JERSEY POLICE: Yes, you know, what I saw, I just did not see force that was proportional with the situation. You know, I also did not see the duty to render aid which is absolutely critical. But, you know, when if that's the type of reaction that people in that unit are going to have, then they shouldn't be in that unit. That's addition by subtraction, as far as I'm concern.

And kudos to the mayor and to the police chief there, they are not blinking, they're doing the right thing. They're calling on other agencies. They're backfilling in those positions. But they can't fully -- police departments across the country, as they start to institute change, that needs to occur. We're going to see this type of resistance and this type of backlash, and we can't buckle in moments like that.

BLITZER: Chief Ramsey, this isn't an isolated incident, as you know. Unfortunately, in Buffalo we're seeing other troubling videos emerging indeed from all over the country, of police using disproportionate force on peaceful protesters.

[18:45:05]

These incidents lead many to be skeptical of police reform. But you're credited with successfully reforming police here in Washington, D.C., in Philadelphia, and I'm sure Chief Thomson has done the exact same thing in Camden, New Jersey.

Let me get reaction from both of you. Chief Ramsey, first

CHARLES RAMSEY, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, I can tell you that Scott did the same thing in Camden. There's no question about that, he totally re-designed and built a brand-new police department quite frankly, and it hasn't been the same since, for the good -- I mean, yes, you know, the chief there in, Buffalo certainly has his hands full but what you see unfolding in cities across America, where police are using excessive force against demonstrators, is the exact reason why we are where we are right now.

I mean, I just don't get it. You know, nerves get frayed people get upset on both sides, because this has been going on for over a week. But there is no excuse for some of the behavior that I have seen quite frankly whether it was clearing Lafayette Park in Washington, D.C., what you just saw in Buffalo, that situation in Atlanta, body slamming that woman. I mean, those things are unacceptable and it taints the entire profession.

BLITZER: Chief Thomson, you succeeded in county New Jersey, how did you do it?

SCOTT THOMSON, FORMER CHIEF OF CAMDEN COUNTY, NJ POLICE: Well, you know, we started with a couple key components. One is the sanctity of human life, that underpins everything we do from our use of force policy. And second, we have to be quite frankly, as we embraced the Hippocratic Oath for policing, which is first do no harm, our de- escalation training where essentially we trained police officers how to take situations that were rising and pushing it a different direction, actually lower the temperature in the room.

And what we found is that not only was it safer for the people we were dealing with, it was also safer for the officers as well. And the byproduct of that is we saw a reduction in our excessive force by 95 percent, we went from a department that had very low levels of trust and high levels of disdain from the community for its police to one where you see Black Lives Matter and might chief -- the current chief, walking hand in hand together.

BLITZER: Chief Thompson, Chief Ramsey, to both of you, thanks very much. Thanks for everything you've done, thanks for what you're doing right now.

We are showing our viewers some live pictures coming in from Miami, peaceful protesters that are very angry right now. We are watching all these protests unfold around the country.

Much more of our special coverage right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:52:23]

BLITZER: Breaking news -- the NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell is now admitting that the league was wrong for not listening to players as they took a knee to promote social justice here in the United States. He is now formally apologizing.

Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROGER GOODELL, NFL COMMISSIONER: It has been a difficult time for our country, in particular black people in our country. First my condolences to the families of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and all the families who have endured police brutality. We, the National Football League, condemn racism and the systematic oppression of black people. We, the National Football League, admit we were wrong for not listening to NFL players earlier, and encourage all to speak out and peacefully protest. We, the National Football League, believe black lives matter.

I personally protested with you and want to be part of the much-needed change in this country, without black players there would be no National Football League, in the protest around the country are emblematic of the centuries of silence, inequality, and depression of black players coaches, fans and staff. We are listening I'm listening. And I will be reaching out to players who have raised their voices and others on how we can improve and go forward for a better and more united NFL family.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Very strong apology from Roger Goodell, the commissioner of the NFL.

Joining us on the phone right now, CNN sports analyst, "The USA Today" columnist Christine Brennan. Christine, this is a very, very significant admission that the NFL was

wrong for not listening to those players who protested earlier. I assume he is referring to Colin Kaepernick at the same time.

CHRISTINE BRENNAN, CNN SPORTS ANALYST (via telephone): Absolutely, Wolf, this is very significant as you said. Roger Goodell just said, we were wrong. I wasn't expecting to hear that from him, and I think it shows the significance of the moment. It underscores everything we are going through as a nation, and our culture right now.

