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Pandemic And Protests Across U.S. As President Remains Out Of Sight; Colin Powell: Trump Has "Drifted Away" From The Constitution; Thirteenth Day Of Protests From Big Cities To Small Towns Across U.S.; Obama Urges Graduation To "Create New Normal" In Commencement Address; Peaceful Protesters March For Justice In Cities Across U.S.; Democrats To Introduce Sweeping Police Reform Bill Tomorrow; Minneapolis City Council Members Announce Intent To Dismantle Police Department. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired June 7, 2020 - 21:00   ET




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.

Across the United States, all around the world, we're witnessing a movement to end systemic racism. But as protesters take to the streets here in the United States now for the 13th day, the President is remaining out of sight this weekend except on Twitter as top Republican voices are adding their names to the growing list of those who condemn President Trump's response to the nationwide unrest. The latest being former Republican Secretary of State General Colin Powell, who unleashed a stinging rebuke of his party's leader.


GEN. COLIN POWELL, FMR SECRETARY OF STATE: We have a constitution and we have to follow that constitution. And the President has drifted away from it.


BLITZER: And when asked who he will throw his support behind in November, General Powell shifting to the left saying he cannot in any way vote for President Trump.


POWELL: I'm very close to Joe Biden on a social matter and political matter. I worked with him for 35, 40 years. And he is now the candidate, and I will be voting for him.


BLITZER: Speaking of Biden, he plans to travel to Houston tomorrow to meet privately with the family of George Floyd, the man who died a at the hands of police, whose death sparked widespread protests in the United States indeed across the world. New York, Chicago and Philadelphia, by the way, are joining other major cities in lifting curfews citing the peaceful nature the protests that have continued throughout this weekend.

Also tonight, former President Barack Obama offering these words of encouragement to the next generation during a commencement speech.


BARACK OBAMA, FMR PRESIDENT OF UNITED STATES: You don't have to accept the world as it is. You can make it into the world as it should be, and could be you can create a new normal, one that is fairer and gives everybody opportunity and treats everyone equally, and builds bridges between people instead of dividing them.


BLITZER: All right, let's begin this hour in New York City where large crowds of peaceful protesters have been taking to the streets today. Yesterday, the New York City mayor By the way, they'll de Blasio lifting the city's curfew a day early. CNN's Bill Weir is on the streets of New York for us right now.

So Bill, give us the latest -- tell us where you are, what you're hearing what you're seeing?

BILL WEIR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well Wolf, we're in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, known for the strong Orthodox Jewish community here and we're just part of this tapestry of diverse protesters as we've seen across New York City today. And thankfully the word of the day as I listened to police scanners was orderly.

Another day of massive but peaceful protests, which is great given the turn of events that happened 10 days ago and how the NYPD has now responded now even saw a commander and inspector last night marching arm and arm with one of those protesters down 34 streets such a different tone.

And as you mentioned there, Bill de Blasio lifting that curfew, tomorrow morning will be the 100 days since the very first coronavirus case was confirmed in New York about 400,000 New Yorkers are expected to go back to work in the first phase of reopening the city. And it'll be interesting to see what it does for the momentum of these protests which would show no signs of slacking as far as police reform which is what people are chanting again and again to fund the police.

The mayor also for the first time said he wants to take money away from the NYPD, $6 billion budget and share it with more social programs. That has been the call of police reformers now, for many years. NYPD spends more on then homeless and social welfare programs, youth development, healthcare combined. And those who are calling for the defunding want the department to stay intact, but also to shift a lot of that funding to sort of help the pro -- the problems of the city that leads to so much anger, and so much disunity here as well. But standing in the way of that will certainly be the police unions, which have gotten very strong in recent years and more conservative in recent years. There's a few chanters still going right there.

A recent University of Chicago study looked at police departments that unionized and found that citizens complaints went up by 30% as those officers felt more protected. So that is the next phase of this debate on how to turn this action in the streets into concrete policy both at the state House and at the national level.


BLITZER: Bill Weir in Brooklyn for us. Thanks very much. From Brooklyn, let's head over here to Washington, D.C. which has seen some of the nation's largest protests yet. CNN's Pete Muntean is joining us right now.

