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Soon, Funeral for George Floyd in Houston; Protesters Call for Tough Conversations on Race, Justice, Policing in America; Rashad Robinson, Color of Change President, Discusses Racial Justice Change, Defunding Police, Congressional Legislation; New Disturbing Video of Another Black Man Dying in Custody in Austin; Trump Attacks Elderly Man Shoved by Buffalo Police. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired June 9, 2020 - 11:00   ET




KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan. Thanks so much for joining us at this hour.

Crowds are gathering in Houston this morning as a family prepares to say a final good-bye to George Floyd. The private funeral service will be getting under way in the next hour. But you can see right there crowds are gathering.

And this is now so much more than one tragedy for one family. As the pastor of the Fountain of Praise Church, where the service is taking place, told reporters, Floyd's death is, quote, "The spark of a movement in the nation and the world."

And with that in mind, the pastor writes that the service will include a call to justice, a call for social reform.

Leading up to today, there have been memorials already in Houston and Minneapolis and North Carolina giving the public the chance to pay tribute.

But make no mistake. One thing seems quite clear, the burial of George Floyd is nowhere close to the end of this story, not by a long shot. Just listen here to his brother.


PHILONISE FLOYD, BROTHER OF GEORGE FLOYD: All the families that are here with me today, Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor.




FLOYD: You thank you all. We will get justice. We will get it.



FLOYD: We will not let this door close.


BOLDUAN: Protesters across country and the world seem determined to not let that door close. With renewed debates now and really tough conversations going on about race, justice and policing in America today.

So let's go to Houston and start there. CNN's Sara Sidner, she's there for us.

Sara, what are you seeing there and hearing from folks?

SARA SIDNER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You know, yesterday, we saw about 6,000 people come in and pay their respects to George Floyd, pay their respect to George Floyd's family. Today, it's a much smaller scene because it is a private funeral so the family can finally grove amongst each other.

But we're also seeing other families here. You heard George Floyd's brother talking about that. The family, the father of Michael Brown is here, the mother of Eric Garner is here. The mother of families who have been through this, that have been at the center of these police- involved shootings or police-involved killings.

And they know the pain of this because their cases were also national news as well, so they have been under scrutiny as well. They are sharing their sorrow with the family today. And it's quite a powerful moment to see all these families standing together.

But the one thing that everyone agrees on is that change is going to happen. This case is that marker in history that is going to create the change that has needed to happen for many, many years now.

We even heard that from Governor Abbott, the governor of Texas, who came here yesterday as well and from Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, who I spoke with yesterday.

All saying the same thing, Republicans, Democrats, all agreeing that change must happen, that the relationship between police and black folks in this country has to be refurbished and has to be fixed.

This is going to be a sorrowful, tearful time. We're going to hear a eulogy and we're going to hear about George Floyd as a man and as a father and as a brother. And we will all be sitting and listening in rapture as they describe someone who has made a difference in the world, even in his death -- Brianna (sic)?

BOLDUAN: Sara, well put.

Sara Sidner will be there for coming hours as this funeral service get under way.

And as she said, change is come and what does that change look like, and where does the movement go from here? Some changes are already taking place or are in progress.

In Minneapolis, where Floyd and lived and died, the president of the city council there says that it's ready to de-fund, they are moving to de-fund and dismantle the police department there.


The New York State assembly just passed a ban on police use of chokeholds and the governor says that he will sign it.

On the federal level, we saw that Democrats in Congress have now rolled out a pretty broad overhaul of policing laws. Again, on that, especially, that's a long way from the finish line though.

But let's talk about this moment as we sit here with those pictures of the hearse and the funeral service and everyone gathering.

Rashad Robinson is joining me now, the president of Color of Change, a racial justice organization.

Rashad, thank you so much for being here with me.

I mean, before we talk about the changes coming, you know, this has been six days of memorials and public viewings but also of protests, of anger, of despair, all honoring George Floyd. And today is that final good-bye with the funeral service.

What does this moment mean, Rashad?

RASHAD ROBINSON, PRESIDENT, COLOR OF CHANGE: Well, I think for so many folks, it's a part of that moment of continuing to make sense of these tragedies, continuing to think about all of the sort of hurt and pain that both sort of George Floyd's death, the murder of George Floyd represents, but Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Tony McDaid, the names go on and on and on.

And all of the ways in which the system of justice continues to operate and in many ways the way it was designed to operate, to not deliver the type of justice for black folks and for black communities.

And for so many folks it's both that sort of pain of individual, of being human and sort of a deeper understanding of society that is supposed to work for you, that it's supposed to be on your side and isn't.

BOLDUAN: Yes. Funerals often are a moment to bring closure to folks, and this one will not do that, that is for sure. Where does this movement go from here, Rashad? Where do you want to see it go?

ROBINSON: I mean, the only place that I think this movement can go, if it's going to make good on what's happening out in the -- in it the street, what's happening around our kitchen tables and what's happening online and offline, where people are having deep conversations about structural racism and inequality, where people are coming to recognize their own role in some of this, in many ways, is the only place that this can go is to true structure reforms and that means changing the rules.

