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THE SITUATION ROOM
Protests Grow In Atlanta Over Deadly Police Shooting; Protesters March From Lafayette Square To Highway In D.C.; Atlanta Police Chief Stepping Down After Deadly Officer-Involved Shooting. Aired 11p-12a ET
Aired June 13, 2020 - 23:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JULIETTE KAYYEM, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: So it's frustrating to see but there is just a prioritization at this stage, which is to protect the community and to protect the free expression of protest against another police shooting.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: All right, Juliette, stand by. It's top of the hour. It's 11:00 P.M. here on the East Coast of United States.
Once again, we want to welcome our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington. This is a special edition of THE SITUATION ROOM.
And we're following the breaking news out of Atlanta. It's been one site of the nationwide protests for 19 days now following the killing of George Floyd, but tonight, a new name is being chanted there, that name Rayshard Brooks.
Right now, deep anger and frustration have erupted. Protesters have set fire to the Wendy's where police shot and killed Brooks last night after an altercation in the parking lot there. The Georgia Bureau of Investigation says police were called in around 10:30 P.M. about a man simply sleeping in a car in a Wendy's drive-through. Police say Brooks failed sobriety test then resisted arrest.
We have videos of what ensued. And I'm going to try to walk you through those videos. But I want to warn all of our viewers these videos are disturbing.
Look at this, in this video, taken by a bystander, you can see a struggle. The yellow object in the officer's hand is a taser. Eventually Brooks appears to swing it at an officer before taking off with his taser. Let's watch together.
Surveillance video picked up where that video ends. And, again, I want to warn our viewers this is also disturbing. You can see Brooks running from the police. At one point, he appears to turn back towards the police officer and discharged the taser before turning back around and continuing to run. You then see him fall to the ground. Here is the moment Brooks appears to discharge the taser and the officer fires once more in slow motion.
Here is what the attorney representing the Brooks family said happened next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ATTY. L. CHRIS STEWART, BROOKS FAMILY ATTORNEY: We talked to some witnesses today who said that the officers went and put on plastic gloves and picked up their shell casings after they killed him, before rendering aid. We counted two minutes and 16 seconds before they even checked his pulse.
Some people are wondering why they're doing this thing. Just watch the video as he lays there dying. The officers stand around. One kicks him and flips him over. And then the witnesses tell us that what you can't see on camera but they filmed it, they went and picked up the shell casings. I wonder why. So that all of you can't know how far away he was when they shot? So that you can't find their positions when they used that weapon? But they appear to be caring more about covering their tracks than providing aid.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Let's go to Atlanta right now. Natasha Chen is on the scene for us. Update our viewers, Natasha, on what you're seeing.
NATASHA CHEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, we had to leave the scene. And I will show you here the cell phone video, the very last video that I was able to get before we had to leave. And those were the moments when people started attacking the Wendy's building essentially. We saw people throwing things through the windows, breaking the glass. At one point, seeing some people go in there, another person starting to set fire to an umbrella on the patio outside.
And we understand just from my conversation in the last 30 minutes with the Atlanta Fire Department that the fire is inside the dining room spreading through the drive through, that the fire department right now cannot access the building because of the number of people in the streets. They would need assistance. They would need backup to be able to do that.
And right now, because there are no reports of people inside that building, nor does it seem like the fire is spreading to other structures at this time, they are on standby watching this, monitoring to make sure it doesn't get even worse.
And I also want to show you a little bit of video from earlier in the evening, a moment when tear gas was deployed and this came right after a crowd was gathered around a squad car trying to block the police car in. And shortly after that, that's when we saw that the tear gas and actually a flash bang.
It was really just in the moments right after that, that I ran into the cousins of Rayshard Brooks, people I had met earlier in the day when protests were very peaceful.
Here's what one of the cousins said to me in that moment reacting to that tear gas and to the protest.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ignorance doesn't have a color. It doesn't have a white or a black. You either have sense or you don't. We are all people. But because you have a badge, it doesn't say I do what I want to do. It says that you are supposed to uphold the law for people that cannot. That's what we pay taxes for. And for so many dumb reasons, this shouldn't be happening.
