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George Floyd Laid to Rest after Emotional Final Memorial; Nineteen States See Spike in Coronavirus Cases over Past Week; Kremlin Defends Coronavirus Response; Trump Pushes Baseless Smear of 75-Year- Old Protestor; Demonstrators Tear Down Statue of British Slave Trader; COVID-19 Cases Growing in South America; China Flexes Military Might Amid Coronavirus Pandemic; La Liga to Resume Season after Virus Forced Suspension. Aired 12-1a ET
Aired June 10, 2020 - 00:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ROBYN CURNOW, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Hello, welcome to our viewers joining us from all around the world. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM and I am Robyn Curnow.
Ahead on the show, family and friends gather in Texas to say their final goodbye to George Floyd, to honor his life after a brutal death that his family says will not be in vain. His funeral took place as the calls for change grow louder.
And the WHO walks back an uninspected comment about the spread of the coronavirus. But there is still more confusion than clarity as more parts of the world get back to business and the number of cases continues to rise.
Plus, will Russia pass the COVID test?
The Kremlin's chief spokesman defends his country's handling of the virus and explains why President Putin does not care if people approve. That's a CNN exclusive.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): Live from CNN Center, this is CNN NEWSROOM with Robyn Curnow.
CURNOW: A man the world had not heard of 15 days ago, who became a global symbol of racial injustice, has now been laid to rest. The protests over George Floyd's death are not over as you can see. People around the world continued to rally against police brutality on Tuesday.
George Floyd died two weeks ago after being pinned beneath the knee of a white officer in Minneapolis. Anger over that awful act is still resonating around the world and breathing new life into the Black Lives Matter movement. All of these people are demanding racial equality.
But on Tuesday, the big focus was on Houston and that final goodbye to Floyd. Omar Jimenez takes us inside the emotional memorial.
OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): In the final moments before he died, George Floyd called out for his mother who passed away two years ago. Today, he was laid to rest next to her after an emotional funeral in Houston.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All I think about is when he was yelling for Mama. And I know how our Mama is, she is just right there. She got her hands wide open.
JIMENEZ (voice over): The Fountain of Praise Church was packed with hundreds of mourners. His family dressed in white, paused to promote each other and prayed before the ceremony began.
Floyd was remembered as a man of faith, a brother, an uncle, a father, a friend.
While the ceremony celebrated his life, his death and the movement it sparked was invoked time and time again.
REP. SHEILA JACKSON LEE (D-TX): The assignment of George Floyd and the purpose will mean there will be no more eight minutes and 46 seconds of police brutality.
REV. AL SHARPTON, CIVIL RIGHTS ACTIVIST: Go on and get your rest now. Go on and see mama now. We're going to fight on. We're going to fight on.
MAYOR SYLVESTER TURNER (D-TX), HOUSTON: We honor him today because when he took his last breath, the rest of us will now be able to breathe. So therefore I, Sylvester Turner, mayor of the City of Houston, hereby proudly proclaim June 9th, 2020, as George Floyd Day in the City of Houston. To God be the glory for the good he has done.
JIMENEZ (voice over): Former Vice President Joe Biden delivered this video message echoing the call for change.
JOE BIDEN, FORMER U.S. VICE PRESIDENT AND PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Now is the time for racial justice. That's the answer we must give to our children when they ask why. Because when there is justice for George Floyd, we will truly be on our way to racial justice in America.
JIMENEZ (voice over): Today's funeral ended days of memorials and public viewings all over the country, but this isn't the end for Floyd's family who vow to keep fighting for justice.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I will miss my brother a whole lot. I want to say to him, I love you and I thank God for giving me my own personal Superman. God bless you all.
(MUSIC PLAYING) [00:05:00]
JIMENEZ: Part of the energy we have seen is not just about George Floyd's death, it's about the spark his death created and the push for long-term change in American policing -- Omar Jimenez, CNN, Houston, Texas.
CURNOW: Omar, thanks for that.
George Floyd's death is the latest and a long list of police killings of black Americans. There is no national database on cases like this, so it's actually impossible to have a true number of the deaths. But an analysis of that data that is available shows it happens in the U.S. far more than any other developed countries.
Here is Martin Savidge on three more cases -- and we must warn you: some of these images are disturbing to watch.
MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It is all too horribly familiar. Even the dying words of the victim sound the same. But if you think these cases, you probably don't.
March 28, 2019, Austin, Texas, sheriff's deputies pursuing 40-year-old Javier Ambler. Police say Ambler had not dimmed his headlights as he drove past a deputy. And then Ambler led them on a 22-minute chase when they tried to pull him over. Body camera footage captures what happens during his arrest.
