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George Floyd Memorial in Houston Today; Derek Chauvin in Court for Bail Hearing; Interview with Protestor Samantha Francine. Aired 2- 2:30p ET

Aired June 8, 2020 - 14:00   ET



BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: -- I'm Brianna Keilar, and you are looking at some live pictures that we have out of Houston, where the public visitation for George Floyd is under way in his hometown.

This church is expecting thousands of mourners to pay their respects to the unarmed black man who was killed at the hands of police in Minneapolis. His death, two weeks ago today, has sparked nationwide protests and calls for changes in police departments around the country.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott met with the Floyd family. He spoke with mourners outside of this memorial, last hour.


GOV. GREG ABBOTT (R-TX): This is the most horrific tragedy I've ever personally observed, but George Floyd is going to change the arc of the future of the United States. George Floyd has not died in vain. His life will be a living legacy about the way that America and Texas respond to this tragedy.

I'm here to tell you today that I am committed to working with the family of George Floyd to ensure we never have anything like this ever occur in the state of Texas.


KEILAR: CNN's Sara Sidner is at the memorial, and she's joining us now. Sara, there are several people from the Floyd family who are there. Tell us who else is attending.

SARA SIDNER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: There are hundreds so far of mourners who are coming and streaming in. Some people know who George Floyd is -- have met him -- and some people just know of George Floyd. We are watching them as they stream in.

There are families, there are children, there are parents, there are grandparents, there are generational differences and there are differences of racial backgrounds as well: white folks, black folks, Latino folks, coming from all over the place. A lot of these folks are from in and around Houston, but there are people from other states who have shown up as well.

I thought it was very interesting to hear the governor say what he said, saying he is going to change America. What happened to George Floyd is going to change America. And he said, "I don't ever want this to happen, here in Texas." But there have been cases already here in Texas, between black folks and police, that have set off all the alarms that this particular case has set off.

And this governor, saying he doesn't want to see this ever happening again? It is remarkable, the response that people are having to what happened to George Floyd, and that is really because of a bystander being able to show you what happened, instead of having a he said-she said.

You -- people watched that 11 minutes of videotape in horror across not just America, but the world. What you are seeing today is really about laying down your sorrow and giving praise to the family and showing respect to George Floyd's family.

He's got a small child, he has several children who are going to be suffering lifelong without their father. He is a son and a brother and a friend, and that is what people are here to talk about. They're here to reveal to the family that they care, even if they never knew George Floyd. And they care about this country, and want this country to find its way to some peace. And they want changes in the relationship between black folks and police.

And you're hearing that over and over and over again. We spoke to a mother and her 14-year-old son, black woman and her black son, who said, I'm afraid to leave the house now, fearful for my life because of police. And she told me -- the mother -- said, this breaks my heart, to hear my son say that. But I know it's a truth for him and it's a truth for me.

They want to see that change. No one in this crowd and no one in any of the crowds of protests wants to see America deteriorate, wants to see the American dream fail. But for many, it has failed for them. This is a show of solidarity to say that they want to see changes in America because they know that America can be great for everyone -- Brianna.

KEILAR: I'm also struck, Sara, you mentioned the story about someone's child. I'm struck by what a motivating factor that is for so many people, as they have been moved by what happened to George Floyd.

I was speaking with one mother who is white, and she's married to a black man, her children are biracial. And she said that she was really shook to her core during Trayvon Martin. Her kids were about that age, they were wearing hoodies. And then George Floyd happened and she said to herself, are you freaking kidding me? This is still happening?

And she felt this need. She has -- you know, she has protested, she felt this need to speak out for her children, and also her future grandchildren.

SIDNER: Yes, we're seeing that, that very sentiment that this can't stay the same.

And I can tell you, having covered what happened -- the police shooting of Michael Brown, having been in Tulsa when Terence Crutcher was shot and killed, having been in Baltimore when Freddie Gray was killed by police, having watched this and then having been in Minneapolis in this instance with George Floyd, I can tell you there is a difference this time.


Why is there a difference? That is in part because there was no way to give an excuse for what happened to George Floyd. There was no way to excuse the behavior of those officers in this particular case. In many other cases, there's always what happened before, what happened before, what happened before caused this.

