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Confederate Symbols Removed Amid Protests for Racial Equality; Trump Opposes Removing Confederate Names from Military Bases; Black Lives Matter Protesters Marched for Another Day; More than 2,00 Complaints Since 2013 Minneapolis Police but Few Disciplined; Controversy Over Trump's Planned Juneteenth Rally in Tulsa. Aired 4:30-5a ET

Aired June 12, 2020 - 04:30   ET




MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR: And welcome back to CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Michael Holmes.

As the Black Lives Matter protests show no signs of abating, the pressure is increasing to remove racist remnants from America's past. A Senate committee has just endorsed a measure that calls for the removing of names of Confederate officers from U.S. military bases. But President Trump is dead set against it. He says they are part of America's heritage and quote, hopefully our great Republican Senators won't fall for this. But as Abby Phillip reports it is not just those names that protesters are targeting.


ABBY PHILLIP, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): A national reckoning on race could now mean the end for the last remaining symbols of America's dark history of slavery.

In cities across the South statues venerating military leaders of the Confederacy are crashing down. After the killing of George Floyd protests have swept the nation and prompted fresh soul searching.

MARC MORIAL, PRESIDENT, NATIONAL URBAN LEAGUE: I believe it is a sea change. And it's a long overdue movement against hate and racism in this country.

PHILLIP: It's the very issue that drew a group of white protesters including white supremacists and militia members to Charlottesville, Virginia, nearly three years ago. But today a massive shift.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's time to heal, ladies and gentlemen, Richmond is no longer the capital of the Confederacy.

PHILLIP: Virginia's governor seeking to remove an enormous landmark that commemorates the Confederate army commander, Robert E. Lee. REV. ROBERT W. LEE, DECENDENT OF CONFEDERATE GENERAL ROBERT E. LEE: He was a man of his time who fought to continue the enslavement of black people. And in so doing set our nation on a course towards destruction.

PHILLIP: The Marine Corps banning the public display of the Confederate battle flag and even NASCAR following suit. Saying fans will no longer be allowed to fly that flag in the stands.

BUBBA WALLACE, NASCAR DRIVER: No one should feel uncomfortable when they come to a NASCAR race. So it starts with Confederate flags. Get them out of here, they have no place for them.

PHILLIP: The changes are also sweeping through pop culture. On Thursday, the popular country group Lady Antebellum announcing a change of their name to Lady A. telling their fans we can make no excuse for our lateness to this realization that the name referred to the pre-Civil War period that included slavery.

HATTIE MCDANIEL, ACTOR: You've been brace so long, Miss Scarlett.

PHILLIP: HBO Max saying it has temporarily removed the film "Gone with the Wind" and will return to the platform with materials putting that period of history into context.

And now a push from military leaders to strip the names of rebel generals from military bases.

GEN. DAVID PETRAEUS, FORMER ARMY GENERAL: I don't have an emotional attachment to the names of those bases.

PHILLIPS: Former Army General David Petraeus writing, it is time to remove the names of traitors like Benning and Bragg from our country's most important military installations.

But there is also staunch resistance beginning with President Trump who tweeted that the bases represent a history of winning, victory and freedom and he would not even consider renaming them.

Trump warning his party not to fall for a bipartisan amendment introduced in the Senate to remove the Confederate names. But it may be too late as some Republican lawmakers say the time for change has come.

SEN. MIKE ROUNDS (R-SD): We don't want to forget what's happened in the past but at the same time that doesn't mean that we should continue with those bases, with the names of individuals who fought against our country.

PHILLIP: Abby Phillip, CNN Washington.


HOLMES: Keisha Blain, an associate professor of history at the University of Pittsburgh joins me now. She's also President of African-American Intellectual History Society. [04:35:03]

Dr. Blain it's an honor to have you and have the benefit of your knowledge and history. We are seeing a lot of shifts in American society. Police department banning chokeholds. Some budgets are going to be cut and diverted. You've got changes, big changes in public opinion on Black Lives Matter. Does it look to you like meaningful change is happening? Because so often it has not.