Pete, where are you? What are you seeing?

PETE MUNTEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We're right in front of the White House, Wolf. And the crowd has thinned here a little bit, but it doesn't make their message any less poignant. Much of this group marched down from Dupont Circle earlier today, then went to the U.S. Capitol.

I have to tell you that it's been relatively loud here for most of the day. And we know that at the White House from our crew on the lawn, that those chants could be heard on the White House lawn and that President Trump is home today.

I want to tell you, though, about a much more quiet and somber moment here as that group marched down 16th Street to this newly named Black Lives Matter Plaza. They put their arms behind their backs. They laid on the street and for eight minutes, softly chanted, I can't breathe in honor of George Floyd.

We know this is not the only group that's been in Washington today, marching down Pennsylvania Avenue was a group of evangelicals, among them. Utah Senator Mitt Romney, possibly the highest ranking member of the GOP to join this Black Lives Matter movement. And here's what he had to say.


SEN. MITT ROMNEY (R-UT): And violence and brutality and to make sure that people understand the Black Lives Matter.


MUNTEAN: This is not just about the White House, Wolf. This crew has also been at the U.S. Capitol on the Capitol steps along March there nearly two miles. It is a key point in this entire protest. The Senate is in session tomorrow. The House meeting remotely, Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes, I suspect these protests are going to continue. All right, thanks very much, Pete Muntean, not far from the White House just across the street over at Lafayette Square.

Let's go to California right now, where we have just learned the National Guard plans to leave Los Angeles later tonight as protests there also remain very peaceful. CNN's Lucy Kafanov is on the scene for us.

So Lucy, tell us what's going on?

LUCY KAFANOV, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, this is quintessential Hollywood. We're on Hollywood Boulevard and Highlands, we're walking on the Hall of Fame behind me, or behind our cameraman, I should say is the theater where the Oscars are held. And this I would say is probably the largest crowd we've seen so far. Thousands of people taking to the streets in support of George Floyd to protest police brutality and the killing of black Americans at the hands of the police.

We just heard from Melina Abdullah, she's the co founder of the Black Lives Matter Foundation Organization. She just spoke a lot of folks have been taken to the microphone, and now we're on the move yet again. This is been -- you can see -- I mean, you can see from the pictures it's a diverse crowd, all colors, all ages. Everyone marching here with different signs.

You know, there's been some efforts by the police and by state and city authorities to deescalate tensions. One of those is to remove the National Guard. There's going to be some units left until June 10th. But the bulk of the force has been taken off the streets. The other as we no longer see the riot police in full gear on the streets. The mayor also said that he will be looking to cut about 100 to $150 million from the LAPD the Los Angeles police budget, but that is not enough.

That doesn't go far enough for this crowd. A lot of the chants here, a lot of the protests have been directed at the local district attorney, at the mayor. They want to see systemic change. They want to see bigger changes and they want to, you know, they don't want to have any more reasons to come out to the streets. They don't want to see any more innocent Americans lose their lives at the hands of the police, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Lucy, thanks very much. Lucy is on the streets of Los Angeles.

Right now, joining us now to discuss this and more of the -- a former Obama senior adviser, Valerie Jarrett. She's also the author of a new book entitled Finding My Voice, My Journey to the West Wing and the Path Forward.

Valerie, thank you so much for joining us. Thanks for writing this important new book. You of course, were President Obama's point person to senior advisor. Specifically, you work very hard on criminal justice reform, including police reform efforts. And your boss, the former president of the United States weighing in once again on this movement, this incredible movement we're seeing across the country right now. Watch this. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: Similarly, the protests in response to the killing of George Floyd and Brianna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery and Nina Pop aren't simply a reaction to those particular tragedies. As heartbreaking as they are.


They speak to decade's worth of anguish and frustration over unequal treatment and a failure to reform police practices in the broader criminal justice system. You don't have to accept the world as it is. You can make it into the world as it should be and could be, you can create a new normal, one that is fairer, and gives everybody the opportunity and treats everyone equally, and builds bridges between people instead of dividing them.