In this case, we watched it happen and saw the helplessness of a man who was already handcuffed. And so you are seeing a visceral reaction from black people, from white people, from Latino people, from Native American people, from people of all different backgrounds, coming out and saying, We're better than this. And if we aren't better than this, then we better learn how to be better than this -- Brianna.

KEILAR: Yes. Eight minutes and 46 seconds of what happened before. And there are so many people who have been moved, they can't ignore that even if they couldn't be moved to action before.

Sara Sidner, thank you so much for bringing that to us from Houston, the memorial of George Floyd, as his family is in attendance there among many others.

Just moments ago, the fired Minneapolis Police officer, Derek Chauvin, who had put his knee on George Floyd's neck for almost nine minutes, he appeared in front of a judge for the first time since his second- degree murder charge.

He is the senior officer who was really the lead in these four officers. He's the one who had his knee on George Floyd's neck as the three others either stood by or initially helped restrain Floyd. His charges had been upgraded from third-degree murder and manslaughter.

I want to bring in CNN's security correspondent Josh Campbell. Josh, you're there outside of the courthouse. We're really waiting to see what happens here, we're waiting to see if perhaps we're going to get an early look at what his defense could be. Are we learning anything?

JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Actually, no, Brianna, we're not. We just got out of court. The bail hearing began -- it was over very quickly, in the span of less than 10 minutes.

The only -- the first time we're hearing Chauvin's voice was in that hearing, primarily yes-no questions. The judge had asked him a number of identifying questions, he answered yes. But the big news out of here right now is that his bail has now been set by the judge at $1.25 million, or $1 million with conditions. Now, what is interesting here is that his attorney did not object to

the government's request for that high bail amount. Now, we know, just last week, I was in court when the three officers what were also involved in this incident appeared before the judge, and their attorneys were fighting that high amount, asking for much, much lower.

Here in this case, the government laid out its request for $1.25 million. Chauvin's attorney, saying that he did not object. Now, should be post bail, there will be a number of conditions on him. He is not allowed to have any contact with members of the family, to include posting anything on social media that would be directed towards them.

He's also required to surrender any firearms. He did indicate that he does own firearms, his attorney, making arrangements to get those firearms turned over and disposed to the government should be post bail. And he's also -- he will be precluded from engaging in any type of law enforcement or security work while he is out on bail.

Now, we're waiting to see if he has indeed -- will indeed post bail, no indication yet but that's the bit topline now. Bail set at $1.25 million, or $1 million with conditions. The next hearing, scheduled for June 29th -- Brianna.

KEILAR: June 29th. All right, Josh, thank you for that, from Minneapolis.

I want to bring in Laura Coates, former federal prosecutor and CNN senior legal analyst -- she's also barred in Minnesota, you should know that -- and Yodit Tewolde who is with us as well, she is a criminal defense attorney, she's a former prosecutor as well.

And so Laura, as I mentioned there, you have admission to the state bar in Minnesota. Let's first talk about this upgraded second-degree murder charge. How does this raise the stakes for prosecutors?

LAURA COATES, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, you know, unlike a lot of jurisdictions, second-degree murder has two components in Minnesota. One, you can prove through intentional behavior; and the other one, through unintentional behavior

If it's unintentional, you have to prove that regardless of intent -- in fact, not even touching it -- you have to prove they were actually trying to commit an assault against Mr. Floyd or attempting to, either causing grave bodily harm or substantial bodily injury. And that's the hook they're actually trying to pursue.

It removes that element, which can be oftentimes a herculean effort, to prove what's inside the mind of officers if you're trying to prove intent. So you have that ability in Minnesota. And it still remains a challenge to prosecute police officers, but it removes that very high burden of having to prove intent.

KEILAR: I wonder, Yodit, when you think of -- because we didn't get a glimpse into, you know, what might be a chance to see what Derek Chauvin's defense is, what are the options really here for his defense in this, and having put his knee on the neck of George Floyd for almost nine minutes?


YODIT TEWOLDE, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: You know, and that time frame is what makes it so difficult to establish some sort of a defense. But of course, we can expect one to be made by Derek Chauvin's attorney. And who knows what that could be.

Possibly the fact that he was -- of course the standard statement from officers who are involved in these type of incidents, is that they were in fear of their life. Well, we saw on that video, how that was not the case. So it's going to be incredibly hard to establish some sort of a defense, especially given the fact that this wasn't a split- second decision like most of these situations are.