Documents obtained by CNN reveal Ambler exited his car with his hands up. He was not intoxicated or arm, according to the incident report. Officer say Ambler resisted police attempts to restrain him and refused their commands. Ambler can be heard telling deputies he has a heart condition.
JAVIER AMBLER, POLICE VICTIM: Sir, sir, I have a congestive...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let me see your hands, or I'm going to Tase you again.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sir, you need help?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm going to Tase you again.
SAVIDGE: The officers Tase Amber multiple times. But the body camera video shows him going into distress. He's heard saying, "I can't breathe" in the video.
AMBLER: I can't breathe. SAVIDGE: Shortly afterwards, officers realize Ambler is no longer responsive. They remove his handcuffs and administer CPR. Javier Ambler is pronounced dead less than an hour later.
A district attorney investigation into the incident is ongoing. The Office of Professional Standards in the sheriff's office says the officers acted in accordance with department guidelines.
February 29 of this year, Las Cruces, New Mexico, it begins as a traffic stop. Police say they learned after they stopped him that Antonio Valenzuela has an open warrant for parole violation. According to the local district attorney's office, which is investigating, Valenzuela runs away. Officers Tase him twice.
And according to the district attorney, on the ground, Valenzuela continues to struggle.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm going to (INAUDIBLE) choke you out, bro.
SAVIDGE: One of the officers applies a chokehold, referred to as a vascular neck restraint, or VNR. EMS is called to the scene and begin lifesaving measures, but are unsuccessful.
The officer who used the neck restraint has been charged with involuntary manslaughter. His lawyer did not immediately respond to CNN's request for comment.
May 23, Garden State Parkway, New Jersey, 28-year-old Maurice Gordon is pulled over for speeding, according to the state attorney general's office, which just released this video.
When Gordon's car won't restart, State Trooper Sergeant Randall Wetzel tells him to sit in the police cruiser to stay out of traffic. The officer offers Gordon a mask. And the dash-cam footage seems routine.
Then Gordon unfastened his seat belt and appears to attempt to get out of the car. The officer orders him back and a struggle begins.
According to the New Jersey attorney general's office, which is reviewing the case, Gordon twice tried to get into the driver's seat of Trooper Wetzel's cruiser. The first time, the officer uses pepper spray on Gordon. Then, after a second attempt, another struggle and eventually six gunshots.
Gordon collapses to the road and dies.
We reached out to state trooper Wetzel; so far he has not responded back. Meanwhile, the governor of New Jersey says the case will be going to a grand jury and they can determine whether or not to charge the trooper.
As to the death that occurred in Las Cruces, New Mexico, the attorney who represents the officer who applied that chokehold did to get back to us and defended his client, saying that he was in the middle of a violent struggle at the time. We will continue to follow these cases and the many others like them -- Martin Savidge, CNN, Atlanta. (END VIDEOTAPE)
CURNOW: "And the many others like them."
CURNOW: That was the key line there from our correspondent.
Myisha T. Hill joins us now. She's the host of the Synergy Podcast, she joins us now also from Oakland, California.
It's good to see you; I'm on the East Coast, you're on the West Coast. Thank you so much for staying up so late.
We saw that agonizing, more agonizing footage from Martin Savidge's report there. There have been calls after seeing those kinds of images and after what we have experienced the last few weeks here in the U.S. to defund the police.
What exactly would that entail?
MYISHA T. HILL, SYNERGY PODCAST: Right. So what defunding the police basically means is divest all the funds from the police department back into the hands of community organizers and community organizations.
So this work is rooted from the (INAUDIBLE) initiative that (INAUDIBLE) and it's basically removing the funds that we invest into the police departments and moving that money into community so that the community can have a say, have a voice and actually be their own police, kind of a police department.
CURNOW: Is that a radical solution or do you think it's easily done if there is communication and transparency?
HILL: I think it's easily done if there is communication and transparency because, you know, on the other side of the spectrum, folks are saying, oh, that's not law and order. But if we look back to slave patrols, if we look back to the Jim Crow era, you can see policing is actually an act of violence against black bodies.
CURNOW: When you talk about that, what is your reaction to this worldwide outcry about George Floyd's death?
HILL: Yes, this worldwide outcry. It's a collective grief but a righteous anger. We are tired, right?
We are tired of seeing black lives not mattering. We're tired of seeing black lives dying at the hands of the police state. So the outcry is the people grieving, it's a collective energy, as you can see. Enough is enough and we need to put the matter into our own hands. As the Black Panthers would say, all power to the people.
CURNOW: And what touched you today about his funeral service?
It was very moving on so many levels. HILL: What touched me was when his niece got up during the funeral
and actually she named herself and she had to say this, and I'm just going to quote her, if that's OK.
"My name is Brooke Floyd, George Floyd's niece. As long as I breathe, justice will be served."