CHEN: This right here, you're talking about the --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I mean, I understand the anger. I understand the hurt. But how does it help?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CHEN: And another cousin walked up while we were talking and he made sure to tell me he wanted the message to be, please, keep it peaceful. And, of course, just an hour or so later we saw people getting on to the interstate and then, of course, when they started moving the crowd toward the Wendy's and we were recording, both with my cell phone and with our CNN camera, there were a couple protesters, not the ones actually breaking into the Wendy's but one's on the sidewalk.
People trying to block our view, stop us from recording and they were very angry that we were recording this. And during the scuffle, that's when our CNN camera broke and our crew decided that, at that moment, given what was happening around us it was best for us to back out of there, Wolf.
BLITZER: And just to remind our viewers, you and your colleagues, the photo journalists as well as the security personnel who was there with you, our producer, everybody okay?
CHEN: Yes. Thank you for asking. Everyone is okay. We've reconvened, as you can see in another part of Atlanta here at CNN center.
BLITZER: And the part of Atlanta where all this is taking place, Natasha, you know this area well, not too far, I'm told, from Turner Field where the Atlanta Braves used to play baseball, right?
CHEN: Yes, and it is south of downtown and very close to the interstate. And that's why people were easily able to climb up the hill side there just half a block up from the Wendy's.
Now, the state troopers, the officers, they have lined up their squad cars and themselves to block the base of those ramps for those protesters not to be able to walk up the ramps, but the people just went around them and went up the hillside, up the grassy hillside to the interstate itself.
BLITZER: And we're seeing a police on mask arriving now at the scene, some of the protesters beginning to disperse as a result. But you see the long line of police officers getting closer and closer. We did see some firefighters are beginning their process of trying to stop the fire from expanding from that Wendy's. This is an awful situation that has unfolded in Atlanta right now.
And, Natasha, is I-75, which is very close to where these police officers right now, is that open or is that still partially blocked?
CHEN: I don't know the exact status at this moment. But as we were leaving the scene, I did notice that the freeway was completely blocked with cars at a standstill. So I think that they were really trying to get traffic moving again. I know that was a difficult thing for them to try to navigate.
BLITZER: All right. Natasha, I'm glad you and your colleagues are okay. We'll stay in very close touch with you.
Charles Ramsey is still with us, CNN Law Enforcement Analyst and former D.C. Police Chief, former Philadelphia Police Commissioner.
So, Chief Ramsey, you see the police officers moving in a long line towards that area where the blaze is coming from. You see some firefighters, the truck there on the scene, they're trying to get in place to deal with this and they're trying to disperse the protesters. It looks like most of those protesters have, in fact, dispersed. But tell us what your understanding is. This is still an extremely dangerous situation especially with the fire erupting the way it has.
Chief Ramsey, are you there?
CHARLES RAMSEY, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, yes, it is. I mean, you know, my biggest concern with the fire is the fact you have a gas station right across the street there and those embers, the way they blow, could actually cause more of a problem.
But I think as far as protesters go, I mean, I just don't think they're going to bother the firefighters. So you have to move them back for their own safety, and I think that's what you're seeing now. So the firemen can get in there and do what they do and that is, put out the fire and secure that particular structure.
BLITZER: Because as you know, Chief Ramsey, if there are any gas tanks or anything like that, there could be explosions, which could be very dangerous.
RAMSEY: Exactly right. And that is why I think it was some urgency to try to get that fire under control, not so much because of Wendy's was burning but the fact of what is nearby that could cause an even larger problem. And, of course, with all the people out there and standing around, you're putting them at risk as well.
So I think they are doing the right thing, to clear that area, let the firemen do what they do, and then the whole area will be a lot more secure.