Just as America overcame slavery and civil war, recessions and depression, Pearl Harbor and 911 and all kinds of social upheaval. We can emerge from our current circumstances stronger than before, better than before.


BLITZER: All right. So Valerie a contrast that that message that we just heard from the former president to what we're hearing from the current president, who, by the way, is thinking about delivering a major speech on race relations in the coming days.

VALERIE JARRETT, FMR OBAMA SENIOR ADVISER: Well, first of all, I think today was a great opportunity for both President Obama and Mrs. Obama to congratulate the seniors who are graduating recognize that it is a very different atmosphere than the one that they had hoped for, to challenge them and inspire them to feel a sense of ownership of our democracy of our country, and want them to try to make it better.

And both President Obama and Mrs. Obama, I think, hit the notes perfectly today, I help those young people left feeling like OK, there's something I can do. And when you look around the country Wolf at all 50 states having demonstrations of people of all ages, of all races, it's the likes of which I've never seen before. And I'm old enough to remember the civil rights movement.

So I think both of their messages were powerful and inspiring, and appeal to what we have in common as opposed to the polarizing, divisive message that we've seen far too often coming from this White House.

BLITZER: If the current president Valerie does deliver a speech on race relations in the United States in the coming days, and we know he's thinking about doing that we heard from his secretary of housing earlier in the day that he's thinking about doing that. What would you like to hear him say?

JARRETT: Really, there's nothing that he could say that would make up for all of the damage that he has done since he hit the national scene beginning with being one of the primary advocates behind the birther controversy. His rhetoric during his campaign, his rhetoric in office, his tweets, his messages as recently as this week, the way he used force to remove peaceful demonstrators from Lafayette Park for a photo op in front of the White House, a photo op that was criticized by the church saying this is not what we're about. Having his own military really come down hard and chastise him something I've also never seen before.

So I don't think there's anything that he could say in one speech that would be taken seriously. I think we're going to see change happen is on the ground, where good peaceful protesters are putting pressure on local government and I'm hopeful that that will also be translate into voting come November.

So, next January, we're swearing in President Biden, but there's nothing that he could really say that would make up for all the hurt and the damage and divisiveness that he has done since he has been in office and before.

BLITZER: As you know, many police departments across the country, they've come under a lot of fire for using excessive force during these very protests. The very thing demonstrators are speaking out against. Do you support major changes in police departments across the country, specifically, what you're hearing from some of your fellow Democrats defund these police departments and basically get rid of them?

JARRETT: Look, I think law enforcement is an important part of every democracy. The question is, is it just and I think there's ample evidence. That so far, it's not and it isn't just the police and communities of color, the entire criminal justice system is broken, and need of substantial reform, I believe Wolf every year, mayors and city council should look at their budget and make sure that the budget reflects the values of the people they represent.

So for example, President Obama last week, called on every Mayor across the country to look at use of force in concert with the community that they represent, should we be spending more money, for example, on training, on implicit and an overt bias training to make sure that police officers understand how to deescalate rather than escalate? And so it's a complicated issue. It's not as simple as cutting funding or increasing funding. But I think engaging with the community and really thinking through how law enforcement interacts with the community in a way that is perceived as just, unfair and equally meted out is what these demonstrators are calling for.

BLITZER: Do you believe Valerie, we're going to see and hear a lot more from President -- former President Obama in the coming days and weeks?


JARRETT: I think he is going to speak out where he thinks his voice can be a positive force for change. I think that he has always done that. I'm sure that going into the campaign season you will see him actively campaigning on behalf of Vice President Biden, somebody who had the pleasure of serving with for eight years and no, he knows so well.

And so yes, I think he's going to speak where he thinks he can make a difference. And, and, and that's what I think we would expect from any former president. It was heartening to see this week, all the former presidents added their voice to the situation, calling for peaceful demonstrations, calling for change, calling for the eradication of policies that have had such a deleterious impact on communities of color.

BLITZER: And finally, Valerie, do you think the country right now is at a tipping point of potential dramatic change on this sensitive issue? Or are we just going to go back to the old days after a few more days of these protests?

