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Interview With Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms; Brother of George Floyd Testifies on Capitol Hill. Aired 3-3:30p ET
Aired June 10, 2020 - 15:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: Hi there. I'm Brooke Baldwin. Thank you so much for being with me this afternoon. You are watching CNN.
And I want to get straight to this emotional day on Capitol Hill, as lawmakers heard from Philonise Floyd one day after he laid his brother George Floyd to rest.
He is testifying in front of a House Judiciary Committee hearing on police practices and law enforcement accountability, crying and pleading with lawmakers to ensure that his brother did not die in vain.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PHILONISE FLOYD, BROTHER OF GEORGE FLOYD: I'm the big brother now.
He said he couldn't breathe. Nobody cared, nobody. People pleaded for him. They still didn't care. Justice has to be served. His life mattered. All our lives matter. Black lives matter.
I just wish -- wish I can get him back. Those officers, they get to live.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BALDWIN: Philonise Floyd there tearful, and understandably so.
This all comes as Washington races to respond to the nationwide protests sparked by Floyd's death at the hands of police. Both Democrats and Republicans unveiled police reform proposals, and I should mention, there is some overlap. It's a rare sign that we could see a breakthrough on police reform legislation.
By the way, we're speaking with Speaker Nancy Pelosi about all of this in just a little bit, so stay tuned for that.
All of this is happening while Minneapolis is not wasting another minute. This morning, the city's police chief announced plans to make immediate changes to the police aimed at holding all officers accountable, and he did not mince words for -- regarding two now former rookie officers who were also involved in George Floyd's death. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MEDARIA ARRADONDO, MINNEAPOLIS, MINNESOTA, POLICE CHIEF: I don't put policies out to say that you should only react or respond if you're a two-year member or a five-year member or a 10-year member.
And if policies or subculture get in the way, then I expect and I demand one's humanity to rise above that. I did not see humanity that day for Mr. Floyd.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BALDWIN: Meanwhile, CNN has learned that the White House is weighing the possibility of taking executive action on police reform. Top aides will present the president with options as soon as today.
This is all before he travels to Dallas tomorrow, which some aides see as a potential venue for the president to unveil new measures. And, as I mentioned later this hour, I will talk to Speaker Pelosi and also Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms.
So, big show today.
I do want to start at the White House. All of this is unfolding. The president is taking to Twitter, saying that he is against renaming some of the military bases that are named after Confederate leaders.
So let's go to CNN's White House correspondent Kaitlan Collins from Washington.
And, Kaitlan, what exactly is the president saying?
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, let me tell you what the president said. And then I will tell you how that's conflicting what his own defense secretary has said in recent days.
But the president just tweeted a few moments ago, as the briefing was delayed, and then they printed off this tweet for reporters, brought it out to them in a handout. And it said, basically, in part that it's been suggested that we should rename some of these military bases, given who they are named after.
The president says -- quote -- "These monumental and very powerful bases have become a part of great American heritage and a history of winning." And he goes, "Therefore, my administration will not even consider the renaming of these magnificent and fabled military installations."
Then he later says -- quote -- "Respect our military."
That is the president saying he is not open for the discussion that you heard the Army secretary and the defense secretary confirm that they were open to having about renaming these bases amid the questions about who they are named after and what they stand for, as you're seeing these protests happen across the nation in wake of George Floyd's death, and a larger conversation is happening nationally about race relations here in the United States.
The president is directly contradicting them, saying, actually, no, he is not open to that. And that comes just, of course, after CNN reporting showed that they were open to it.
Now, this is notable because, of course, we know the president has taken this stance in the past when it comes to Confederate monuments. He did so in 2017, Brooke, saying he wasn't open to it.
But it's notable, also, the mixed messaging from the president and from his defense secretary, given how contentious their relationship got last week, to where people inside this White House were questioning whether or not they were going to have an acting defense secretary because Mark Esper was going to leave his job, whether it was through being resigned or being -- through resigning or being fired, because he and the president had been on such uneven ground, and then he came out saying he didn't support the Insurrection Act.