BLITZER: Let me get Cheryl Dorsey, retired LAPD sergeant, in this conversation. What's your analysis right now, Cheryl, of what you're seeing? CHERYL DORSEY, RETIRED LAPD SERGEANT: Well, I would just say that the chief is correct in that the officers are going to create a path and a safe way for the firefighters to come in and do what they need to do.
But, Wolf, let me double back to the conversations that we were having about what needs to happen and say another name that I think a lot of people have forgotten about. There's been much said about Walter Scott. But there is another young black man who fell asleep at a drive through, Willy McCoy, killed by Vallejo Police Department.
And so what I know, Wolf, is that, as a patrol officer and patrol supervisor, the things that are being talked about and bantered around about what should be changed in the ivory tower over on the ATL Police Department means nothing to patrol officers. And unless and until you hold officers personally accountable for the bad doing, this is going to continue to happen.
And there's a real easy fix. Officers who commit policy violations, criminal acts, need to be removed from the department. They should probably be stripped of their post, peace officer standard and training certification so they can't go to another department, and criminally charged. Once that starts happening, then we'll train officers that when you do bad deeds, bad things happen.
BLITZER: Yes, that's an important point. Cedric Alexander is with us still as well, the former President of the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives. And you were the -- and Cedric was also the Public Safety Director of DeKalb County, which is right near Atlanta as well.
So the police have lined up, they're blocking off the area to allow firefighters to do their job, but this is, clearly, still an awful situation, Cedric, and very, very dangerous.
CEDRIC ALEXANDER, FORMER PRESIDENT, NATIONAL ORGANIZATION OF BLACK LAW ENFORCEMENT EXECUTIVES: A very dangerous situation. It's probably going to be a long night as well too for the city. (INAUDIBLE) is going to continue to possibly escalate.
But you see officers there moving in and they're trying to set up perimeters, it appears to be, and doing what they need to do to try to keep those that are out there protesting safe but also trying to keep the adjoining community safe as well. So they are up for a big challenge there tonight.
BLITZER: Yes. And the immediate mission, Cedric, is to let the firefighters do their job and stop the blaze, stop the fire from expanding and destroying, first of all, more property but endangering lives at the same time. You see the Texaco gas station right nearby.
ALEXANDER: Yes. And that's very risky, a very dangerous situation there, because we don't know, still, maybe, whether there's other tanks underground there that may explode and that could have devastating effects on anybody that's in and around there.
So it's going to be a very tough job for our firemen there tonight, for their firefighters there tonight, but I think everybody is going to be in for the long haul because it's going to be a long evening there into the night.
But I can only encourage people who are out there tonight, please, please cooperate with the authorities that are out there to keep you safe, so that you can protest peacefully because that is hugely important so that you don't lose focus of the reason for being there, and that is to contest what happened to Mr. Brooks last night. So, please try to remain calm. Protest as much as you want but do it peacefully.
BLITZER: Yes, good advice from Cedric.
Cornell William Brooks is still with us as well.
Step back a little bit, Cornell. Give the big picture, the awful situation that has unfolded. You are the former President and CEO of the NAACP. You are now at the Harvard Kennedy School. But step back and explain to our viewers in the U.S. and around the world why this situation in Atlanta has exploded the way it has over these past few hours.
CORNELL WILLIAM BROOKS, FORMER PRESIDENT AND CEO, NAACP: Well, this situation is tragically classic. So, having participated in many peaceful protests and demonstrations around the country and traveled to crises in terms of police brutality, what we see is a police homicide going viral by means of video.
People responding to it with outrage and anger, and we often see a glacial response in this particular instance in Atlanta, we see a fast response.
But the problem is that this video, this police homicide occurs in the wake of Ahmaud Arbery, in the wake of Philando Castile, George Floyd, Tamir Rice, Breonna Taylor, and so many others. And so we've reached this point where the people have simply experienced too much.
And so what we have is this dynamic where we have those law enforcement calling for restraint on the part of the protesters. We call on them to engage in peaceful protests. Well, yes, most people want to engage in peaceful protests but they also want impactful protests. They want protests with results. They want protests with change. They want protests with justice.