And that touched the root of my core because I know, as long as I can breathe, as long as I have a voice, I, too, can help serve justice for George Floyd.
CURNOW: Also at that funeral, Joe Biden spoke on a video message. I just want to play a little bit of what he said. He said quite a lot but he also touched on grief and public grief and I want to get your comments.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN, FORMER U.S. VICE PRESIDENT AND PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And unlike most, you must grieve in public, it's a burden, a burden that is now your purpose to change the world for the better in the name of George Floyd.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CURNOW: His death has and will become even more political.
What do you make of those comments?
And what do you expect from men like Joe Biden?
HILL: Those comments are a call to action. It is the collective lament, the (INAUDIBLE) because we don't need permission but it is the lament in public, so that people can see that righteous rage and anger of the people. And they can make and stand for political action.
What this means for men like Joe Biden is that it's time not only to speak and say go ahead, go forth and be a voice to political and open grief, but he actually -- and other white men like him -- need to take a similar stance and be in the community, on the ground, doing the same political -- not political but doing the same grief and lament as we are doing here in the streets in the United States.
HILL: Not just being a person of your word but a person of your word and your actions.
CURNOW: Yes, very eloquent words yourself, thank you very much for joining us, Myisha.
CURNOW: I appreciate you sharing. Thank you.
HILL: Thank you.. CURNOW: You're watching CNN NEWSROOM, still to, come the U.S. approaches another bleak milestone in the coronavirus pandemic but its record setting infection rate could be even higher than what we are seeing now
CURNOW: The number of confirmed coronavirus infections is quickly approaching 2 million in the U.S., that's by far the most in the world. There are growing concerns, some states could be underreporting their cases by not following guidelines from the CDC.
Despite all the uncertainty, more and more places are actually gradually reopening. Nick Watt now reports.
NICK WATT, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): New York City is coming back to life, but the mayor is cautious.
MAYOR BILL DE BLASIO (D), NEW YORK CITY: I don't want people to have undue expectations. We're trying to do something so difficult in these next few weeks, bring back hundreds of thousands of workers.
WATT: And months into this pandemic, there is still a lot of confusion around how it spreads. Yesterday, a WHO official said this.
DR. MARIA VAN KERKHOVE, TECHNICAL LEAD ON COVID-19, W.H.O.: It still appears to be rare that an asymptomatic individual actually transmits onward.
WATT: Raised some eyebrows. Today, she clarified.
VAN KERKHOVE: What I was referring to yesterday in the press conference were a very few studies. We do know that some people who are asymptomatic or some people who don't have symptoms can transmit the virus on.
WATT: There's even more we still don't know.
DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: What about people who recover? What are they going to be like six months from now? We don't know that.
WATT: And nationwide, we are still averaging over 20,000 new cases every day. And that could be an undercount. Despite CDC guidelines, more than half of states, including California, New York and Texas aren't counting probable cases and deaths, only those that are confirmed. In 24 states, the new daily case counts are going down but climbing in 19. In Vermont, bars and restaurants reopened Monday while officials investigate 62 cases possibly tied to one social network of families.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is an outbreak.
WATT: In Florida, cases also climbing. Still Miami-Dade will reopen beaches tomorrow.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm concerned that there's such a lack of respect in regards to social distancing. WATT: Now, U.S. officials first learned of the virus spreading in
virus in January, but it might have started spreading as early as last August, according to researcher who say satellite images of Wuhan show a sharp increase in the number of cars in hospital parking lots, as well as an uptick in online searches of symptoms.
Human trials just began in China of one possible antibody therapy, the hope such drugs might prevent infection and treat the disease.
And the vaccine?
FAUCI: There's going to be more than one, I'll guarantee it. There's going to be more than one winner in the vaccine field because we're going to need vaccines for the entire world, billions and billions of doses.
WATT: It's too early to tell if those protests sparked by George Floyd's death have really spread this virus here in the U.S. But the National Guard in Washington, D.C., they were deployed at those protests. They have confirmed that a number of their members have now tested positive -- Nick Watt, CNN, Los Angeles.
CURNOW: Nick, thanks for that.
Dr. Shoshana Ungerleider is an internal medicine physician at the California Pacific Medical Center. She joins us from San Francisco.
Doctor, great to see you. Talk me through this WHO walkback.
CURNOW: Dangerously silly or is there something in it?
DR. SHOSHANA UNGERLEIDER, CALIFORNIA PACIFIC MEDICAL CENTER: It's a little bit tricky. I think the most important thing, Robyn, it is important to note that the data are still very much coming together.
There is still a whole lot that we do not know about the virus, including how often asymptomatic people pass it on. We know that they do spread the virus. The tricky part actually is how we are categorizing people. There is a
presymptomatic phase, meaning before symptoms start. This is difficult to distinguish from being asymptomatic, meaning no symptoms. It is categorized differently. So this is a matter of which words we are using. And it's quite confusing for the public.
