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THE SITUATION ROOM
Trump Out Of Sight & Silent During Mass Protests Today; D.C. Mayor Joins Marchers In Black Lives Matter Plaza; George Floyd's Brother To Testify Before Congress Wednesday; Philly Police Inspector Charged, Used Baton On Student's Head; Buffalo Officers Plead Not Guilty To Assaulting 75-Year-Old Protester Shoved To Ground In Video; D.A. Waited To Charge Officers Because Emergency Response Team Resigned; NFL Commissioner Says He Was Wrong About Player Protests. Aired 7-8p ET
Aired June 6, 2020 - 19:00 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: Welcome to our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington. This is a special edition of THE SITUATION ROOM.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Take in this amazing site from one end of America to the other unfolding before our eyes today.
Two of America's most famous bridges carrying those with a message of change for the nation tonight. The Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco and the Brooklyn Bridge in New York and all across America, this Saturday, tens of thousands if not more are relentlessly demanding reforms in American policing and treatment of African-Americans only two weeks after the killing of George Floyd.
So far today the protests have been largely peaceful. That does not make them any less powerful. Here in Washington DC, marchers from the Lincoln Memorial to the U.S. capital to the White House, range from young to old.
They're holding signs celebrating the Black Lives Matter movement and reminding everyone to remember their names. When it comes to George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and so many more. Here's a look at Philadelphia where peaceful demonstrations flooded at the Center city area in a dramatic show of solidarity today.
Outside the Philadelphia art museum, the steps and there are famous for the iconic scene in the film 'Rocky' but this fight is real and it's changing the course of American history. Yet tonight there's new controversy in the city of brotherly love. We have details just ahead.
Also tonight President Trump remains in the most secure home in the nation. No public appearances today. His only commentary nearly 24 hours, a tweet minutes ago that nearly reads "law and order" ignoring the chants and screams and tears of those looking for hope wherever they can find it four weeks before Independence Day here in the United States.
The President did take time last night to some more division attacking the Mayor of Washington DC, Muriel Bowser and where was she today? She was out on the streets of her city. You see here in the green shirt marching in unison with the demonstrators in the area. She has now officially designated as Black Lives Matter Plaza and that's only steps away from the White House.
There's also more breaking news. We just got word moments ago that Philonise Floyd, George Floyd's brother will testify before Congress on Wednesday during a House Judiciary Committee hearing on policing practices and law enforcement accountability.
Demonstrations here in Washington are again centered on Lafayette Park, this evening not very far just across the street in fact from the White House. Alex Marquardt is on the scene for us. Alex, what have you been seeing there and what are you seeing now?
ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well Wolf, you're absolutely right. The peacefulness of these protests certainly does not take away from the power of them. Just look at this extraordinary crowd. I've never seen so many people out here. I've never seen crowds like this this entire week.
It is impossible to estimate because every time I look up to try to see how far back the crowds go, I fail because the crowds are absolutely immense. They have been coming from the north, they have been coming from the west, they've been coming from the east, they have not however Wolf, been coming from the south because that is where the White House is.
The White House several days ago, law enforcement putting up that fence around Lafayette square park along the northern side and it stretches most of the way around the entire White House. This as you noted is Black Lives Matter Plaza as named by the Mayor of DC.
We've all seen that famous shot of Black Lives Matter written in those huge yellow letters on 16th street. That is right here as it's running straight into the White House so that has really amplified as you noted Wolf, that confrontation, the war of words between the President and Muriel Bowser, the President as you noted, tweeting law and order.
The Mayor here has been extremely critical of that huge number of forces that you and I've been talking about, that have been on the streets of DC, federal forces that are essentially under the control of the administration, whether it's the FBI, the ATF, DEA, even bureau of prisons officials and now you have the Mayor of DC who has demanded that what she called those extraordinary forces and military like National Guard from more than 10 other states leave this city.
Wolf, we have - it is very important to note, how peaceful this - these protests have been over the past few days. We have seen those violent scenes like on Monday night when all these protesters were cleared away from Lafayette park but pretty much since then, it has been peaceful.
We haven't had a curfew in this city for the last few days. There haven't been any arrests in this city for the past few days. It has been a mix of a party today along with really a protest.
You can hear these chants going up and I spoke to a young protester about those from those different forces, the party and the protest earlier today. Take a listen.