JARRETT: Well, I have to tell you a tipping point versus turning point, I like to believe that we are at the beginning of a turning point I'll tell you why Wolf, because already cities like Minneapolis and Seattle have decided to get rid of chokeholds. The entire state of California got rid of chokeholds. The Attorney General for the state of Minnesota in the most rapid decisive charges for that were brought against the four officers involved in George Floyd's death. I've never seen an attorney general step in and move so quickly. And I have to believe that it's a result of this pressure.

And so I do think that we have to keep the momentum up. I'm heartened to see that people are taking to the streets night after night after night. And I think that it is an example of the frustration that has been building in many cases for generations. And certainly in case of the larger population who had to witness firsthand a man dying slowly over eight minutes beyond the tailor, sleeping in her own bed shot eight times.

And not to mention what we've been seeing just this week in terms of how peaceful protesters have been treated as a 75-year old white man who was peacefully protesting is shoved. And what happens when the when there is discipline against the officers who did it, 50 other officers decide to side with the officers. They put out a statement saying that he tripped and fell when we all saw what happened. I think all of this bubbling up is healthy and good for society, and it can lead to sustainable change.

BLITZER: If George Florida had been wiped, do you think he'd be alive?


BLITZER: Valerie Jarrett, thanks so much for joining us. And we'll continue this conversation, of course, down the road. I appreciate it very much.

JARRET: You're welcome Wolf, goodnight.

BLITZER: All right, take a look at this. We got some live pictures of very large protests happening right now, right here in the nation's capitol. These protesters, by the way gathering just outside St. John's Church, which is right near Lafayette Square across the street from the White House. And also tomorrow, Democratic lawmakers up on Capitol Hill they're planning to unveil legislation to fight police brutality. We're going to talk about bought that and more with the former head of the NAACP.



BLITZER: Protests are happening around the country right now not, just in the largest cities in the United States. Take a look at this Raleigh, North Carolina painted in bright yellow letters on the street there end racism now, you see that aerial shot.

Meanwhile House Democrats will introduce a sweeping police reform bill tomorrow exactly two weeks after the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Says CNN has learned the legislation will include changes that make it easier to sue a police officers for bad behavior. Establish a national police misconduct registry so that fired officers can't just go someplace else and get another job and ban chokeholds and there are several more provisions.

Let's discuss this and more with the civil rights attorney Cornell William Brooks, the former president and CEO of the NAACP.

Cornell, thanks for joining us. So what do you think of these proposals in this Democratic legislation?

CORNELL WILLIAM BROOKS, FORMER PRESIDENT & CEO, NAACP: I think it's critically important. We are at a moment where you have 18,000 police depart 19,000 jurisdictions, where if we wait for change to emerge solely from the bottom up, we have to go department by department over year after year after year. So legislation in Congress is critically important to address chokeholds, to pierce the barrier that protects and shields police officers from accountability.

You know, in other words, doing something about immunity. Addressing the matter of a national, excessive use of force. We need clear national leadership on this issue. In other words, people have been putting up with bad policing, violent policing, unconstitutional and immoral policing for years and decades on end. We need national leadership as well as grassroots leadership.

BLITZER: Some Democrats on the left, they want to go further than this legislation and actually start defunding police, district -- police departments in cities all around the country. Are you ready to do that?

BROOKS: I think it's critically important for us to get beyond the phrase when so when we think about defunding the police, many Americans believe when you say defund the police, it's a choice between a thousand and false choice between the police and crime. More and more Americans see a choice between crime and police violence, that is unprosecuted crime and they say there must be an alternative.

So the idea of funding what works, defunding what doesn't work is not a radical, unreasonable or irrational concept. So for example, we have blue states and red states that are shutting down prisons, defunding. What doesn't work funding what does work? We have counties in this country which are pulling police officers out of schools because we know that when you have too many police in schools, you have higher arrests, lower graduation rates.


The point being here is we have to get beyond a simple phrase to appreciate the ideas, the scholarship behind it. So instead of using police as the first responders for mental health care, for educational challenges, and social challenges, we take the money that doesn't work in policing, put it into those things which do work, all of which promote public safety, and especially communities of color and certainly black people. That's unreasonable.