So one of the best ways to ensure peaceful protests is for the mayor, for the governor to talk about what they're going to do in response to the protests as opposed to merely calling for law and order around the protests.
Be clear about this. Violence is bad. Arson is bad. Why? Because a fire can spread from those things which you can insure to lives which you cannot bring back. So violence is tragic, it is awful. We don't need to engage in that. But one of the best ways for us to keep these protests peaceful is to respond and de-escalate not just on the street corner, de-escalate in terms of Congress, de-escalate in terms of these legislatures by putting forward policies in real-time to transform policing.
Be clear about this. Trying to give the people a sleeping pill, induce them into some kind of social justice state of narcolepsy will not work. We are long past that. So, law enforcement has to be in the lead. You need to hear from the Fraternal Order Police, we need to hear from the police chiefs, we need to have law enforcement out front calling for as much change as quickly as possible and taking the side of protesters as opposed to merely taking a knee with protesters.
BLITZER: Yes, it's been almost three weeks since George Floyd was killed, a police officer having his knee on his neck for almost nine minutes, eight minutes and 46 seconds. And now we're seeing what is happening in Atlanta with Rayshard Brooks, 27 years old. He was shot and killed by a police officer at a Wendy's, which is now engulfed in flames.
We'll take a quick break. Our special coverage here in THE SITUATION ROOM will continue right after this.
BLITZER: Welcome back. We're continuing to follow breaking news. You see what is happening there in Atlanta. That flame, the fire still continues at the Wendy's where the incident occurred resulting in the shooting death by police of Rayshard Brooks last night.
In Washington, protesters are marching right now. These are live pictures coming in from the nation's capital. We're told that a small group of protesters marched from Lafayette Square, that's right near the White House, through downtown Washington then out to a highway that runs from D.C. to Northern Virginia.
The demonstrators could be seen from CNN affiliate WJLA marching out of D.C. using both incoming and outgoing lanes of Interstate 395. The group was peaceful, marched with music blaring. But at one point, there was a video captured of protesters and medics taking a knee on the highway as they marched. This is here in the Washington, D.C. area.
We are also told police cars were seen following the protesters from a distance but were not just there. They let the demonstrators continue on their way. This is similar to what a separate group of protesters did on the same highway slightly further north. This is continuing in Washington, live pictures coming in at 11:22 P.M. here in the nation's capital.
In Atlanta, the struggle there continues as well. Police are dealing with huge fire that has erupted at that Wendy's where the incident occurred last night.
We're going to follow the protests in Washington and the protests in Atlanta.
Cheryl Dorsey, retired LAPD sergeant, author of Black and Blue, is with us as well. This is clearly a tense moment, not only in Atlanta but in other cities as well, Cheryl. I assume you agree.
DORSEY: Absolutely. I mean, listen, we didn't even get a chance to get a scab on that wound from the murder of George Floyd and here we go again. And that is why it is so important that these officers be held accountable.
Each and everyone who we are able to identify as someone who understands that deadly force is something you just use whenever you want to and then you come up manufacture reasonable -- something that sounds reasonable to you, unreasonable to us.
And so unless and until there is accountability, that is what justice looks like, accountability. Officers understand when their peers start disappearing from the ranks because they are sitting in court somewhere facing murder charges, they'll stop this stuff yesterday.
BLITZER: You know, it is interesting, we just got a tweet from the Atlanta Fire Department saying this. Atlanta fire units are standing by until they can safely get to the fire burning at Wendy's 1925 University Avenue. Restaurant is fully involved and adjacent to a gas station. No reports of anyone inside the location.
But the fact that the gas station is right nearby and those flames could expand to the gas station, that could potentially endanger a lot of people, Cheryl, as you know.
DORSEY: Absolutely. And, listen, this is why all this talk about defunding and moving resources is problematic for me. Because when you move resources, sometimes that can lend to fewer patrol officers and those are the folks that are going to be standing sentry and making sure that firefighters can go in and do their job and be safe as they try to put these fires out.