For Roger Goodell to make this -- obviously, he did this from his home. For him to do this, to feel the need to do it is a very dramatic statement, a very dramatic move.

It's correct and some might say, and I will add my voice to this, Wolf, it's a long time coming.

[18:55:03]

Colin Kaepernick was kneeling during the national anthem protesting the treatment of African American men and social injustice, he was doing that in the summer of 2016, four years ago.

So, the NFL could have embraced this then. Obviously, they didn't. They are embracing it now. It's a shame that it took this long, and it's a shame that Colin Kaepernick is not in the league to be able to lead the way on this effort, and I am hopeful that the next statement will be announcing by team that Colin Kaepernick has been signed. Let's hope that that happens next.

BLITZER: Let's see if that does happen, and I suspect if there is an NFL season coming up, there's going to be a lot more of that kind of activity on the field and I suspect at the NBA and the MLB at the same time.

This comes as you know, Christine, as the president continues to go after athletes who are leading the fight on social justice issues. He tweeted today referencing Drew Brees for example saying we should be standing up straight and tall ideally with a salute or a hand on our heart. There are other things you can protest but not our great American flag -- no kneeling.

Previously, what was the NFL -- previously, was the NFL was reluctant across the president but there seems to be a significant change right now, Christine.

BRENNAN: Absolutely, Wolf. The NFL has just told Donald Trump we're not listening to. The NFL has just said we are going with protesters, we are going with our players, we are going with the peaceful protests that we have seen, Donald Trump we are no longer with you.

Make no mistake about it, that is exactly what Roger Goodell did here. Goodell, of course, as the commissioner of the NFL. As you well know, Wolf, there are many owners, well, I say several owners, maybe up to 10 or 12 that we know who have donated to Donald Trump. They support Donald Trump. So, Goodell is probably going against them as well. So this is a calculation that Goodell made. I've known Roger Goodell and covered him for when we were just starting out together 30 years ago or so. And it doesn't surprise me that he is made this move. He understands the magnitude of the moment.

But he is definitely going against whatever Donald Trump is one of the NFL to do and that is a major, major development.

BLITZER: Do you think we will see similar action from not just the NFL if there's an NFL season, but Major League Baseball and the NBA? Do you think we'll see similar activity there?

BRENNAN: I think we should, Wolf, whether we do is another matter entirely. Obviously, Major League Baseball does not have the presence of African American players the way the NFL does. NFL is majority NFL players as Roger Goodell said, there would be no NFL were not for black players.

And so, MLB, Major League Baseball just does not have that and where we saw the kneeling and the silent protests from Kaepernick and others a few years ago in the NFL, we did not see that in Major League Baseball. The NBA absolutely, I would expect to see more there as well.

I expect that if there is football this fall, or if there are sports coming up in the next couple months, as we hope they come back from the pandemic and the coronavirus, I would expect to see massive amounts of protesting and kneeling throughout our pro sports and our college and maybe even high school sports this fall as they get back up and running.

So, but, yes, the NFL is a big chief. The NFL is our national pastime. And as the NFL goes, so goes much of other sports, and I think that's what we're seeing here with Roger Goodell today.

BLITZER: Do you think the newly will take place during the playing of the national anthem?

BRENNAN: I do, I do. After what we are seeing -- I'm in D.C., you're in D.C., what we are seeing in Washington and around the country, absolutely. I -- and basically what Roger Goodell is saying here without saying these words is, who supports this, he is supporting the kneeling. I -- this is such a change.

It is such a fascinating change and a symbol of where we are as a country that this is happening in the NFL. It's changing its tune to this degree. Absolutely, Wolf, I believe we will see major protests and not just professional college and I would even think high school students who play sports, I think as we keep going through this over the next few months, the massive nature of this, I absolutely think we'll see it.

BLITZER: All right. Christine Brennan, thanks very much. We are following a breaking news significant statement from Roger Goodell. Finally, tonight, we honor the memory not only of George Floyd but also all those who suffer the seeing faith because of the color of their skin. These are the faces of black lives that matter and were cut short going back to Eric Garner in 2014, who also cried out to police "I can't breathe". There are many, many more who came before.

So, let us pause to remember all of them and hope that the future will be different.

May they rest in peace and may their memories be a blessing.

To our viewers, thanks very much for watching. I'll be back tomorrow night 7:00 p.m. Eastern for a special SITUATION ROOM. Until then, thanks once again for joining us.

"ERIN BURETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.