DR. KEISHA N. BLAIN, ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR OF HISTORY, UNIVERSITY OF PITTSBURGH: Yes, I do think that it looks like meaningful change. I think certainly this is not the first time we've been at a place where we've been demanding changes in American policing. But I think this is a moment where people are actually open to the possibility. I think this is the moment where people are for the first time, I think at least collectively at the national level talking about the idea of defunding the police, that they are at least considering the possibilities. And so I think we're moving in the right direction.

HOLMES: You write about the history of black rebellion against police violence. I mean we have limited time. But what do we learn from history that applies today in what we are seeing play out?

BLAIN: Well, one of the key lessons I think that has to be emphasized in this moment is that mass protests actually work. And they work because in the end people come together and they push an issue and they're able to not only change public opinion but they're also able to get those in power to move in the right direction.

And so I think we've seen that certainly in the '50s and the 60s as much as we like to believe people that make decisions at the highest level just because they feel compelled to, most of the time, they do so because they're forced to. So I think the kind of activism we're seeing today has great potential for radically changing society in so many different ways.

HOLMES: I found it interesting reading your material that you also write a lot about specifically the role of black women. And we're not talking about, you know, even the '60s, we're going way back.

BLAIN: Yes, and one of the things that I argue is that women have always been central to black protest movements in the United States but also across the globe. And we can start the story in the early 20th century but the truth is we can go much further back. And I focus primarily on the 20th century. And I think we're seeing similar themes today certainly with looking at, for example, the Black Lives Matter movement founded by three black women in 2014. So we see all of these even current examples of how black women are leading in the nation and also across the globe.

HOLMES: We've got President Trump, he's often tweeted about, you know, trying to threaten a military response to the state protests. I mean this most recently in Seattle where the governor literally said, keep out of our business. I mean the mayor said, go back to your bunker. How unhelpful or even damaging are President's positions on all of this? BLAIN: I think it's unhelpful because at this moment it's already a

very tense climate and I think what we need from Trump is not to instigate further or to make decisions and do things that will cause more and more attention. And I think some of the rhetoric or the way he has been addressing these concerns certainly only have the potential to cause more problems. Right now he should be lending a helping hand not pressuring people to do anything.

HOLMES: And let's stick with the history thing here, these military bases. The issues here about the naming of them. I mean the President tweeted out earlier, and I just want to read it for people here.

He said, seriously failed presidential candidate Senator Elizabeth Warren -- I'll just skip the rest of it -- just introduced and amendment on the renaming of many of our legendary military bases from which we trained to win two world wars. Hopefully, our great Republican Senators won't fall for this.

Now quite apart from the fact that the Republican controlled Senate Arms Services Committee has already approved a review on bipartisan grounds.

BLAIN: Right.

HOLMES: You've got several military figures in favor of it. What is your read on why the President would be against getting rid of these names on military bases that are for, you know, what many people considered treasonous generals?

BLAIN: Well, my sense is he does not have a full grasp of the history. And even thinking about the role of the Confederacy and thinking about, well, in this case, we're talking about the naming of military bases. But it's very much linked to the discussion we're having now about Confederate monuments. And when you understand the history, you understand the context.


You understand the links to slavery. You understand that these are symbols that these names, that these monuments are representative of the history of white supremacy, ideas of black inferiority. And if you see it through that lens then you understand why people are going to push to remove Confederate monuments, you'll understand why people are gong to push to rename military bases as opposed to suggesting that somehow we must hold onto them.

HOLMES: Dr. Keisha Blain of the University of Pittsburgh, honor to have you on. Thank you so much.

BLAIN: Thank you for having me.

HOLMES: We'll take a quick break. When we come back, thousands of complaints. Very little discipline. CNN investigates who's holding Minneapolis police accountable or not? We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) HOLMES: And now a CNN investigation into the long history of complaints against police officers in Minneapolis, Minnesota well before the George Floyd incident. CNN's senior investigative correspondent Drew Griffin reports.