But, again, the takeaway here is that this virus is still out there. It is in every state across the U.S. It's across the world. It is very infectious. Wearing masks, limiting social contact as much as possible with people outside your home. And for states continuing to ramp up contact tracing and testing is very critical right now.
CURNOW: It certainly is. As you say, there is so much we don't know. There has been a ship where 1,000 people tested positive on it and 60 percent of them have antibodies.
What kind of clues does that potentially give us?
UNGERLEIDER: We hope these findings have important implications for our understanding of how immunity against COVID actually works, possible treatments and the development of vaccines.
But again there is a lot that we don't know. The most important takeaway is that these sailors aboard the ship who were infected were younger. And as we might expect, they mostly reported mild or no symptoms at all.
Those who took preventive measures, like wearing face masks, avoiding those common areas on the ship and social distancing, were less likely to become infected. And this is the advice that everyone should continue to follow right now.
CURNOW: Nick Watt mentioned it in his piece just before we came to you. With many of these protests, people feel like they need to be there. There is something that they need to make a stand about. There is a greater message that they have to be there.
How do you advise people, as these protests continue, to keep themselves safe?
UNGERLEIDER: Robyn, I think as states reopen -- and we have seen so many people take to the streets to protest police brutality -- coronavirus cases are in fact on the rise across much of the U.S.
So I think that we need to be talking about how people can stay safe. That is wearing masks. That is avoiding places like bars, nightclubs, gyms, sporting events, places of worship, amusement parks, buffets, places that are indoors, that are crowded, where people are potentially breathing hard, singing, yelling.
All increase the spread significantly. If you will go out and protest, protest peacefully. Wear a mask. Stick to small groups. Be sure to wash your hands often. And when you return home, be very careful about how you take off your protective gear. Be sure to wash your clothes and hands very carefully. CURNOW: That is very valuable advice, thank you. As you look at these
symptoms and particularly how this virus attacks our bodies, as you said at the beginning, there are so many unanswered questions.
What is the one question you would very much like to get the answer to right now?
UNGERLEIDER: Oh, goodness. There are so many. New data is coming out all day every day. I would love to see a more robust reporting of information and really figure out, how can we ramp up testing in every state?
How can we contact trace and share this information so that, as we head into the summer and into the fall, where we will inevitably hit our flu season and very likely increase the number of COVID cases, we can take care of people in the most effective way as possible.
CURNOW: With as much information as possible. Doctor, thank you very much. Great to talk to you.
UNGERLEIDER: Thank you.
CURNOW: We know that Russia has the third most coronavirus cases in the world, more than 484,000. Only the U.S. and Brazil have more. And yet Russia's reported death toll barely tops 6,000.
Moscow officials are declaring victory as the Russian capital emerges from lockdown. All of this is raising questions. Matthew Chance sought answers from Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov in this exclusive report.
MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's accused of hiding the true extent of Russia's coronavirus pandemic, of abandoning exhausted doctors to its ravages using the lockdown to crack down on dissent.
CHANCE (voice-over): But the Kremlin's chief spokesman is now defending his country's coronavirus response.
Back in March, President Putin said the situation in Russia was under control, in fact better than in other countries. but within a few weeks, it had suffered the second highest number of coronavirus infections in the world. What went wrong?
DMITRY PESKOV, KREMLIN PRESS SECRETARY: Well, actually, nothing went wrong except the coronavirus itself. Our country uses the maximum possible amount of test for coronavirus. And the more you test, the more you detect.
CHANCE: That is not just the number of viral factions. It's the fact that the mortality rate as well is remarkably low. And it sort of, added to this suspicion that Russia is somehow been manipulating the facts, manipulating the figures, perhaps in order to prevent the Kremlin from being criticized.
PESKOV: No, I don't agree with that assessment. Have you ever thought about the possibility of Russia's healthcare system being more effective?
CHANCE: Is that your explanation?
PESKOV: Given an opportunity for more people to stay alive.
CHANCE: In fact, the strain on Russian healthcare has been one of the most alarming features of Russia's pandemic. Across the country, doctors complaining of poor conditions, lack of personal protection equipment and unpaid wages.
There was even a spate of mysterious plunges of doctors out of high windows. Perhaps a sign of desperation with their plight. There have been protests too, rare in Russia, but still worrying for the Kremlin, as approval ratings for President Vladimir Putin sink to all-time lows.
CHANCE: How concerned are you that this pandemic has dented the popularity of President Putin, perhaps irreparably?
PESKOV: President Putin has stated numerous times that he didn't care about his personal rating. That in politics, if you are a real statesman, you shouldn't think about your ratings. Because if you think only about your ratings, you won't be able to take responsible decisions.