SIMONE LEWIS, DEMONSTRATOR: We've been protesting for days. We've been angry. Now it's time for us to celebrate what we have accomplished. Like I said Minneapolis has made some changes as well. Well, we're still processing but why just constantly like show anger?
I mean we are angry but we can communicate that differently and affectively and that's how we're communicating that today by being peaceful.
MARQUARDT: Why do it right here?
LEWIS: Because this is the White House and this is where we can make noise. This is where we can show that yes, we actually do want change. Yes, we're not going to sit down and wait for you to like make false change but we need actual change.
MARQUARDT: Are you confident, are you optimistic that that kind of change -
LEWIS: - confident. No matter how long it takes out. If it takes like 10 years, I will be out here marching every day for 10 years. If that means that we are going to get change but change also starts with voting so please go outside vote in your various states. Please vote - convince your friends to register to vote, all of that,
please voting. It matters. It really does.
MARQUARDT: So that is the message that we've heard from so many of these people that you have to vote not just according to them to change rules of the White House but also to make sure that justice serves the African-American community. Wolf.
BLITZER: Stand by Alex. I want to go to Athena Jones. She's not very far away. She's over at Dupont circle here in Washington DC. Athena, what are you seeing where you are?
ATHENA JONES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi Wolf, you know, we've just left Dupont circle. It's several blocks back we're now on P Street headed to 16th street. That is of course, the street that leads straight to the White House and what we've been hearing from everyone we spoken to is a lot of what Alex has been equating.
White, Black, old, young, Hispanic, gay, straight, you ask them him why was it their need for them to come out for this project and they say almost to a person you know, enough is enough. It's time for us to bring real change. One such protester is James Artist. He's here with me now. So tell me. You talked about hope versus
action. You say yes, there's hope but you want to see action and so really this is about bringing action already.
JAMES ARTIST, PROTESTER: Absolutely. I think that with everything that's going on now, tensions are high and people are hopeful that change is going to come and I believe that hope is that emotion, there needs to be action behind it. Mayor Bowser has made a bold statement with Black Lives Matter Plaza as well as writing it down for the world to see to say that black lives do matter and that we need to create that change immediately.
JONES: And so do - what - you feel this time it might be different. Why do you think it's different? Is it the diversity of the crowd? Is it just that moment in time? Why do you think that this time it's going to be a real - something coming out of it?
ARTIST: I think that people are more educated on matters now. I know that I have people in my life that originally were saying all lives matter but realize that as an African-American male, that I'm their friend and they need to understand that my life is in danger just because of the color of my skin and they want to create change to protect me.
JONES: And you said to me earlier that you know you feel like maybe now more people get it. The fact that Mayor Bowser, the Mayor of DC has painted Black Lives Matter on those blocks before the White House, created a Black Lives Matter Plaza, the fact that there's so many different colors of people out here. Does that mean to you that now you think more people really get what you've guys have been - what people have been trying to say for decades, for centuries?
ARTIST: I think that with the diversity of the crowd, people are starting to understand they need to listen more. Often times they want to start the conversation. The conversation has been going since 1619 when we first came to this country as slaves.
And then we have the Jim Crow era and all these other different situations that are affecting us and now people are realizing that you know, it's going to be another genocide of the African-American people if we don't jump in and stop it right now and it's just - it's all around changing.
JONES: Thank you so much. And so along with the lines of what James was telling us, we are actually still - we are seeing some change already. He mentioned, you look at the Minneapolis city council voting to ban chokeholds, voting to require their police officers intervene in such an instance.
We've seen a proposal from Los Angeles where the Mayor of Los Angeles said we won't add to the budget of the police department and maybe instead shift a $150 million to helping the community.
We've also seen a push including in rallies I've been to in New York, where folks are saying we need more neighborhood policing so there are changes already happening and as we know, a lot about your folks here are focused on voting but also on things like police reform, demilitarizing the police and just making sure that they continue to keep the pressure on to make what Congressman John Lewis called good trouble.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Athena, thank you very much. Athena Jones, on the scene. We'll get back to you. Alex Marquardt, we'll get back to you as well. We'll watch all of these huge demonstrations in Washington unfold. Meanwhile yet another police officer is in trouble tonight after prosecutors say he crossed the line.