GEORGE FLOYD: I can't breathe.

DREW GRIFFIN, CNN'S SENIOR INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In the midst of this video that horrified a nation, a bystander called out a badge number.


MICHELLE GROSS, COMMUNITIES UNITED AGAINST POLICE BRUTALITY: I played it over and over and listened carefully and figured out for sure this was badge 1087. And at that point then I knew that it was Derek Chauvin.

GRIFFIN: George Floyd had been dead less than 2 hours. Michelle Gross who heads a Minneapolis group called Communities United Against Police Brutality was about to tell the world who killed him.

GROSS: And so when I saw the name I said, oh, him. I wasn't surprised because when you start to see those same officers over and over again with multiple complaints, their names lodge in your brain.

GRIFFIN: For two decades her organization has been tracking complaints against Minneapolis police. The data is limited. The investigative details not public but the outcomes are clear.


Scroll down data from the city's own website and you'll see complaint after complaint closed with no discipline. Minneapolis police have racked up 2,013 complaints in 7 years, of those just 31 ended in serious discipline. Just one and a half percent.

GROSS: We have so failed to address police conduct in this community. It made it literally inevitable that somebody was going to die this way.

GRIFFIN: Derek Chauvin whose knee was on George Floyd's neck had at least 18 complaints. Just 2 have ever led to discipline. His partner that night, Tou Thao has 6, one still pending, 5 dismissed with no discipline.

In 2017, Thao and his partner were sued for using unreasonable force by a man who was punched and kicked so hard his teeth broke though he had not committed a crime. The city and officers denied any wrongdoing settled for $25,000, Thao remained a cop.

Minneapolis police have a long history of allegations of excessive force, lawsuits and even intervention from the federal Department of Justice. Police chiefs, city councils, mayors come and go without fixing the problems that have built for decades.

R.T. RYBAK, FORMER MINNEAPOLIS MAYOR: Well, if I had an answer about why we haven't gotten more done with police reform in Minneapolis, we wouldn't be in this mess today.

GRIFFIN: R.T. Rybak was mayor of Minneapolis from 2002 to 2014. He changed the police chief 3 times. He says he fought for more transparency in complaints. Fought to bring in minority officers and better training to handle the

mentally ill.

(on camera): But when we see over and over again, the data, the complaints filed that went nowhere and continue to go nowhere, I really have to question whether or not there was a sincere attempt to restructure the Minneapolis Police Department.

RYBAK: It's the right question. Someone like me should stand before you and have to answer that. I don't want to leave the impression that I didn't try but I did not get the job done. And now is the time to get the job done.

GRIFFIN (voice-over): Phillip Atiba Goff is the cofounder of the Center for Policing Equity.

PHILLIP ATIBA GOFF, COFOUNDER OF THE CENTER FOR POLICING EQUITY: If we think the problem here is, wow, policing is going to be bad in the United States, we missed the point.

GRIFFIN: What is the point? Goff says its entire swaths of communities lacking grocery stores, lacking jobs, lacking good education and he says, let's begin using data for far more than law enforcement.

GOFF: Well, I'm talking about measuring everything we need to, to ensure that those communities can be healthy, safe and empowered to determine their own outcome. Police are the spark. But the historic disinvestment of black communities which is why they only have police to solve their problems, that's really the powder keg.

GRIFFIN: The powder keg that erupted with the protests but had been building for decades.

(on camera): The city of Minneapolis tells us that most of the complaints against its officers are low level and in fact in 300 cases officers received coaching instead of actual discipline. But how coaching is applied is unclear and it's certainly not transparent. A former police chief of Minneapolis told us, if one of her officers was coached for bad behavior, even repeatedly, she wouldn't even know it.

Drew Griffin, CNN, Atlanta.


HOLMES: The White House is trying to explain President Trump's controversial decision. His first post lockdown rally set to happen on a day that has deep meaning for African-Americans. We'll have that when we come back.