It's the unwritten rules around how corporations engage in the world and how media outlets engage. It's the written rules of policy and actually engaging the policy.

It's the ways in which our opponents, the folks who have far too often stood in the way of injustice actually decide where they want to be in history, folks like the from a Fraternal Order of Police and police unions, which are far too often free venting progress and that made statements and pretended things like racial profiling doesn't actually exist.

This is a moment where we can either look back five, 10, 15 years from now and say that we actually made change, or we can do some policies around the edges that make us feel good, but they actually don't deal with the problem.

BOLDUAN: Let me ask you about that, because part of the conversation now is a renewed debate over de-funding and dismantling police departments or reforming and redirecting funding from police departments. In Minneapolis, they are moving to dismantle the police department.

But you also have leaders like Joe Biden, also the chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, Karen Bass, who do not want to go that far.

Where are you on this -- on this question of de-funding police departments, Rashad? Is that -- is that around the margins? It doesn't seem to be. Where are you on this?

ROBINSON: You know, I don't think that we can make real progress if we're not going to have a real effort to divest from what hasn't been working and invest in what does work.

And people call it a lot of different thing, but this is how I see it. We have a problem with homelessness in our country, but we shouldn't be sending people with guns to solve it.

We can sometimes have a problem with kids not showing up to school, but we shouldn't send people with guns to solve it. We can sometimes have problems with folks with mental health, but we shouldn't have -- we shouldn't send people with guns to solve it.

When you look at communities with a lot of police and a lot of law enforcement, you sometimes -- you far too often don't see grocery stores with fresh food.

You don't see schools that are sort of serving the community. You don't see health care facilities and access to mental health. You don't see the things that we know that communities that are strong

and safe and don't have a lot of police actually have. So the question is where do we put our resources?


Budgets are sort of moral documents. They say -- they say what we actually believe in real terms beyond the sort of rhetoric. We actually put our dollars there.

And when cities are spending 50 percent-plus on their budgets on policing and not spending money on the things that we know help people have a better tomorrow, then what we end up with is exactly what we put money in.

We end up having people having so many different interactions with law enforcement, with people with guns. And we end up with situations where we're not actually dealing with root causes.

So the United States has 4 percent of the world's population, and we have 25 percent of the world's incarcerated population.

So anyone thinks that we can solve the problem by simply operating around the edges and not thinking really deeply about all the ways in which we have created a profit-and-incentive structure in policing in this country, which has gotten to the place, and we don't disrupt, it is actually trying to solve a problem without all the tools that we need to solve it.

BOLDUAN: What leads to actual public safety right now?


BOLDUAN: That's the core of the conversation.

ROBINSON: All communities --


BOLDUAN: And we're actually going to have a conversation about an alternative to policing, as we know it, a little later in the show. Getting to that exact issue that you're talking about, do officers need to be sent to calls that deal with someone having a mental health crisis? We should bring that to folks.

Rashad, thank you so much for coming in hand sharing time with me. I really appreciate it.

As you see, we're staying close to Houston as reporters are on the ground for the funeral service for George Floyd that will be getting under way shortly.

There's also something we need to turn to, a disturbing new video come out. This time from Austin, Texas, showing the final moments of another black man's life in police custody. And he's heard saying multiple times, "I can't breathe." Talking about 40-year-old Javier Ambler, who died after a traffic stop. This was last year, but video was just released.

The district attorney there's now trying to get some more evidence, more video evidence, including from the "Live P.D.," which is a reality show that was filming with the police during this incident.

There's warning that this video is very disturbing.

CNN's Ed Lavandera walks us through what happened.

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Kate, the video you're about to watch is deeply disturbing. The death of Javier Ambler was ruled a justifiable homicide last year.

But after the video was released of the altercation leading to his death, an attorney representing the family says that's outrageous.


LAVANDERA (voice-over): On March 28th, 2019, Williamson County sheriff's deputies are pursuing 40-year-old Javier Ambler just after 1:00 in the morning. According to a sheriff's department incident report, Ambler failed to dim his car's headlight as he drove past a deputy.

The report says Ambler tried to flee, leading officers on a 22-minute pursuit that ended up in the city of Austin. The incident report says Ambler crashed his car five times during the pursuit.

And that's where the officer's body camera footage captured how the arrest turned deadly.


LAVANDERA: According to documents obtained by CNN, Ambler exited his car with his hands up. He was not intoxicated and unarmed. Officers tried to handcuff Ambler but say he resisted and pushed back on the officers as he refused to follow verbal commands.

But the body camera footage captures Ambler in distress.

AMBLER: I can't breathe. I can't breathe.


LAVANDERA: Multiple times on the video Ambler is heard saying he can't breathe and that he's not resisting.

AMBLER: I'm not resisting.


LAVANDERA: Several minutes into the arrest, officers realize Ambler is unresponsive.


LAVANDERA: You can no longer hear him talking on the video.