Once again, it's on video, this time in Philadelphia. Joining us now retired LAPD Sergeant Cheryl Dorsey. She is the author of the book, 'Black and Blue.' Also joining us CNN law enforcement analyst Charles Ramsey, once led the police departments in both Philadelphia as well as here in Washington.
Chief Ramsey, I want to play this video for you first because it involves a Philadelphia police inspector. He's now charged with aggravated assault among other crimes. The video is disturbing. It shows the inspector striking a Temple University student in the back of his head during a mass demonstrations on Monday.
We need to point out that we do not know what happened leading up to this but let me play the video.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Well, Chief Ramsey, what's your reaction to that?
CHARLES RAMSEY, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, I mean it is disturbing, Wolf. There's no other way to really describe it. I don't know what led up to it but certainly, it didn't look proportional at all. It didn't look necessary at all.
This is a Ranking member of staff inspector so he's ranking officer on the scene. His job is to keep everybody else in line and yet he's the one who is seen on the video using force like that and it's a shame.
I know him. He was a district captain during the time I was there in Philadelphia and actually did a good job over in West Philadelphia, predominantly black part of the city and he was really popular as a district captain over there. I don't know what happened but this is certainly not right.
BLITZER: You were the police commissioner there in Philadelphia. Cheryl, what are your thoughts on the video?
CHERYL DORSEY, RETIRED LAPD SERGEANT: As I watched the video, this reminds me of what I talk about all the time, attempted (inaudible). When you piss one off, there's a price to pay. So listen, this wasn't about anything except for punishment.
He was putting in work. He was enjoying it and I'd refer to the term that I've often heard bantered around as we hear on the Los Angeles Police Department, ready for protests, stick time. They were there to do damage and I hope every person who got hit by that inspector and others across the country get a good attorney because they understand dollars and cents.
And once you get in the pocket of a police municipality, this stuff will stop.
BLITZER: Because we've seen Cheryl, video after video of police brutality during these protests just since George Floyd died nearly two weeks ago. How does this affect efforts by police around the country as they try to rebuild trust?
DORSEY: It's very difficult because we all get painted with that broad brush.
BLITZER: Cheryl, go ahead and then I'll let Chief Ramsey go ahead. Cheryl first.
DORSEY: It's very difficult because we all get painted with that broad brush. They assume because you see two or three knuckleheads misbehaving, that all police officers are there to abuse authority and so it's very difficult and it's not - it's not going to be until police departments - and yes, here is a high ranking official.
So you know the fish rocks from the head, you can imagine what this officer must be thinking. It's OK to do when you see your boss out there putting in work and as long as you have police chiefs who will keep someone like Derek Chauvin on the department for 16-18 personnel complaints, we're going to continue to have this issue.
Due process means that officers probably can't be fired right away but you can certainly pull a Derek Chauvin and anyone else like this inspector and put them on the desk until they either get their mind right or you get them off the department.
BLITZER: Derek Chauvin is the police officer of Minneapolis accused of second degree murder of George Floyd by keeping his knee on his neck for almost 9 minutes. Chief Ramsey, I wanted to give you a chance to respond to that as well. Go ahead.
RAMSEY: Well, I mean Wolf, it destroys trust. Whatever - and trust is a very fragile thing and obviously we've been seeing a lot of very negative videos. There have been some positive ones with officers taking a knee and walking in protest and so forth.
But these get overshadowed. Those things get overshadowed whenever you have incidents like this and just one comment about keeping people on the job. One of the things that we need to really change is the strength of these unions, that through arbitration are able to get officers back even after they're terminated.
I've had a couple of cases where I had to fire person more than one time and it's very difficult and so until that's fixed, you're going to have situations where you have people with 15-16 or more complaints and then you wonder, why are they still on the job?
Well, you know it it's just not that easy and that needs to change.
BLITZER: Chief Ramsey, thanks for joining us. Cheryl Dorsey, thanks to you as well. I want both of you to stand by because there's more developments unfolding. We're following the protests across the United States, this hour.
Take a look at this. It's a live look at protesters near the White House right now. We'll show that video where these are live pictures coming in.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: That's Saint John's church on the left, right across the street from Lafayette Park, which is right across the street Pennsylvania Avenue from the White House. You see a huge number of folks have gathered here in Washington DC. Meantime, two police officers from Buffalo, New York have plead not guilty after very disturbing video emerged of them pushing an elderly protester to the ground.