HOLMES: The U.S. President's first rally since states have started reopening is a week away but it's already leading to plenty of controversy. Both the location and the day and the places at coronavirus rates are all important aspects.

Here's Brian Todd.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is our duty to fight for our freedom.

CROWD: It is our duty to fight for our freedom.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): At a rally of black activists in Tulsa, Oklahoma noticeable tension over President Trump's upcoming visit to the city where next week he'll stage his first political rally in months. Protestors are anxious about the date Trump chose for the rally, June 19th, known as Juneteenth, the day which marks the end of slavery in the U.S.

LAUREN BETHLY, TULSA RESIDENT: Just knowing the comments that he makes and how he speaks to people, I just don't see it being very positive, especially not for our community.

TODD: But Senator Kamala Harris, a leading contender to be Joe Biden's running mate, is decidedly more blunt. Tweeting, this isn't just a wink to white supremacists, he's throwing them a welcome home party.

The White House staunchly defending the President's choice of Tulsa and that date. His press secretary saying, African-Americans are, quote, very near and dear to his heart and he wants to highlight what he's done for them.

KAYLEIGH MCENANY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: It's a meaningful day to him. And it's a day where he wants to share some of the progress that's been made as we look forward and more that needs to be done.

TODD: Tulsa is also reeling from the kinds of racial tensions that the President has been known to stoke. A city police major being blistered by the mayor and black leaders for his comment on a radio show this week about the rates of police shooting African-Americans in Tulsa.

TRAVIS YATES, POLICE MAJOR, TULSA POLICE DEPARTMENT: We're shooting after Americans about 24 percent less than we probably ought to be based on the crimes being committed.

TODD: The major then refused to apologize. Speaking to CNN, Travis Yates said that he meant that systemic racism and policing doesn't exist. But he said he recognized racism does exist and calls it our quote, sin nature. He also said that he stands by his comments and added he was just quoting research.

And last week, Tulsa police were criticized when they arrested a black teenager and handcuffed another for jaywalking on a street that had no sidewalks.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why are you putting handcuffs on my friend?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All he was doing was jaywalking. We just want to talk with him. And then he had to act a fool like that.

TODD: It all comes against the backdrop of a horrible moment in history that Tulsa has never recovered from. In 1921, a white mob massacred hundreds of black residents of Tulsa, torched several businesses and homes in a successful African-American community. The terrifying attack depicted in the HBO series "WATCHMEN."


One local African American leader believes Trump's rally will stunt Tulsa's progress in recovering from the 1921 massacre and the recent tensions.

PLEAS THOMPSON, PRESIDENT, NAACP TULSA CHAPTER: I'm sure the President is going to say something that's going to be divisive. This is just to throw cold water on all the days we were trying to do all the things we were trying to do and put a halt to the momentum that's going.

TODD (on camera): President Trump's campaign manager defended the Juneteenth rally in Tulsa, tweeting that, quote, as the party of Lincoln, Republicans are proud of what Juneteenth represents, and the Emancipation Proclamation.

But given the fallout over the President's handling of the George Floyd killing, and those two recent racially divisive incidents involving police in Tulsa, there's still a lot of angst in that city over the President's rally next week.

Brian Todd, CNN, Washington.


VAUSE: Thanks for spending part of your day with me. I'm Michael Holmes. I appreciate your company. "EARLY START" is up next.



DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Heal no by falsely labeling tens of millions of decent Americans as racist or bigots.


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: A defiant President doubling down on a culture war in the face of sweeping demands for change nationwide. LAURA JARRETT, CNN ANCHOR: And another case of a black man ending up

dead after telling police he couldn't breathe. Now one city takes action to end a police tactic that led to one woman's death.

ROMANS: Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. This is "EARLY START." I'm Christine Romans.

JARRETT: I'm Laura Jarrett. It's Friday, June 12th. It's 5 a.m. in New York. And this morning, the more America embraces change the harder the President seems to fight it. He's campaigning on a slogan of keep America great but a cultural reckoning is crashing down all around him right now. As Republicans and Democrats --