Officers then unhandcuff Ambler and can be heard administering CPR compressions until medical units arrive on the scene.


LAVANDERA: According to an internal review by the Williamson County Sheriff's Department, its office of professional standards found that after reviewing the video evidence the ops concluded that the primary and assisting deputies acted in accordance with the guidelines of the sheriff's department and that the officers used objective reasonableness in the level of force used.

We have reached out to the Williamson County Sheriff's Department for comment but have not heard back.

The district attorney in Austin says that this investigation has been stymied for more than a year because the Williamson County Sheriff's Department refused to release other crucial video evidence in this case.


The D.A. says they hope to present this case to a grand jury later this summer -- Kate?

BOLDUAN: All right, Ed, thank you so much. That is so tough to watch.

Still ahead for us this hour, in a world where it is hard to be shocked by any President Trump tweet anymore, this one might. The 75- year-old protester who fell after being pushed by Buffalo police officers. We'll have that in a second.

And also, blaming the bystanders. Is this now the new defense strategy for the attorney of one of the charged Minneapolis officers? Is he now trying out this strategy?



BOLDUAN: Donald Trump is clearly looking for a fight or clearly trying to divert attention or distract or clearly didn't think he's getting enough attention. Whichever it is, his latest tweet is so outrageous that it actually needs to be called out.

Video emerged last week of Buffalo police shoving an elderly protester to the ground and walking past him even as he lay on the ground clearly injured as he was bleeding from his ear. He is still in the hospital, by the way. But this morning, the president is now attacking that man.

CNN's John Harwood, Dana Bash, are joining me for more on this.

John, there's always a debate on how much attention you should get crazy, but when it's the president of the United States -- and I don't want to read it but we'll put it up for folks here suggesting that this protester is an AntiFa provocateur and that this incident was a setup to scam police communications it seems we have to respond.

I should really quick, the lawyer for this man responded just a little while ago and basically said they were at a loss for words, that obviously no one from law enforcement suggested anything other than what we have seen, and they are at a loss to understand why the president of the United States would use such dark, dangerous and untrue accusations about this man.

John, you want to take a stab at what the president is actually trying to do here?

JOHN HARWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Kate, the president is cornered politically right now. The American people have strongly repudiated his approach on both coronavirus, which is a crisis economically, and the public health and on these Floyd protests.

He's down 14 points in our CNN poll to Joe Biden. His former White House chief of staff, his former defense secretary and current defense secretary have all rejected his approach to set U.S. military against protesters. Jim Mattis saying that Trump's approach is fundamentally un-American.

So here you had the president calling on or seizing on this report on a kooky TV network suggesting that this was AntiFa provocation because he thinks that makes his position look more defensible. He circulated that this morning, even though it's obviously crazy, obviously self- defeating.

And the other thing it is it makes a mockery, Kate, of this idea floated by his aides that he would give some sort of speech on reconciliation this week.

He might give a speech. He might say words that others write for him along those lines, but no one will believe it. It's just not him, and he showed that again this morning.

BOLDUAN: This isn't the first time, Dana, the president has pushed a conspiracy theory. We're often here together when we have to talk about, but this is actually dangerous I think.

He is making a choice not to engage with protesters and talk about the issues at hand but, instead, he has plenty of time to engage in spreading a conspiracy theory.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Right. I mean, obviously, the most egregious and the original of those conspiracy theories was the Birther movement, that he fanned the flames of, and was its top cheerleader for. and really got him more aggressively into politics as a -- as a businessman that he ever had before.

This is dangerous for so many reasons. I'll just give one to talk about and that is it really does speak to the whole reason why there are people protesting in the streets. This was an older white man. He wasn't a black man. But it's the same

notion of people really, really upset about the police and the way that they handle people and individuals.

And in this particular case, no matter what the president saw on a conservative -- to use John Harwood's term -- kooky network, the video speaks for itself.

And law enforcement, somebody in law enforcement shoved this man. He fell -- who was doing nothing that was aggressive or in any way that, you know, called out for that kind of reaction, and he fell to the ground.

And, you know, whether it is that or "I can't breathe" or anything else, I mean, that is the kind of police treatment that people want to change. And the fact that the president is clearly going against that and it feeds into his, you know, law-and-order message, I think, is one of the most dangerous and, just in terms of policy, never mind politically parts of that horrible tweet.

BOLDUAN: I'm going to make a prediction, guys. Next press conference, someone will ask him about the tweet and his response will be his latest version of no comment, which is, somebody told me, I heard somebody say it. And obviously, he'll never apologize or back down from any of this. But that is where we are today.

John, Dana, thanks, guys.


Coming up for us, the first defense from one of the officers charged in George Floyd's death had been that he had only been on duty for a few days, he was a rookie. His attorney's possible new defense strategy, blame by-standers. That's next.

And also, we're going back to Houston, as you see there. In the city of Houston, a family and a nation saying good-bye to George Floyd. His funeral service about to get under way at the top of the next hour.

We'll be right back.