We have new information new details on the case when we come back.
BLITZER: In Buffalo, New York today two suspended police officers were greeted with cheers after they were released without bail after pleading not guilty to charges of assault that stemmed from this incident captured on video during protests there on Thursday.
The officers are seen shoving a 75-year old protesters to the ground.
He then fell and you can see blood coming out of his head. CNN's Vanessa is joining us from Buffalo right now.
Vanessa, so what's the latest update for our viewers. Very disturbing video that we've all seen by now.
VANESSA YURKEVICH, CNN BUSINESS & POLITIC CORRESPONDENT: Very disturbing, Wolf. Right now we are standing in front of a peaceful protest in Niagara square but I just want to rotate you over to where these protesters were just moments ago on the right side, you're going to see the police department.
That is where several hundred protesters were standing. They were calling out against police brutality. They were chanting black lives matter. That's in stark contrast this morning Wolf, to what you saw across the street at the district attorney's office where you saw several hundred law enforcement officials out there cheering and supporting for these two officers that plead not guilty to these second degree assault charges.
Now so far this evening Wolf, the protests have been very peaceful here. There is not a lot of law enforcement presence here in the crowd but this is just across the street from where Martin Gugino was pushed by those two officers who as you mentioned, pleaded not guilty to those second degree charges.
Many people in the crowd here feel like those charges are not enough, that these officers should be fired. Some here saying that it is a step in the right direction but protesters here are calling for peaceful protests and of course, Wolf, there is that curfew in affect for 8:00 PM tonight and that we'll see whether or not this remains peaceful.
But largely Wolf, we've seen no law enforcement presence here as of right now. Wolf.
BLITZER: Vanessa Yurkevich, thank you very, very much. We'll get back to you as well. Joining us now the Erie County district attorney John Flynn. Mr. Flynn, thank you so much for joining us, especially on a crazy, busy day like today. You've charged both of these police officers today.
You say you waited out of concern for the safety of the city. What specific safety concerns did you have?
JOHN FLYNN, NY DISTRICT ATTORNEY, ERIE COUNTY: Well Wolf, yesterday afternoon I was ready to charge pretty much. I kind of dotted all my Is and crossed all my Ts by about 2:30 - 3 o'clock, yesterday afternoon and right around that time a number of Buffalo police officers got a letter from the Police Union here in Buffalo that the Union was not going to pay for any legal bills that they may incur if they were charged with any kind of criminal violations.
So the majority, if not all of the emergency response team here in the city of Buffalo resigned and so there was a situation perhaps last night here in downtown Buffalo where they were not going to have enough law enforcement officers to potentially protect the city.
Now fortunately, the law enforcement community here in western New York got together and the city was able to get enough officers to maintain the safety here but quite frankly, I had a concern that if I charge these officers yesterday afternoon, that that would pour fuel on the fire here and perhaps enflame the city and I didn't want to do that.
So I waited till this morning and then I charged the officers and they arraigned this morning.
BLITZER: And they were charged with specifically with what?
FLYNN: With assault in the second degree. We have a particular penal law statute here New York Wolf, that says that if you assault an individual who's 65 years or older and you are 10 years younger than that victim, then that makes it an assault in the second degree violation so that's what they were charged with. BLITZER: You know, what was very disturbing in the video Mr. Flynn and
- and all of us was that I even after Mr. Gugino fell to the ground, hit his head, blood started coming up, the police officers kept on moving and I spoke with the Mayor of Buffalo last night here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
He offered this explanation about why the officers did not stop to help that 75-year old man. Listen to what he told me.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MAYOR BYRON BROWN, BUFFALO, NY: 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.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: All right, so you heard what he said. You were quite clear earlier today saying those police officers should not crack a skull, these are your words on the concrete but are you comfortable with the Mayor's explanation for why the officers on camera simply continued walking instead of immediately offering assistance.
FLYNN: Yes, sure. I have no reason to believe that that's not true. Personally, Wolf, I don't know what the internal Buffalo Police Department protocols are on riot protection and medical service so I really don't have any specific knowledge of what those rules are.