And so, listen, we all depend on one another and I don't know that there is any civilian panel, group that could come and do what police officers do day in and day out.
BLITZER: And the Atlanta Journal Constitution is now reporting a group of protesters, we don't have video, has gathered outside the Atlanta police third precinct. That's near Grant Park in Atlanta as well.
So, clearly, these incidents are continuing.
Cedric Alexander, I think, is still with us as well, former Public Safety Director of DeKalb County in the Atlanta area as well.
So, what do you think when you see what's going on, a very, very tense moment? We're showing our viewers some live pictures of Atlanta police on the scene, they're trying to deal with this, that fire not too far away from where they are. ALEXANDER: Well, as I said before, Wolf, it is going to be a long night there in Atlanta. It is a very tense situation. It is very fluid. People are moving throughout that community there, which means that you're going to have to have police officers that may potentially be stretched a little thin. But it's going to be huge challenges for them tonight.
And probably one of the best things that could happen as people stay out of that area and until this is a little bit more under control than it is now, because the whole idea here is to try to get through the night without any injury, anyone getting hurt, citizens or officers. And it is a real -- you know, it's just a real tense environment right now.
But we're going to see, Wolf, across this country these protesters, these protests will continue, and they're going to continue until people feel like they're being heard. But here, again, as one of your guests said, it just seems like before one thing can reach any type of resolution, something else happens now.
Unfortunately, that is where we are. People are feeling that they cannot trust police in many parts of our communities across this country, and that it should be problematic not just for those communities but for this entire nation, because this truly is an American problem that we're going to have to address at all levels of government, federal level, state level, and local level, travel levels, all of them.
But let me say as a former police executive. When you start talking accountability, accountability runs from the elected officials, appointed officials, police chiefs, right on down to the last person hired. There has to be accountability up and down the chain of command.
And in order to have good policing, we have to make sure that we're recruiting the right persons, people who have a sense of community as guardians and not as warriors. And we also have to make sure that we train them well. And they have to be supervised well. And we have to place them in police environments in which they will have an opportunity to grow with some sense of balance and not be prejudiced by anyone around anything around anything, around isms. And that requires good supervision and it requires unique leadership from the top of the organizations.
So it is incumbent upon our elected officials to make sure that they appoint the right people into those positions. It is important among voters to make sure you elect the right sheriff in those positions and that everyone is held accountable right down to the last person hired because people are fed up.
People don't want to feel afraid anymore, they don't want to feel anxious anymore, they want to feel like they can walk around in whatever color skin they are in and whatever their gender may happen to be or their sexual preference, sexual orientation or religious preference, whatever it may happen to be, people should be able to not fear anyone and certainly not fear public safety. BLITZER: Yes, clearly, a very tense situation continuing in Atlanta right now. And I suspect Cedric Alexander is right. This is going to continue late into the night.
We are staying on top of it. We have got our reporters, our analysts, they're on the scene. Much more of our special coverage coming up right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: We're following the protests nationwide as they are unfolding right now, the 19th day since the death of George Floyd. And now, a new anger and deep frustration over Friday night's police shooting of 27-year-old Rayshard Brooks in Atlanta.
The protests are continuing in Washington, D.C. You see on the left part of your screen what is happening in D.C., in the nation's capital. A small group of protesters, they've been marching from Lafayette Square. That's an area near the White House through downtown Washington then on to a highway that runs from D.C. into Northern Virginia.
Brian Todd is joining us right now. So, Brian, you're on the phone. Tell us what you're learning.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, we know that these protesters started around the area of the White House around Lafayette Square where Black Lives Matter Plaza is located. They actually marched in from north of town into the Lafayette Square area. And then they went east a couple blocks and then south. And when they get to 14th Street, they march south towards the 14th Street Bridge on to the highway, 395, south that leads into Northern Virginia.