CHANCE: Decisions like when to ease restrictions. Despite a stubbornly high infection rate, Moscow is now lifting its unpopular lockdown ahead of a key public vote to extend Vladimir Putin's rule. Maybe the Kremlin does care about ratings after all -- Matthew Chance, CNN.
CURNOW: You are watching CNN. Still to, come Black Lives Matter demonstrations are sweeping through Britain, why protesters are calling for the removal of various statues in Oxford, London and beyond.
ROBYN CURNOW, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Welcome back. I'm Robyn Curnow live from Atlanta.
So the U.S. defense secretary reportedly is on thin ice with the president, Donald Trump. He nearly got fired. "The Wall Street Journal" cites several officials who say the president was furious with Mark Esper last week for not backing his threat to use active- duty troops to quell protests across the U.S. Those officials say Esper was even ready to resign and that the president's allies and advisers had to talk him out of firing the defense chief. Meanwhile, the U.S. president is also lashing out at a 75-year-old
protester who's in hospital after being shoved to the ground by police and left to lie there, bleeding, for several minutes.
Jim Acosta now reports the president's conspiracy theory Twitter attack came on the same day George Floyd, the unarmed African-American man who died at the knee of a white police officer, was laid to rest.
JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: With police brutality under the microscope, on the same day relatives gathered in Texas for George Floyd's funeral, President Trump is lobbing grenades from his social media bunker.
The president is permitting a baseless conspiracy theory about 75- year-old Martin Gugino, who was pushed to the ground by officers during a protest in Buffalo, tweeting, "Buffalo protester shoved by police could be an ANTIFA provocateur. I watched. He fell harder than was pushed. Could be a set-up?"
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The protester pushed by Buffalo police was appearing to use common Antifa tactics.
ACOSTA: The president cited this thinly-sourced segment on the pro- Trump TV network, OANN.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo called the Antifa allegation fabricated.
GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): I mean, if there was ever a reprehensible, dumb comment, and from the president of the United States. At this moment of anguish and anger, what does he do? He pours gasoline on the fire.
ACOSTA: Asked about the latest Trump outrage, a few Senate Republicans took issue with the tweet.
SEN. MITT ROMNEY (R-UT): I saw the tweet. It was a shocking thing to say, and I won't dignify it with any further comment.
ACOSTA: While others were doing all they could to avoid our cameras.
MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: -- talk about this Buffalo protest thing?
SEN. PAT ROBERTS (R-KS): I haven't read the damn thing. I don't want to hear it.
ACOSTA: GOP Senator Marco Rubio told CNN, "I didn't see it. You're telling me about it. I don't read Twitter. I only write on it."
Texas Republican Senator John Cornyn said, "You know a lot of this stuff just goes over my head."
And South Dakota GOP Senator John Thune added, the most of us appear would rather not be political commentators on the president's tweets.
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Hopefully, George is looking down and say there's a great thing that's happening for our country.
ACOSTA: The president has done little to ease tensions across the U.S., laying low behind his fortress-like fencing, ever since his administration brutalized protestors for a photo op.
Presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden appeared in a video at Floyd's funeral, calling for an end to police misconduct.
JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We cannot leave this moment thinking that we can once again turn away from racism. It stings at our very soul.
ACOSTA: Even Mr. Trump's own advisers have questioned his actions. One surrogate telling CNN the president should avoid giving an address to the nation on the subject of race, saying, "A speech lacking genuine compassion at any point would not help. He's just not genuinely compassionate."
The president has instead seized on the wishes of some protesters to defund the police, an effort aimed at diverting money away from law enforcement agencies. The Democrats working on police reform say that's not even in their bill.
REP. KAREN BASS (D-CA): Because I don't think that is the appropriate thing to do. I think what the president is seizing on is the fact that he knows his poll numbers are dropping.
ACOSTA: The president is also being contradicted by Attorney General William Barr over why Mr. Trump ended up in the White House bunker during the demonstrations.
WILLIAM BARR, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: The things were so bad that the Secret Service recommended the president go down to the bunker.
ACOSTA: That's not what the president told FOX.
TRUMP (via phone): I was there for a tiny, little short period of time, and it was much more for an inspection. There was no problem during the day.
ACOSTA (on camera): Republicans senators met behind closed doors to work on their own proposals for police reform, but those GOP senators, led by Tim Scott of South Carolina, came out of the meeting noting that haven't come up with anything concrete yet.
As for the president's tweet about Martin Gugino, White House chief of staff Mark Meadows was asked about it, but he also declined to comment.
Jim Acosta, CNN, the White House.
(END VIDEOTAPE) CURNOW: So a statue of Belgium's King Leopold II has been removed from Antwerp and may not be returned. The statue was burned and hit with red paint during anti-racism protests following George Floyd's death.