But that seems plausible and to be fair, you know, one all the officers, actually the officer who used the baton on the victim here, he actually started to bend down and one of his supervisors, I believe behind him told him to get up and move on.
So that explanation makes sense to me and I have no reason to doubt that.
BLITZER: Those charges that you've levied, those are felony charges, right?
FLYNN: Yes Sir, they are. And the only reason why they're felony charges those because of the particular section of our statue here in New York that deals with victims who are 65 years or older. That - that's what quite frankly, rises this to a level of felony offense here in New York State.
BLITZER: John Flynn is the district tourney of Erie County. Buffalo's in Erie County. We'll stay in close touch with you, Mr. Flynn. Thanks so much for joining us.
FLYNN: Thank you wolf.
BLITZER: We're continuing to monitor protests across the country this hour. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
Take a look at this live pictures. Look at this huge crowd right here in the nation's capital in Washington DC, only steps away from the White House where multiple groups of protesters are descending right now to Lafayette Park.
Meantime, the NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell now admits he was wrong for not listening to players earlier on the issue of race. So how are some former players reacting Tiki Barber and Warrick Dunn. Two former NFL stars, they're standing by. We'll discuss when we come back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COLIN KAEPERNICK, FORMER SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS QUARTERBACK: It's something that I've seen, I've felt, wasn't quite sure how to deal with originally, and it is something that's evolved.
It's something as I've gained more knowledge about what's going on in this country in the past, what's going on currently, these aren't new situations. This isn't new ground.
It's things that have gone on in this country for years and years and have never been addressed, and they need to be.
There's a lot of things that need to change. One specifically is police brutality. There's people being murdered unjustly and not being held accountable.
Cops are getting paid leave for killing people. That's not right. That's not right by anyone's standards.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Colin Kaepernick back in 2016. His protest against police brutality began that season, 2016. Despite being under 30 years old at the time, the 49ers quarterback has not returned to the NFL since that season. The question of why has long pitted the NFL Commissioner, Roger Goodell, and NFL ownership against a lot of players who want to see Kaepernick returning return.
Yesterday came this message from Commissioner Goodell.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROGER GOODELL, NFL COMMISSIONER: We, at the National Football League condemn racism and the systematic oppression of black people. We, at 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, at the National Football League believe black lives matter. I personally protest 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.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Joining us now, two former NFL star running backs, Tiki Barber and Warrick Dunn. They join me right now.
Tiki, no mention specifically of Colin Kaepernick. Can the NFL really move forward, do you believe, without that quarterback after four years' absence eventually returning to the league?
TIKI BARBER, FORMER NFL PLAYER: No, I think they can, Wolf. This is an issue that's bigger than Colin Kaepernick at this point.
I think if you talk about Colin Kaepernick, it's important because the NFL was wrong four years ago, and history wouldn't have judged them well, but in Roger's defense, he is getting it right this time, and that's what's most important.
And unfortunately, it took an unfortunate incident with George Floyd to bring it to light.
But Colin Kaepernick is important because he started this. But it's grown so much bigger than what Colin Kaepernick was kneeling for. And I said this on my show earlier this week, Wolf. I wouldn't be surprised if we see other people, not just players, fans, police officers, et cetera, kneeling in solidarity with this movement that has exploded across the country.
BLITZER: I suspect you're right. Warrick, what do you think?
WARRICK DUNN, FORMER NFL PLAYER: Well, I think Roger is trying to do the right thing overall. I think you really can't focus on Roger and what he didn't do four years ago. I think this is a new time, like Tiki said, we need to really look forward and see what we can do to create that change.
DUNN: These players today, they're focused on changing their communities. And I commend them, I'm going to support them and now that now, the National Football League is going to support their players moving forward.
So, sometimes people are focused on saying Kaepernick's name. I think if you're going to focus on him, you should say all of the guys' names that kneeled four years ago, so all of them played a part in this change moving forward.
BLITZER: You know, Warrick, your mother was a police officer who was sadly murdered. You went on to succeed not only as a player, but now as a minority owner of the Atlanta Falcons. What's your reaction right now to what we are seeing on the streets across America and what's been playing out -- what's been playing out specifically as far as the NFL is concerned?
DUNN: Well, for me, I go back and I think about my mom all the time and the way that she policed the streets in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
And I understand what police officers go through, the sacrifice that they make, but also, you know, they're held to a higher standard. And they have to live up to that standard.