BLITZER: We're showing our viewers by the way, Cornell these live pictures, huge protests continuing in Los Angeles right now.

As you probably heard today, the NBA legend Michael Jordan has announced he's donating $100 million over the next decade, two groups that promote racial equality and social justice. But he also once famously said, and I'm quoting him now from the old days Republicans buy sneakers too.

So we're seeing a lot more people weigh in now than we then we've seen in the past on sensitive political issues. What does that say to you?

BROOKS: Well, what it says to me is Democrats, Republicans, independence, people of every hue and heritage, wear Air Jordans and Jordan sneakers, but they're concerned about black lives. They're concerned about police brutality. They're concerned about this pandemic of police violence.

This is not a matter of where you stand on the political spectrum. It's where you stand on the moral spectrum. And it is quite simply wrong to have a situation where we have not roughly a thousand people to die at the hands of police every year, and one out of every 1,000 black men can expect to die at the hands of the police.

So we commend, are those athletes, those influencers who we're putting their reputations and their money behind the cause of ensuring the safety and the sanctity of communities of color and certainly black lives. So that's a good thing. But be clear about this. When you look at these crowds buy sneakers and this is really about honoring the loss of George Floyd's life and ensuring the moral legacy of this country in terms of getting rid of and bringing to an end police violence.

BLITZER: Cornell William Brooks, thanks so much for joining us.

BROOKS: Thank you Wolf.

BLITZER: So members of the Minneapolis city council say they are planning to actually dismantle their city's police department. We're going to discuss that, get the latest information, when we come back.



BLITZER: Just hours ago, members of the Minneapolis City Council announced their intent to defund and dismantle the city's police department saying their current system is simply not working. It's just one example of cities trying to bring reform, serious reform to police departments. Let's discuss these efforts and more relations between the police and communities they serve.

We're joined by Cedric Alexander, a Former Police Executive, also the Former President of the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives. Also with us is Jeffrey Toobin, our Chief Legal Analyst. Cedric, what have you felt as you've watched these protests continue to grow nationwide? And what do you think of these efforts in some communities now to actually dismantle police departments?

CEDRIC ALEXANDER, FORMER PRESIDENT, NATIONAL ORGANIZATION OF BLACK LAW ENFORCEMENT EXECUTIVES: Well, there's a major movement going on in this country, Wolf, that we all see taking place in front of us, but also around the globe in other countries that have issues with their public safety. But back here in the U.S. and a lot of their information and a lot of the talk and, you know, that we're hearing every day in the street on this program across the country, is should we dismantled police departments. I'm not a proponent of that having served -- have been achieved twice in police departments.

Getting rid of police departments to me is not the answer. Reforming police departments to a place where you have good public safety for me is the answer. And that means we have to recruit the right people. And as long as we're not recruiting the right people who have a sense of compassion and humanity, and truly want to serve as a guardian, we're going to continue to have these problems. But to dismantle the police department, I'm not really clear about what that means, but in a basic way, it means you no longer have police.

And how do you do that in order to have a society where you have some sense of someone being able to keep our community safe. So we do need reform. And there needs to be some major reform in this country. But to do away with police departments, I'm not a big proponent of that based on what I'm hearing.

BLITZER: Because, Jeffrey, you see a lot of signs that these demonstrations defund the police. So what does that mean, what does that say to you?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Well, I think, you know, people shouldn't take too much out of this. First of all, this Minneapolis plan is not even a plan. It's just an idea. And the idea is not to abolish law enforcement. Everybody knows there has to be law enforcement. But the question is, how do you organize it?


Like, for example, a lot of police departments have police officers placed in schools. And what a lot of communities have found is that when there are police officers placed in schools, people of color, young people of color get arrested at a disproportionate rate. So one of the ideas that circulating is to stop having police officers in schools, have security provided by the school system rather than by the police. That's one way of changing the responsibilities of the police department, but it's not abolishing the police department.

Those are the ideas that are being talked about now. Not, you know, stopping investigating crime. Everybody knows that murders, rapes, unfortunately, you're not going to go away and there has to be an institution that protects society and it's going to be law enforcement.