The growing number of people are now campaigning to remove statues of the colonial-era king. His troops killed and maimed millions of people at rubber plantations in the Congo.
And then in London, protesters watched as the statue of Scottish merchant and slave owner Robert Milligan was taken down following a petition for its removal. Milligan was the driving force behind the construction of London's West India docks, which were used to trade slave-harvested goods from the Caribbean.
Meantime, in Bristol, demonstrators aren't waiting for monuments to be removed. On Sunday, protesters tore down the statue of a notorious British slave trader and philanthropist.
Nic Robertson takes a look at how Britons are now confronting their colonial past.
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Britain lurched around a corner confronting the worst of its colonial, racist past Sunday. As protesters at a Black Lives Matter march in the port city of Bristol toppled a statue of 17th Century slave trader Edward Colston, then trundled it through the city's tarmac streets and tossed it into the sea, the same harbor where his slave ships once docked.
MILES CHAMBERS, FIRST POET LAUREATE OF BRISTOL, ENGLAND: It could only have happened that way. It could only have been ripped down. What is that doing there? It would be like you having somebody that's abused your family all your life, you know who he is, and I get a statue and I put it in your front garden.
ROBERTSON (on camera): Colston and his employer, the Royal Africa Company, dominated the transatlantic slave trade. He helped ship an estimated hundred thousand people from Africa to the U.S. and the Caribbean. One in five of them died along the way.
(voice-over): Colston, whose name adorns buildings, streets, even schools in the normally restful city, was also a philanthropist. The controversy over his racist past has been brewing for years.
CHAMBERS: We have politically tried to go around. We have gone to the banks and meetings. We've had meetings with the council, meetings with Colston Hall, radio debates, TV debates. And people were, if I can say, pussyfooting around.
ROBERTSON: Condemnation, with caveats, came quickly.
BORIS JOHNSON, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: I will not support or indulge those who break the law. If you want to change the urban landscape, you can stand for election or vote for someone who will.
ROBERTSON: Similar long-simmering frustrations over contentious Confederate statues in America are coming to a head, too.
(on camera): So is this the moment when the U.K., the United States, and others recognize the pain of the past, that black lives matter, and re-imagine their countries on new values?
(voice-over): In the fabled university city of Oxford, that's the pressing question.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Now is the time to change and do things in a different way. We're rewriting history. And if we have to take a statue from there and put it in a museum, so be it.
ROBERTSON: The statue? Cecil Rhodes, a leading colonialist who build his fortune off black labor and bequeathed scholarships here.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In this country, there is such an ingrained sort of systemic racism that hasn't been questioned or looked at or sort of dealt with for far too long.
ROBERTSON: No sign Oxford plans to grant the protesters their wish, and the conversation about that new future yet to happen, too.
Nic Robertson, CNN, Oxford, England.
CURNOW: Well, monuments to Cecil Rhodes have a history of controversy. Back in 2015, his statue was removed from the University of Cape Town after weeks of protests there at UCT. Students have created a Rhodes Must Fall campaign, saying his legacy was tainted with racism.
Well, let's go to Farai Sevenzo. He joins me now from Nairobi, Kenya. He was actually there covering the Rhodes protests back in 2015.
And Farai, hi. I just want to get your reaction and particular perspective there from Africa to all of these protests, which all link back to the death of George Floyd.
FARAI SEVENZO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, Robyn. I mean, we had the chairperson of the African Union, Mr. Moussa Faki Mahamat, basically saying, look, you know, back in 1964, the African Union, then the Organization of African Unity, was very, very behind the fact that the racism in the United States must be solved (ph), especially against the citizens who are of African descent.
And of course, what you're mentioning right now with, you know, the whole idea of, you know, the Rhodes must fall, Colston's going down in Bristol, and everything.
We are a continent that is completely tainted with -- you know, what Nic was talking about, the pain of the past, which is completely all over it. Why should we have Cecil Rhodes statues all over Cape Town? And why should we have him buried in Zimbabwe, a country that's like, you know, completely turned against the idea of not having any land.
So it's a live issue, Robyn. It's been going on for quite a while, And of course, even in Bristol, Mr. Colston, whose statute was thrown in the river, my daughter went to the Colston Girls' School, and she told me yesterday yes, you know, she feels free when that statue fell in the water. So it's a live issue, and it needs to be addressed.
CURNOW: Farai Sevenzo, thanks so much for joining us there, live from Nairobi. Thanks, Farai.
So Banksy has a suggestion for replacing the toppled statue we just mentioned of that slave trader, Edward Colston. In a sketch posted on Instagram, the elusive street artist illustrates the moment demonstrators removed the statue in Bristol.