You know, being a black male, I've been stopped by police officers just because I'm black driving a nice car. So, I think we need to look at things with a different lens and look towards the future. What change can we make to make this world a better place?
And the National Football League, I think they're going to stand behind their players and the mission. I know here in Atlanta, Mr. Blank, he stands behind his players and he supports his players in the community because you do need positive change.
BLITZER: Certainly do. Tiki, star quarterback, Drew Brees, he apologized after receiving some condemnation earlier this week for conflating protests over police brutality with disrespecting the American flag.
President trump pushed back at Brees for apologizing. He tweeted this and I'll put it up on the screen, "We should be standing up straight and tall ideally with a salute or a hand on heart. There are other things you can protest, but not our great American flag. No kneeling." That was the tweet from the President. So, what's your reaction to all of this?
BARBER: Well, the reality is, Wolf, is that of course you can stand and salute the American flag and stand for the National Anthem and be proud of this country.
But our First Amendment gives us the right to kneel and protest peacefully. Before you have a right to anything else in this country, the First Amendment gives you the right to peacefully protest.
And so I agree with people who want to stand, but you also have to agree with those who want to kneel in protest in some fashion or another. And to Drew Brees, struggle creates growth.
Drew thought that he was saying the right thing in standing up for what he believed in by saying that he would stand for the flag and referencing his grandfather. But in that same breath, he condemned those that would protest, a right that's guaranteed by our Constitution and that's where he got into trouble.
In his defense, he has also started to change. He started to grow and look at equality differently. I think we all have a misconception about what is equal, we all get the same thing and in theory we do in this country.
But equity, which is a different concept, it is something that people are starting to focus on. Giving lifts and giving boosts and giving more attention to the black lives that have been oppressed for decades, generations in this country.
Look, Warrick said this and I think he is exactly right. The NFL is a powerful, powerful industry. And with Roger Goodell's blessing now and hopefully the blessings of all 32 owners, they put their collective weight behind something that the players care deeply about, because it affects them personally and it certainly affects the communities from whence they came from.
BLITZER: And yes, and remember Commissioner Goodell specifically said and we heard it earlier, we, the National Football League, believe black lives matter.
Tiki Barber, Warrick Dunn, guys, thanks very much for joining us. Good luck. We'll continue these conversations I'm sure down the road. Thanks very much for joining us.
BARBER: Thank you, Wolf.
DUNN: Thank you.
BLITZER: We'll have much more live coverage here in our special SITUATION ROOM, but first, "Unconscious Bias," what is it and how does it affect us? Join Fredricka Whitfield for a special conversation, "Unconscious Bias: Facing the Realities of Racism." That airs live -- live -- here on CNN tomorrow night, 10:00 p.m. Eastern.
As we see pictures like these from across the country right now, we've seen for the past 12 days, we simply can't forget that we're still in the middle of a pandemic.
So, what effect could these massive gatherings have on the nation's fight against coronavirus? We'll take a closer look when we come back.
BLITZER: Mass demonstrations in the wake of George Floyd's death are certainly now under way across America, this for the 12th night. Take a look at this, rallies here in Washington, D.C. And Atlanta.
For public health experts, though, these pictures are concerning. Definitely not enough social distancing, if any, and many people without masks. So, what happens when you mix protests with a pandemic that still continues? Let's find out.
Dr. Patrice Harris is joining us. She is the President of the American Medical Association. Dr. Harris, thanks so much for joining us. We're seeing these protests. Some areas are actually seeing an actual uptick in coronavirus cases.
Let's not forget the past three months, almost two million coronavirus cases in the United States and we're approaching 110,000 confirmed deaths from coronavirus. A thousand Americans died in the past 24 hours alone.
So, when you see all of these demonstrations unfold, and obviously a very important good cause, potentially, how concerned are you?
DR. PATRICE HARRIS, PRESIDENT, AMERICAN MEDICAL ASSOCIATION: Well, Wolf, thank you for having me on and certainly COVID-19 is still with us. But it is certainly a threat to the public health, but so are police brutality and racism.
HARRIS: And so here we have the convergence of three threats to the health of the public. And certainly, there's risk involved with the protests, but certainly understand that we cannot sit idly by and just observe racism and police brutality, which is one of the reasons why the AMA continues to engage on COVID-19.