BLITZER: Tomorrow, you know, it's important to note, Cedric, that House Democrats are going to release a sweeping police reform bill not to dismantle or defund the police, but a reform bill. Could this be effective in bringing reform towns and cities across the United States? And I say, even if it passes the House, there's by no means any guarantee it's going to pass the Senate.

ALEXANDER: Well, absolutely, it is a step in the right direction. And I'm glad to see this happening. And I'm glad to see the Congressional Black Caucus initiating some of those proposals as well too, because it is very clear to the American people, and to all of us across this country that something needs to be done in way of reform.

Now, they have a list of things that they are going to explore and talk about initiatives that they're going to write and create. And, yes, you're going to have to have Senate support. But hopefully we're at a place in this country presently, where we can get the Senate to go along with some of these initiatives so that we can move this country along.

I think none of us, regardless of whether we sit on the right or the left side of the aisle, don't ever want to think that the protection and the support that's being provided to communities across the country are being provided to those who are the best fit for this job. We're in a place. And as Jeffrey was just say, taking police officers out of schools, that's one of the best things you can do.

Problem is we'll hear more recent years, we have asked police officers to do way too much. Put them in positions that they should not be in, but let's get them back on exactly where they need to be in terms of serving and protecting and building relationship every day and stop asking them to do everything. So there's a lot of things can be done in that regard.

BLITZER: You think, Jeffrey -- go ahead, make your point. Jeffrey.

TOOBIN: Well, I was just going to mention one idea that is now in wide circulation. You know, in the American legal system, when someone does something terrible to you, when they hit you, when they assault you, you sue them, right? I mean, that's something that our civil justice system works that way. But under this doctrine of law called qualified immunity, it's almost impossible for people who have had bad experiences with the police to sue the police department. One of the ideas in the bill that the Congressional Black Caucus came up with that's going to be introduced tomorrow is to limit this notion of qualified immunity so that these lawsuits are possible. And that will create a greater incentive for police departments to get their act together when they realize that there is a financial penalty possible if they do engage in misconduct.

BLITZER: All right. Jeffrey Toobin, Cedric Alexander, guys, thanks very much, an important conversation indeed.

ALEXANDER: Thank you.

BLITZER: We'll see what unfolds tomorrow in the House of Representatives.

Meanwhile, two college students frightening encounter with police was captured on camera. Messiah Young was tased and dragged from his car last weekend in Atlanta. He says it happened while he was simply driving home. He's standing by live. He'll join us. We'll discuss when we come back.



BLITZER: As Atlanta residents poured into to the streets all week long to demand racial justice and end to police brutality, my next guest endured a truly terrifying encounter with Atlanta police. While driving home last weekend, Messiah Young hit downtown traffic due to the protests. Before he knew it. Multiple police officers were breaking the windows of his car, yakking his friend out of her seat, and then tasing him. Messiah says his wrist was injured, he suffered bruises all over his ribs, had to get nearly 20 stitches in his four arm.

Messiah Young is joining us right now. Messiah, first of all, how are you doing right now?

MESSIAH YOUNG, TASED BY POLICE WHILE STUCK IN PROTEST TRAFFIC: Considering the circumstance, I'm doing OK. Thank you.

BLITZER: Thanks once again for joining us. You're a student at Morehouse College in Atlanta, describe the moment when the officers actually began breaking the windows of your car.

YOUNG: Honestly, all I can remember was complete terror and confusion. I was really confused as to why this was happening and how barbaric the whole situation was. You know, once I got tased and actually saw the taser being pulled, I was, you know, scared for my life. Honestly, I didn't know how that night was going to end.

BLITZER: What were the police officer saying to you?

YOUNG: They were saying so many different commands. They were telling me stop. They were telling me to go. They were telling me to get out of the car. It was just so much chaos going on that it was honestly very confusing.


BLITZER: Did they have any excuse at all for stopping you and breaking the windows and then starting to tase you as they threw you to the ground?

YOUNG: Right before this happened, I had seen my Morehouse brother being tackled to the ground. And I was literally talking to him right before this happened. He was literally having a conversation with me right outside the car, and he was tackled to the ground. As this happened, I kind of wanted to document the moment because I've seen this happen so many times. Black people are targeted, or put into situations where, you know, their life is in danger. And I kind of wanted to, you know, be able to document if something did happen to him.