And in the caption, Banksy says, "Here's an idea that caters for both those who miss the Colston statue and those who don't. He then suggests pulling it from the water, tying rope around its neck and commissioning life-sized bronze pictures of the protesters who pulled it down.
Well, Banksy has publicly expressed support for Black Lives Matter -- for the Black Lives Matter movement, showing another post on Sunday, with a painting of a vigil candle burning an American flag, writing, "People of color are being failed by this system."
Well, you're watching CNN NEWSROOM. Still to come, we check back in at the original coronavirus epicenter. How China is flexing its military might. That's next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
CURNOW: Welcome back. So coronavirus is continuing to aggressively spread through Latin America, with Brazil, Chile and Peru facing the brunt of the infections, as you can see here.
Now, in Mexico, cases are continuing to spike. However, the WHO is now saying the country is nearing its peak. Shasta Darlington has the latest from the region.
SHASTA DARLINGTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The Americas are now home to nearly half of all COVID-19 cases, with more than 3.3 million infections, according to the Pan American Health Organization.
Data shows a surging of the virus in countries that have not been heavily affected before, like Panama and Costa Rica. They said it continues to spread aggressively in Peru, Chile and Brazil.
On Tuesday, coronavirus infections and deaths in Brazil shot up more than 32,000 new cases and 1,200 deaths in the last 24 hours.
Meanwhile, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro lashed out at the WHO in a tweet after one of its officials suggested the spread of COVID-19 by asymptomatic people was rare. "Millions were locked up at home, lost their jobs, he tweeted." He also threatened to cut funds to the WHO, just like President Trump did.
Shasta Darlington, CNN, Sao Paulo.
CURNOW: And tourists began returning to Cyprus this week after nearly three month -- a nearly three-month hiatus due to the coronavirus. The island reopened its international airports on Tuesday. And a group of Israeli tourists were the first to arrive.
Tourism is at the heart of Cyprus's economy. All tourists will be tested for the virus, and the island says it will cover the medical costs for those who test positive, as well as family members who have to be isolated.
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SAVVAS PERDIOS, CYPRUS DEPUTY TOURISM MINISTER: When people start getting into the mood of booking a holiday, these questions are going to pop up. What's going to happen if I -- I see symptoms when I -- when I go there? What happens if I'm tested randomly at a destination, and I test positive? Who's going to cover that cost? Is my insurance going to cover it? The answer is no. Am I going to have to pay more to stay on the island?
So all these questions we think are negative factors in the decision- making process, so we wanted to take that out of the equation and create peace of mind.
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CURNOW: Well, tourists from countries like the U.K. and Russia, with high COVID-19 infection rates, will actually not be allowed until July.
To follow the latest numbers from the coronavirus pandemic in the U.S. and around the globe, Anderson Cooper and Dr. Sanjay Gupta host a CNN global town hall, "Coronavirus Facts and Fears." This one's at 8 p.m. on Thursday in New York, 8 a.m. Friday in Hong Kong, only here on CNN.
And with much of the world continuing to grapple with the coronavirus, the original epicenter, China, is appearing to take advantage of the global distraction, as David Culver now reports.
DAVID CULVER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Touting what it is calling a success and containing the novel coronavirus outbreak, China is now shifting its focus to military preparedness, making what some U.S. military experts perceived to be power moves on multiple fronts.
JOHN KIRBY, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: The American military in the Pacific is approaching this as a very significant, growing security threat to our interests in the region. And with good reason. CULVER: A Chinese military expert is even warning that a direct
conflict is possible between China and the U.S.
WU SHICUN, CHINESE MILITARY ANALYST: The two sides, if not managed well, there could be accidental fire. Such confrontation might lead to spiraling tension or lead to the age of a full-fledged confrontation.
CULVER: China is flexing its military muscle, trialing its new aircraft carrier at sea a few weeks ago and last year, parading some of its latest missile technology through Beijing.
President Xi Jinping addressed China's National People's Congress last month, saying China should comprehensively strengthen the training of troops and combat preparedness.
In recent weeks, Chinese troops were sent to China's border with India, the two countries disputing territorial claims. Government- controlled media releasing these images of China's military in action.
And last year, Chinese paramilitary troops mobilizing to the border with Hong Kong, a not-so-veiled threat against the city months after pro-democracy protests, which led to Beijing imposing new national security laws for the semi-autonomous territory.
But among the areas most concerning for the U.S. and its allies, the South China Sea. China claims these waters as sovereign territory within a designated boundary, which an international tribunal has dismissed as without legal basis.
Nevertheless, China has built up its naval presence here. It's constructed islands where recent satellite images appear to show more permanent military bases. Some Southeast Asian nations have alleged China has even harassed foreign vessels carrying out oil exploration and fishing.