This was a prolonged eight minute and 46 second situation, we saw draw out on-camera, on-video, where the -- George Floyd was begging for air and begging for his life. And I mean, it's going to be very -- incredibly difficult to establish some sort of a defense.

KEILAR: Yes. I mean, Laura, what do you think? It's just -- it is so hard to imagine -- we've talked about it before. Derek Chauvin, he had either his hands in his pockets, or he kind of had them just around his hip area. He had his knee on George Floyd's neck. He did not seem in fear of his life at all, he seemed to kind of be biding time with his knee on George Floyd's neck.

COATES: He did. And you know, one of the things that they may be using -- and I want to just delineate between Chauvin and the remaining three officers who have accomplice liability.

The remaining three officers will largely probably say, listen, we were new to the force -- especially two of them -- we are on our first several instances as actually being on duty, we were following a chain of command. I did ask about it or I tried to take the pulse. So try to act in some way to distance themselves from an intentional act to ignore the pleas of a dying man, number one.

If you're talking about Officer Chauvin, however, he will largely probably rely on the existing -- and now they're changing it now -- but the protocol in the police manual does allow for chokeholds in Minnesota, even unfortunately rendering somebody unconscious.

However, in order for any of that to be used, the person had to be resisting arrest, and actively resisting. So his defense, if there's any available to him, will be relying on, number one, that he had some sort of policy procedure he was actually following. And number two, that Mr. Floyd was actively resisting arrest. It's very hard and it belies the actual plain-eyed view of the videotape, but a look at that.

Also, he will unfortunately -- or fortunately, depending upon who you ask -- have the benefit of the doubt that every police officer seems to have, from Supreme Court precedent on down, which is a benefit of the doubt that's given to officers that is akin to, in many ways, a carte blanche to act on their authority. And so he'll battle between the court of public opinion, vice on

police officers, and about the police manual.

KEILAR: Yodit, your expectation is what, when it comes to what Chauvin might ultimately face? Just in terms of, I think, the headwinds, where this direction is going and what those less experienced officers, at least in the case of two of them, might be facing?

TEWOLDE: Well, I mean, those other officers are charged with aiding and abetting murder and aiding and abetting manslaughter, so they're still going to be culpable for -- at least liable for the underlying offense of murder, which carries a penalty -- maximum penalty of 40 years. So they are still exposed to that even if they weren't actually charged with the second-degree murder.

What Chauvin could be facing, who knows at this point. The court of public opinion shouldn't have an impact on what happens inside a courtroom, but of course things like that always do. And so, given the fact that we've seen such an uprising of people around the country, really protesting and demanding change, that could have some impact on how much time he gets.

Notoriously, police officers are not convicted of murder in situations like these. And if they are, they're given the very least amount of time. So that could still be the case here in this situation.

KEILAR: Yodit, Laura, thank you to both of you.

The White House right now, considering whether the president may make a national address about the protests, race and unity. This, as a new CNN poll shows President Trump's approval rating dipping to just 38 percent.

Plus, there's a major shift in what Americans think of the protests.

First, though, I'll talk to a woman who faced down a white man who went on a tirade against Black Lives Matter demonstrators.


You're watching CNN's special live coverage.


KEILAR: The sounds of peaceful protests by Black Lives Matter demonstrators in Whitefish, Montana were shattered by an angry, hateful confrontation.

This man was caught on tape cursing at the demonstrators, knocking down protest signs and getting in the face of protestors. He even screamed at a priest who tried to reason with him.


(CROSSTALK) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (inaudible) yourself. (inaudible) you.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (inaudible) You know what, I (inaudible) to do (inaudible).



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (inaudible), man. (inaudible).


KEILAR: The man was arrested and charged with disorderly conduct. And Samantha Francine is one of the protestors that you saw there in the video, who came face-to-face with him. And she's joining me now.

Francine, you are -- Samantha, you remained remarkably calm through this interaction. This is why you've captured sort of so much attention. Just tell us what was going through your mind when this happened.

SAMANTHA FRANCINE, BLACK LIVES MATTER PROTESTOR: Yes, it's still such a surreal experience. Like, I've been telling people, you know, there wasn't much time to think. I mean, it seemed like it went on forever, but it was just a few moments.