They got to around the area of the Lincoln Memorial. At one point, the protesters took a knee. They blocked traffic, we believe, in both directions coming into and out of Northern Virginia in Washington, D.C. And then they turned around and marched back into downtown where we believe they still are.
This is a small group of protesters. I don't want to put numbers on it but it is considered pretty small by the standards of recent protests. And we don't know specifically if this is directly related to the shooting of Rayshard Brooks last night but it is certainly related to George Floyd, it is certainly related to the movement, to defund the police.
We do know that protesters were in front of D.C. Mayor Bowser's home earlier today, again, protesting, you know, for the idea of defunding police, a concept, which the mayor has been a little bit non-committal about supporting.
Now, she did order the Black Lives Matter Plaza be -- that sign be painted there on 16th Street near the White House, and that that area of 16th Street be renamed Black Lives Matter Plaza. But then there was a sign that was painted in also a large yellow block letters that said, defund the police.
Now, Muriel Bowser did not necessarily support that sign. She didn't object to it. She said it is part of the movement but it was not intended to be part of the original mural. And she has been very non- committal as to whether she supports the idea of defunding police and whether she supports the idea of that particular sign being there. So we're going to see what happens with that sign in the next few weeks, I guess.
But this is, you know, again, a very peaceful protest in Washington. And, you know, the coming days are going to be very interesting, Wolf, to see if the protests grow, if they ebb and flow, if they remain peaceful. I mean, the killing of Rayshard Brooks last night kind of changes the equation all over the country as we know. But so far tonight in D.C. as they march toward the 14th Street Bridge into Virginia and turn back, this has been very peaceful.
BLITZER: Yes. And we are showing our viewers some pictures. It looks like the protesters here in D.C., they did get to 395 over there, stand there for a while. This is video that we shot a little while ago, Brian, and we see them blocking traffic so, clearly, no traffic moving on 395, a major interstate between Washington, D.C. and Northern Virginia.
It's interesting, Brian, that they tried to move towards 395 and block traffic on 395 as protesters in Atlanta following the shooting death of Rayshard Brooks blocked traffic on I-75 in Atlanta, and that went on for quite a while. I think it's opening up slowly but surely now.
But, clearly, it looks like the protesters in D.C. wanted to do what the protesters in Atlanta did but you say we don't know that for sure.
TODD: We don't. But, look, this is a common tactic of protesters in the past several weeks since the killing of George Floyd. They have done this in -- look, I was in Philadelphia. They did it in Philadelphia. They were tear gassed very heavily there. And that was a mess, frankly.
But we also, two weeks ago, when we were covering the original -- the initial protests in Washington over the George Floyd killing, they did go on 395, the same road that you see them on tonight. They went on 395 a little bit further north from where they are tonight. And they went on and the police allowed them to do it. They blocked traffic but then they exited just a couple blocks later.
So this is a very common tactic. These protesters, they often go on highways, to make their point, block traffic, to make things uncomfortable for motorists and to call their attention to the issues. And very often, they exit, you know, a short time later. It usually doesn't turn out to be a big issue. And the police usually understand that.
Now, about a week-and-a-half ago in Philadelphia, again, the police kind of overreacted to a situation. They fired massive amounts of tear gas on to protesters on a highway in Philadelphia. We were right there when it happened. We got caught up in the tear gas. And it was a real mess. It was a melee. That was kind of anomaly.
Usually, the police are doing what the police in Washington are doing tonight. They allow them to go on. They allow them to make their point on the highway and, you know, make that kind of point of symbolism that they want to make. And usually, the protesters exit a short time later or they turn around and they get off at some point. And that seems to be what happened tonight.
And so I guess we don't quite know whether this is related to the shooting of Rayshard Brooks last night or not. It could very well be. But it is a common tactic for these protesters to go on to a highway because it is, clearly, something that gathers attention and disrupts things for a short period and then it kind of ebbs away.