And now we are seeing this happen, where the president is saying, no, he is not open to renaming these military bases, Brooke, even though the Pentagon leaders said that they were.
BALDWIN: Not even open to saying he wouldn't even consider renaming.
Kaitlan Collins from the White House.
Kaitlan, thank you.
With me now, activist and co author of the young adult book "I'm Not Dying With You Tonight," Kimberly Jones.
Kimberly, a pleasure to have you on. Thank you so much for joining me.
KIMBERLY JONES, AUTHOR, "I'M NOT DYING WITH YOU TONIGHT": Oh, thank you so much for having me.
BALDWIN: I got to get to with you.
But, first, let me just get your quick reaction to hearing that the president saying he is not even considering renaming some of these military bases that are named after Confederate leaders. Your thoughts?
JONES: I think that that's extremely unfortunate. And that's one of the things that continues to show that America is not prepared for the atonement that's necessary for the atrocities that black Americans have experienced in this country.
And I think those kinds of loud declarations of, it's not even a thought of something that I would consider is extremely sad and unfortunate for the black Americans in this country.
BALDWIN: We led the show with the tearful words from George Floyd's brother Philonise up on Capitol Hill today. And I just want to play a little bit more from his brother, and then we will talk on the other side.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FLOYD: I'm tired. I'm tired of pain, pain you feel when you watch something like that, when you watch your big brother, who you looked up to for your whole life, die, die begging for his mom.
I'm here to ask you to make it stop. Stop the pain. Stop us being tired.
George called for help, and he was ignored. Please listen to the call I'm making to you now.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BALDWIN: Kimberly, those are powerful words coming from Philonise Floyd. How does that sit on your heart? And, also, just what's your message for the Floyd family?
JONES: First of all, I just want to say that I send my condolences and my love and my best wishes to the Floyd family.
And the thing that I hope the most for the Floyd family is justice, that they receive the proper justice in this situation. And I hope that it can be representative of what we should be doing moving forward in these cases.
BALDWIN: So, let's get to you, Kimberly, you and your message that has now been seen far and wide around the world this week.
In case people have not seen it, here's a clip.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JONES: You broke the contract when, for 400 years, we played your game and built your wealth.
And they are lucky that what black people are looking for is equality and not revenge.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BALDWIN: And I encourage people to sit there and watch the entire what was six or seven minutes of what you were saying.
First, Kimberly, John Oliver, now you have LeBron James is responding. He says, "I'm here for you," Kimberly.
You are getting global recognition and praise for a message that was very raw. And what you said took honesty. It took courage.
Why do you think you said what you said and the way you said it, why did it so resonate with people?
JONES: I think that I said it the way that I said it out of sheer exhaustion.
We are exhausted with having these hashtags. We are exhausted with having this conversation. And I find it completely ridiculous that people can't wrap their head around the idea that you do not get to be judge, jury and executioner in the streets of American citizens.
I don't care what the situation was and what happened. People are due their day in court. People do not get murdered in the street for simple and petty crimes. But that is consistently what has been happening here.
And I think it's -- I think it's utterly ridiculous. And I think there are a lot of people who have spoken out about it. But I think that people have continued to speak out about it in a way that they're attempting to make it palatable to the people who don't want to listen.
The people who don't want to listen to these messages, they have made up their mind. They have dug their heels in. And so I wasn't trying to speak to them. I wasn't trying to get them to adjust their view.
What I was trying to do was express the pain, the heartfelt pain of people in this country who walk out of their door every day not knowing if they could possibly be murdered in a routine stop.
And I think that people are tired of the old bait-and-switch talk of saying that something means something, when it really doesn't. And I think people were ready to hear a message that was true and real and authentic in its feeling.
And so I think that's why people are responding to it.
BALDWIN: And it landed. It landed, and it landed in a massive way all around the world. I can't even imagine what your inbox must look like.
My last question to you is this. Just from your perspective, what is the biggest hurdle black people see in race relations? Like, out of all of the things where we as a society need to improve, police, education, health care, mass incarceration, unconscious bias, you know, what -- Kimberly, what is the one thing that needs to change, so we can see a lasting effect?
JONES: There needs to be a very strategic economic plan for the African-American community.