BLITZER: Very interesting. As you know, six of the police officers have now been formally charged, two of them have been fired. Do you feel that justice is being served, Messiah?

YOUNG: Right now, it's very -- it's a brief satisfaction. It's almost bittersweet because, you know, they are -- something is being done about the situation. However, this is still happening across the board throughout the nation. You know, police officers are wreaking havoc in terrorizing American citizens. So until something is done in drastic measure -- of domestic measurement within the police department, I think once there's change implemented, then there will be, you know, complete satisfaction.

BLITZER: And your friend who was also in the car with you, how's she doing?

YOUNG: She's doing OK. For the most part, you know, like I said, considering what has happened, this has taken a huge toll on the both of us. So trying to recover has been, I think, the toughest part of this entire situation.

BLITZER: Yes, she's a college student too. Well, Messiah, good luck to you, good luck to her. Thanks very much for joining us. And, you know, we were wishing both of you guys, both of you only, only the very best. Thank you so much.

YOUNG: Thank you so much. Thank you for having me.


A quick programming note for our viewers. Joined Fredricka Whitfield for a special conversation, what it is and how it affects us, "Unconscious Bias: Facing the Realities of Racism". That airs right after "The Situation Room" at the top of the hour, 10:00 p.m. Eastern. We'll be right back.


[21:52:23] BLITZER: From New York to Washington, Los Angeles, even in Billings, Montana, the downpour didn't slow these protesters who stood and march against racism and demanded an end to police brutality. Meanwhile, officials over at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are warning that protests across the country could be, quote, seeding events for the coronavirus. Remember more than 110,000 Americans have now died over the past three months and there are nearly 2 million cases of the virus here in the United States.

The Director of the Harvard Global Health Institute, Dr. Ashish Jha is joining us right now. Dr. Jha, some protesters say this cause is more important than worrying about the virus. What would you say to them?

DR. ASHISH JHA, DIRECTOR, HARVARD GLOBAL HEALTH INSTITUTE: Well, good evening, Wolf, and thanks for having me on. I mean, first of all, I'm worried that the protests are going to seed the virus. I think the CDC is right about that. What I would say is it's important to keep perspective. Even under the best investments, less than half of 1 percent of Americans were out there protesting. So while I think it will contribute, I don't think it's going to be a major cause of national flare ups across the country.

BLITZER: What's your advice, Dr. Jha, to the protesters who understandably, legitimately they have major concerns, all of us do, what's your advice to them on how to participate in these demonstrations?

JHA: Yes. So what we've been saying pretty much I think across the public health community is obvious, if you're not feeling well, if you're feeling sick, stay at home. If you're out there, wear a mask, use hand sanitizer. Try to stay in a small group. I understand that's hard in that large crowd but try not to mingle with lots and lots of folks and try to stay in a tight of a group as you can. But wearing a mask is critical.

BLITZER: New York, as you probably heard, setup special sites now to test some of the protesters for the virus, anyone who wants can get a test. Can ramped up testing make these protests safer?

JHA: Yes. Wolf, this has been one of my frustrations, you know, for a while. The lack of enough testing has made all of this stuff so much harder. We have so much virus in our community that is going undetected. I think testing sites like with the one in New York are going to be part of the solution. They're going to make this thing safer, which need to ramp that up across the country.

BLITZER: And do you think they will?

JHA: Well, I think we're getting there in terms of capacity. But I think it's really important for cities and states to do this and prioritize this. And we've been saying that for a while, and maybe this will be the catalyst.

BLITZER: Let's hope it is. Dr. Ashish Jha, as usual, thanks very much. We rely on your expertise.

And to our viewers, thanks very much for watching. I'll be back tomorrow in "The Situation Room", of course 5:00 p.m. Eastern.


CNN Special with Fredricka Whitfield "Unconscious Bias: Facing the Realities of Racism", that starts right after a quick break.


FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN HOST: Hello everyone, I'm Fredericka Whitfield.