BLITZER: Yes. And we are showing our viewers live pictures coming in from Atlanta. Firefighters are there, they're trying to get through that fire at the Wendy's where the incident occurred. Last night, we earlier were showing pictures of the Interstate 75. It looks like it is open, cars moving. We saw some of that moving. So let's -- there you see the cars are moving to a certain degree in Atlanta as well, but it's still not normal traffic, as you can tell but it's a serious situation with a lot of police cars on the side over there.
Juliette Kayyem is still with us, our CNN National Security Analyst, former Assistant Secretary with the Department of Homeland Security.
Juliette, these are tense moments here in the United States. People are watching what's going on. individuals, African-American men shot and killed in this particular case in Atlanta right now, Rayshard Brooks. It follows only less than three weeks ago, George Floyd, who was killed by a police officer after that police officer had his knee on his neck for eight minutes and 46 seconds or so. These presumably are going to continue, the protests will continue and I don't know about you but I am deeply worried about what is going on.
KAYYEM: So, I'm not worried. I mean, this is a movement and we've had movements and social justice movements in the U.S. before. I think what is happening is Black Lives Matter and others are peacefully demonstrating for the most part.
There was one bad night about nine months ago and there is something -- there's an incident in Atlanta. But that's not mayhem or riot in Atlanta. That seems to be limited to a small area, it's not in downtown Atlanta. So, overall, hundreds of thousands, if not, millions of people have protested peacefully. So I think we should make that clear that that is exactly sort of what's being reflected.
I do think like you that we should be worried about the summer for a couple reasons. One is, of course, just one bad thing happening can ignite something. So every mayor and every police chief has to anticipate that there is going to be protests throughout the summer, especially if there is another killing like what we saw in Atlanta, and be prepared for it. Learn to de-escalate. Do not use tear gas. Tear gas has been a disaster in terms of social protests. It just escalates everyone. And work with community leaders to make sure that the protests remain peaceful.
Meanwhile, you know, if things get worse over time, you are going to have to sort of fortify these communities in the sense of you do need to protect community members who are not violent and so you will need a surge of capacity. And that's what mayors have to plan for, that it's not bad and then it could get bad.
And if we can start from that position, which is basically what we're seeing on the streets, peaceful protests with pockets of bad behavior, I think that we'll see a much calmer summer than we saw, say, about ten days ago. And I think mayors and police chiefs are getting that. They can't promise that there won't be violence.
And I do have to say one thing, Governor Kemp not known, right, for being a member of Black Lives Matter. Remember, he is dealing with a horrible election that happened this Tuesday that essentially disenfranchised minority communities in Atlanta. Brian Kemp also -- Governor Kemp also said something important about trying to de- escalate.
So that would be the way we would want it to work out over the summer to protect peaceful protesters and to let this movement flourish as I think we're seeing the American public wanting it to in terms of the American public support.
BLITZER: Yes. And Keisha Lance Bottoms, the mayor of Atlanta, she immediately accepted the resignation of the Police Chief, Erika Shields, who is staying with the department but not going to be the police chief, immediately accepted her resignation.
All right, once again, we are looking at these pictures from earlier in the day of what happened in Atlanta. You see the tear gas there. Much more of our special coverage coming up.
BLITZER: Welcome back. We're covering the protests today across the country, including, of course, in Atlanta, which has seen protesters shutting down an interstate just south of downtown, burning of the Wendy's where 27-year-old named Rayshard Brooks was fatally shot by police last night. That followed -- that was followed by a statement from the Atlanta mayor, Keisha Lance Bottoms, where she took swift action. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MAYOR KEISHA LANCE BOTTOMS (D), ATLANTA, GA: I do not believe that this was a justified use of deadly force and have called for the immediate termination of the officer. Chief Shields has offered to immediately step aside as police chief so that the city may move forward with urgency in rebuilding the trust so desperately needed throughout our communities.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: The Atlanta mayor quickly accepting the resignation of the chief of police, Erika Shields, an action which so far appears to have done not much to calm tensions on the streets of Atlanta.
Cornell William Brooks, what do you think? I mean, she acted very quickly, Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, but you saw what happened in the hours that followed.