If anyone watches the full length of the video, they will see my analogy on monopoly of how we have been cut out of economic wealth in this country for nearly 500 years now. And that plays a part in everything that happens and plays a part in the amount of money that is spent in our neighborhoods, that contribute to the schools and the education that we get.
It assists with mass incarceration, that people are sitting in prison for up to a year just because they can't make a simple bond. It plays to the fact that people feel like they can get away with these atrocities in the street, because people don't have the financial power to fight against them.
I think if I -- I mean, I feel like all of these things matter, and someone has to pick up all of these batons.
But, for me personally, we need to see a strategic economic plan that's going to allow black people to empower themselves in this country in a way that they could fight against all the atrocities that we're facing on a daily basis.
BALDWIN: Kimberly Jones, I admire you. I admire the way you're using your voice. Thank you so much there in Atlanta for us this afternoon.
JONES: Thank you.
BALDWIN: Thank you. Thank you.
BALDWIN: We have so much more ahead here, including my interview with Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms. We will talk about police reform and all the voting issues in Georgia. She will join me live.
Also, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will also join me live. As Democrats unveil their sweeping new police reform bill, can they work with Republicans to implement real change? Isn't that the question?
And 19 states seeing a spike in coronavirus cases, including one that's now issuing a new warning to hospitals. Don't miss this.
You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin. We will be right back.
BALDWIN: Welcome back. You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin.
Here's a quote: "insulting to our constitutional right to vote." That is how one woman described her nearly four-hour wait to cast a ballot in George's primary yesterday. She said that to "The Atlanta Journal- Constitution," and she wasn't alone.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
QUESTION: How long?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Four hours. Four-and-a-half-hours.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I will be here as long as it takes. And I have to work today. But they understand.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BALDWIN: At multiple polling sites across eight counties, including the Atlanta metro area, voters faced long lines resulting from untrained workers and broken voting machines.
And now investigations have been launched even as a result in key races are still unknown. Democrat Jon Ossoff currently in the lead, but could face a primary run-off in his bid to unseat Republican Senator David Perdue. Ossoff calls yesterday's election -- quote -- "an embarrassment."
With me now from Atlanta, the mayor, Keisha Lance Bottoms.
Mayor Bottoms, a pleasure, as always. Welcome.
KEISHA LANCE BOTTOMS (D), MAYOR OF ATLANTA, GEORGIA: Nice to talk to you, Brooke.
BALDWIN: So let me throw up the cover of "The AJC" today, and you will see two words: "Complete Meltdown."
Ms. Mayor, what do you say to that? Do you think it was a complete meltdown?
BOTTOMS: That's accurate. And it was not just a complete meltdown on -- yesterday. We saw this with early voting even on Friday.
I have a neighbor who stood in line for almost eight hours. Someone told me about their neighbor who was in line until 2:30 a.m. attempting to vote. And it is absolutely ridiculous. Coming out of 2016 specifically, when there are so many questions about the integrity of our election, to be here again in 2020, under these circumstances, really, it's unacceptable.
And, Brooke, I can tell you I requested an absentee ballot that I never received. I had a cousin call me today who has voted for the past 37 years. He said he showed up to vote at his precinct on -- yesterday, and he was told that he had been purged, and he was told because it's because he's a convicted felon, which he's not.
So I think the layers of the voter suppression and the breakdown in our election system in Georgia run very deep.
BALDWIN: And just to follow up quickly on your absentee ballot, were you ever -- did you get an reason why you never received it, or it just never came, period?
BOTTOMS: It never came in the mail.
So I ended up going to vote last week, one day last week, when I didn't receive it, but it never came.
BALDWIN: Got you.
So, in an interview with "The New York Times," Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said this. Here's his quote: "The counties run their elections." He says, "The problems in Fulton County" -- that's Atlanta -- "are the problems with their management team, not with me."
So, Mayor Bottoms, you basically have the secretary of Georgia, secretary of state of Georgia, saying it's not his fault.
BOTTOMS: Well, he's elected to oversee the elections. So, if Fulton County has a problem, if DeKalb County has a problem, Cobb County, and the list goes on, then that's also his problem.