But we also recently made a strong statement against police brutality and racism.
BLITZER: Yes, you did, a very important statement indeed. Dr. Jay Varkey, an Infectious Disease Professor at Emory University in Atlanta said yesterday, and I am quoting now, "If you're going to attending a protest, wear a mask, use hand sanitizer and especially protect your eyes with goggles or a face shield." Do you agree with those recommendations?
HARRIS: That is absolutely good advice. Certainly, we've said from the beginning that everyone should be wearing a face covering and trying our best to maintain good hand hygiene.
Of course, in the midst of a protest, the best way to do that is frequent use of hand sanitizer, so those are all excellent suggestions and good advice. And I hope the protesters follow that advice.
BLITZER: I hope so, too. I spoke with the Mayor of Los Angeles, Eric Garcetti, last night here in THE SITUATION ROOM about the risks. I want you to listen to what he said.
[VIDEO CLIP PLAYS]
BLITZER: That's the wrong sound bite. He said, he is deeply concerned. He was grateful to me for asking the question, but he said that people need to be very careful going out there, despite the really, really important work that they're doing.
HARRIS: Absolutely. People should be careful. We need to make sure that our local public health departments continue to have great testing capacity, the ability to test and trace.
I know here in Atlanta, our Mayor wants to make sure that the protesters get tested, and so that's a critical piece of this.
Again, a convergence of multiple threats to the public and health of the public. And so we just need to do whatever we can to mitigate the risks.
BLITZER: And finally, Dr. Harris, we're seeing an uptick, an increase in coronavirus cases in several states right now. How concerned are you about that?
HARRIS: Well, you know, Wolf, we have been concerned since the beginning as states relax regulations and restrictions. Now, of course ultimately, we were going to have to relax these restrictions.
And again, that's why you've been hearing the public health experts and physicians and the AMA, we have been saying that we are going to have to make sure that we have robust testing capacity so that when an outbreak, a hot spot is identified, it can immediately be investigated. Those who test positive can be isolated and quarantined.
So, we continue to remain concerned and we have to make sure we continue to have everyone practice the appropriate public health best practices.
BLITZER: Yes. Wear a mask, social distancing, hand sanitizers, and all of the stuff we've been hearing about critically still very much important. We are still in the middle of a coronavirus pandemic.
Dr. Patrice Harris, thanks so much for joining us.
HARRIS: Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: As we continue to monitor these live pictures of largely peaceful protests across the United States, we're also getting new details today about how a misclassification error, a misclassification error may have made last month's jobs numbers look better than they actually were. We have details on that. We'll be right back.
BLITZER: Last month's job numbers here in the United States took everybody by surprise yesterday despite almost all economists warning of more losses. The report actually said that 2.5 million jobs were added, which lowered the unemployment rate to 13.3 percent.
But now, it turns out that what officials are calling a misclassification error could have made the numbers look better than they really are.
If it weren't for that mistake, the unemployment rate could have been as high as 19.2 percent in April and 16.1 in May.
Cristina Alesci is joining us right now. Cristina, so, tell us about this error. What's going on?
CRISTINA ALESCI, CNN BUSINESS POLITICS AND BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Well, the government essentially said that it was difficult to classify about five million people. These were people who were marked as absent from work, but employed and many of them probably should have been characterized as unemployed.
If you factored in the people, you're right, the May headline unemployment rate would have been 16 percent and not the 13.3 that we are talking about.
But what is remarkable, Wolf, is that President Trump took a victory lap yesterday with 13.3, even if you look at the smaller number, the 13.3 unemployment rate. He took a victory lap.
Meanwhile 21 million Americans are still out of work, still unsure about their future and probably looking forward, and unsure about whether Congress is going to going to pass additional enhanced unemployment benefits that's been keep them afloat, pay their bills, pay their rent -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Yes, we see huge, huge lines all over the country, people waiting at food banks to get food to feed themselves, to feed their hunger kids because so many Americans are unemployed right now.
Cristina Alesci, thank you so much for that report.
We're also following right now the massive protests across the United States. This hour, from Los Angeles to the nation's capital.
Protesters are filling the streets. They are demanding change to policing and the treatment of African-Americans. We will go live to the protests when we come back.