(on camera): What's happened out there in recent months is most alarming to the U.S., its allies in other Asian countries. They see it as China using this moment, when other countries are distracted with their own coronavirus outbreaks to become increasingly aggressive.
(voice-over): To counter the Chinese claims, the U.S. Navy has conducted multiple freedom of navigation exercises in the sea in recent months, as well as sailing through the Taiwan Strait.
Wu Shicun says those exercises show it is the U.S. provoking China.
WU: The United States is a troublemaker to the South China Sea.
CULVER: Wu suggests that, while China has no desire for conflict, the Chinese will protect its sovereignty at all costs --
TRUMP: Thank you very much.
CULVER: -- especially as President Donald Trump tries to win reelection. WU: The Trump administration would use the South China Sea issue to
convince the U.S. people, the United States has a hardline stance towards China.
TRUMP: China has also unlawfully claimed territory in the Pacific Ocean, threatening freedom of navigation and international trade.
CULVER: Experts are now calling for a channel for negotiations to ease the tensions between the two sides, but that seems increasingly unlikely.
KIRBY: The U.S.-China relationship is, without question, the most critical, the most important bilateral relationship that we have in the world, and right now it's broken.
CULVER: A complete severing could set the two world powers on a collision course at sea.
David Culver, CNN, Hainan Island, China.
CURNOW: You're watching CNN NEWSROOM. Still to come, one of the biggest football leagues in the world prepares to make its return after the pandemic upended its season. That's next.
CURNOW: And in just one day, Spain's top football league is expected to resume its season after it was suspended, of course, after the coronavirus.
Well, CNN's Don Riddell tells us what to expect when La Liga makes its return.
DON RIDDELL, CNN SPORT (voice-over): They say that the best things come to those who wait. Well, after more than three months, an exciting La Liga football season is now set to resume.
For many, it will be a welcome distraction after the anxiety of the coronavirus lockdown and the intensity of global protests about racial inequality.
On Thursday, Sevilla will play host to Real Betis, and the rest of the A-team teams will play over the course of the weekend.
JAVIER TEBAS, LA LIGA PRESIDENT (through translator): The government's had to take in hand the health crisis. The problem was very complicated, and our duty was to come back prepared for this moment. It was tough, but we've made it.
CULVER: The players have been back in training for just over a month, preparing for the last 11 games of the season. They're starting again weeks after the point when the season should have concluded.
MARCOS LLORENTE, ATLETICO MADRID MIDFIELDER (through translator): Obviously, what we're living through is not normal. We've never been out of action for so long. People have to understand that for the first few matches, we won't be at the same level we were when we played Liverpool or in the proceeding matches. We will need some time to get fully match fit.
DANI PAREJO, VALENCIA MIDFIELDER: It will be difficult, not just in football, but in life as a whole, to guarantee our health 100 percent. But all of us, not just as footballers, but everyone in their daily life, until there is a vaccine, will have to get used to living with this risk, because that's life. If we don't, the world would stop.
RIDDELL: For the football authorities in Spain, the restart has been a major logistical challenge. And even though there won't be fans in the stadiums, supporters can hopefully now enjoy the climax of a tense title race between the biggest two teams, Barcelona and Real Madrid.
Two-time defending champions Barce have a two-point lead over Madrid, who are chasing their first title since 2017. Madrid are hopeful they can close the gap, and finish in style.
LUCAS VAZQUEZ, REAL MADRID FORWARD (through translator): I think the starting point for those 11 games we have left is treating them as 11 finals. We should view them like that. Hopefully from now until the end, we can get all the victories and win the league title.
RIDDELL (on camera): So after months of uncertainty, football is returning to normal, albeit a new kind of normal. Germany's Bundesliga paved the way as the first major European league to return last month.
Italy's Serie A and England's Premier League will be next week. And given the mood of the times, it seems almost inevitable that players will make headlines for more than just the football. In Germany already, there have been several gestures in support of the Black Lives Matter movement. Expect to see more of the same on other fields across Europe.
Don Riddell, CNN.
CURNOW: Thanks, Don, for that.
So Britain's Prince Philip is quietly celebrating his 99th birthday. Buckingham Palace released a new photograph of (UNINTELLIGIBLE) and his wife, Queen Elizabeth, taken last week for the occasion.
The royal couple has been staying at Windsor Castle during the coronavirus lockdown.
And traditionally, the prince's birthday would have been marked with gun salutes in London, but such royal ceremonies have been canceled due to the COVID crisis.
So you're watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Robyn Curnow. I'll be back with another hour of news in just a moment, so stay with us.
CURNOW: Hi. Welcome to our viewers joining us all around the world. Thanks for joining me. You're watching CNN. I'm Robyn Curnow.
So just ahead --
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right now, I want justice for my brother, my big brother.
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