And the problems were not just in Fulton County. We heard of long lines in neighboring counties as well. And it begs the question, then, if it's the responsibility simply of the counties to ensure that we have a fair and well-run election, then what's the point of having an elected secretary of state?
BALDWIN: Let me pivot to this.
A couple weeks ago, when some of the protests turned violent in Atlanta, you told people that, if they wanted to make change, they would do it in the primary election yesterday and also in November.
And I just want to read a tweet from LeBron James last night specifically about Georgia. This is what he said: "Everyone talking about, how do we fix this, they say go out and vote. What about asking if how we vote is also structurally racist?"
How would you respond to him and others who feel the same way?
BOTTOMS: What I would say, Brooke, is, this is the reason we have to run up the numbers so high that there is no room for error, meaning that we have to turn out every single person who is eligible to vote in this country, to vote not just in Georgia, but across the country, because, even as we sit here today, my understanding from the Ossoff campaign is, there are around 260,000 absentee ballots that still need to be counted.
And this could go on for quite some time, especially when you're looking at how close that race is and so many other races across our state. But I think it's going to be incumbent upon all of us who want change in this country to show up and vote and also demand accountability from our elected officials, like our secretary of state, to ensure that we have properly run elections.
BALDWIN: And we will be speaking to Speaker Pelosi and get her thoughts on this and any concerns she has ahead, of course, November.
But let me go back to the night of those first protests, Keisha. You made national headlines for speaking very candidly about being the mother of four black children, three of whom are sons, how you urged your teenage son not to be out, because you couldn't protect him, even though, as you wrote in that "New York Times" opinion piece recently, the police report to you.
But you also said about your younger son, who is 12:
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BOTTOMS: I just saw my 12-year-old was running around the house with a cap gun, a black cap gun. And I thought about Tamir Rice.
I didn't know he had ordered it. And, you know, the talk, again, about, can't -- can't play with cap guns. Children get killed for that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BALDWIN: Mayor Bottoms, I mean, playing with the toy gun is something that seems so innocent. But, as you mentioned, in the wake of Tamir Rice, it caused you to fear for your own son's life.
And can you just tell me, what was that conversation like? And did he understand your concern?
BOTTOMS: Actually, he didn't, Brooke.
He thought that he was in trouble because he had gone into my Amazon account to order something that he didn't have permission to order. And that really -- it concerned me even more, because I didn't care about him going into the account. That was completely secondary.
But I think, again, it speaks to the innocence of our children that we love and we want to preserve, but also, in 2020, the need for our children to be so aware and conscientious of these dangers, seen and unseen, that surround them.
And, in that situation, he thought that he was going to be in big trouble for going into my Amazon account, which usually would amount to being in big trouble, but it was completely secondary to trying to explain to him how dangerous it is to play with anything that looks like a gun.
And I don't know if he -- if he understood it, and -- but so many parents, like myself, this is not a one-time conversation. It's a conversation we have to have repeatedly.
And, unfortunately, when things happen, it makes many of us say it again and again and again, which creates this cycle of anxiety and these layers, I believe, of just this emotional trauma that's upon so many of our families.
But that's the silver lining of this moment. With the tragedy of George Floyd and Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor and so many others, the silver lining is that we are having these conversations as a country.
And that's why I was even so appreciative this weekend with CNN and the "Sesame Street" town hall, just to have an opportunity to talk to children in a way that they can receive and understand this information.
But it's not just me. There are parents across this country who are having these same experiences and these same challenges.
[15:25:00] BALDWIN: We appreciate you saying that. And it's so important, as, of course, we're so aware of parents having these difficult conversations with their kids.
Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, as always, thank you so very much.
BOTTOMS: Thank you.
BALDWIN: Thank you.
Coming up next: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi live to discuss the battle on Capitol Hill to implement real change, as her party unveils a sweeping police reform bill.
Republicans, meanwhile, have their own ideas. The real question is, can they come together?
And the coronavirus is still here in a big way. Cases are rising in 19 states, including one now warning hospitals to start implementing emergency measures.
We will be right back.