But as he was staring down at me and yelling at me like that, only thing that I could really think of was the words of my father who, when I was a little girl, when my brothers and I were little, we grew up in Whitefish and it's a predominantly white town. And he always told us that no matter what the threat is or who the threat is, make sure you look them in the eye so they have to acknowledge that you're human.

And in that moment, I lifted up my sunglasses and I just -- and I saw him and he saw me. And that was about the end of the interaction because I saw the fear in his eyes, and then he wanted to go continue his fight elsewhere.

KEILAR: So he seemed afraid to you?

FRANCINE: Well, I mean, more -- it's just the fear in his eyes. Not like he's afraid of me, but it was just like the fear of what we were doing and what was -- what could become of what we were doing. The peaceful protests for him was a threat. What we were doing made him uncomfortable.

He wasn't the first person that had come up to that group of people to yell at us because of what they thought we were doing. KEILAR: So give us a glimpse into what it's like protesting in

Whitefish, Montana, a predominantly white area where -- you know, you grew up there -- what's the dynamic like, what's the reception been?

FRANCINE: Overall it has been awesome. There's been so much love and so much appreciation. We've had people stop their cars and come out and join us, it's been really great. There's -- again, there's a few people who definitely aren't about what we're doing, but that hasn't stopped us.

It's really cool -- the group -- there's a group of teenagers that were the first ones out there, and so I like to applaud. Grace Jensen took that photo of me and captured a really great moment. And the video you just watched, Charlie (ph) Ross (ph) took.

So it's really brought a lot of the community together. A lot of people that we might not have met outside of that, old friendships have connected, things like that. So it's been a really beautiful experience. But, again, there's not many people of color, so we are coming together because we need to be at the forefront of this, so.

KEILAR: OK, Samantha, tell me, you sent this man's wife a gift basket. Tell us why --


KEILAR: -- and have you received a response?

FRANCINE: Marcela Cloud and I came up with that. It just seemed like this took off so quickly and got so big, so fast. And there was a lot of hate towards that man. And I don't have any malice in my heart towards him at all. We are who we are, and change is really hard so I understand -- well, I don't understand but I can see why he did what he did. And hopefully this will change him.

But his wife isn't who he did. And she wasn't the one in my face, she wasn't the one out there. And she had received some negative attention, and we just wanted her to know that we see her and we know that she's not him, and so we just wanted to give her a little blessing, let her know that she doesn't have to feel negative from us.

KEILAR: Well, Samantha Francine, thanks for joining us. The image of you is so powerful, and we really appreciate getting your thoughts.

FRANCINE: Thank you for having me.

KEILAR: The president's handling of the nationwide protests and the pandemic have been bad news for his approval rating, according to a new CNN poll. But could he turn it around with a speech on race and unity? The White House is considering this.


Plus, I'll speak to a member of the exonerated Central Park Five about whether the calls for racial justice are different this time around.


KEILAR: A new CNN poll shows President Trump's job approval rating taking a big hit, dropping to 38 percent. And this drop comes as the country deals with a pandemic and, of course, mass protests against racism and police use of excessive force.

CNN political director David Chalian is joining me now to discuss this. What does this, David, tell you, 38 percent job approval?

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Yes, it's sort of the lower end of what we normally -- sort of the band we normally see Donald Trump traffic in, in his approval rating. And that is, as you just noted, it's because he's coming through one of the most tumultuous times of his presidency, there's no doubt about that. And it is having an impact on his numbers.

So 38 percent, a seven-percentage-point drop from last month, Brianna. We see it mostly driven by independents and Democrats, but Republicans also, he's down a little bit from last month in approval.

KEILAR: And what does this match-up look like between him and Biden? And what's motivating voters there?

CHALIAN: Before I get to the Biden match-up, I just want to show you where the president's approval rating, Brianna, sits now compared to his modern-day predecessors. Take a look historically. If you look at President Trump right now, he is down there with 37, 38 percent, you can't even see it, the graphic doesn't go all the way down to show you Carter and Bush Sr.

The two elected presidents in the post-World War II era who did not get re-elected, who only served one term, they had a similar approval rating at this point in their presidency. That's where Donald Trump is now.

And on the issue of the protests that you mentioned, look at the movement in the country, 84 percent of Americans -- 84 percent of Americans don't agree on anything, but they agree these peaceful protests are justified. That's about 20 points higher than we've seen when we asked that question just a few years ago. So that's a movement on the move.