BROOKS: Yes. The mayor acted with dispatch, with, speed but her challenges that she is acting with speed with respect to an Atlanta problem, a state problem, and a national problem, that for which the reforms and transformation of policing have moved glacially.
And so I think this is an important moment for us to seriously consider defunding those things, disinvesting in those things which don't work and investing in those things which do work in terms of policing. It doesn't mean that when you dial 911, there is no one at the end of the line but it does mean that we invest in community- related solutions that bring about public safety.
Wolf, let me note this. President Donald John Trump, in some ways, has provided an advertisement, if you will, an argument, if you will, for investing in policing that does work as opposed to policing that does not work. For each year, for years on end during his presidency, he has called for an end to the community relations service, the peacekeepers of the Department of Justice. That is to say those government officials that go into restore peace and ensure peaceful protests from the Department of Justice. He's called for them to be zeroed out in each of his budgets.
That is an advertisement. That's an argument for not investing in things that don't work instead of investing in those thigns which work, which means community solutions, those things which promote peace, which promote non-violence, if you will, by, yes, protesters on the ground but also those in blue wearing gold badges.
Be clear about this. This is a moment, Wolf, I want to be very, very clear about this, we don't have hashtags and human bodies to waste, and so that means responding with policy. The mayor can accept the resignation of a police chief.
But unless we see a fundamental restructuring, a fundamental reform and transformation of American policing in terms of accountability on the backend, prevention and training on the frontend, and a thorough, thorough cleansing of the culture of policing, you can accept the resignations of a thousand police chiefs.
And it won't make a difference with respect to the thousand people who lose their lives at the hands of the police each and every year. We need more than that. BLITZER: Yes. Areva Martin, I want to follow up. We heard the mayor, Keisha Lance Bottoms, act very decisively, very quickly, but the protest escalated. And then, it got really ugly.
AREVA MARTIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yes. Well, the problem is, yes, the mayor did act quickly in firing that officer. But you'll recall, she fired a couple officers a couple weeks ago, at least a week ago, when they pulled two students of Morehouse and a Spelman student out of their cars during the protests following George Floyd's murder.
So, firing one officer or two officers, three officers, is not going to solve this problem. And protestors are sophisticated and they are tired of the band-aid that's being put on this hemorrhage. And they know real change, and they know when it's not real change.
So firing an officer, accepting the resignation of a police chief, yes, those things are automatic. They should happen. But that's not getting at the systemic problem that plagues the Atlanta Police Department, that we saw plagues the Minneapolis Police Department, the L.A. Police Department, and so many other police departments around this country.
And Cornell talked about the lack of money that was put in the Trump's budget for doing those things that work in communities. We also have to look at what's happening at the Justice Department, under Attorney General Eric Holder, the Justice Department, the civil Rights Department of the U.S. Attorney's Office would go in and do pattern and practice investigations of police departments, to root out systemic racism. All of that was pretty much dismantled under the current attorney general, under the current administration.
So these are systemic problems, and they require systemic responses. Boston just declared racism a public health emergency. I think cities around this country need to follow that example, and start to look at the issue of race and racism and start to address the systemic problems because one officer being fired, a police chief resigning, is not going to get at the root of these huge problems that we face in this country. And it is not going to satisfy protestors who are incredibly sophisticated.
BLITZER: Cedric Alexander's is still with us as well, the former Public Safety Director DeKalb County in the Atlanta area.
Where do you think this is heading, Cedric, in the next few hours?
ALEXANDER: Well, for the next few hours, we're probably going to see just what we're seeing right now. But it's going to be a minute-by- minute experience as it relates to how people are feeling in this very moment.
But I would like to go back for a second, if I could, Wolf, and kind of reverberate a couple things that Mr. Brooks and Areva both said, which are profound. Those are very profound statements that they made, in the sense that what is going to need to happen is that city mayors and managers are going to have to begin to appoint chiefs of police who have a vision. Not some vision that is based on superficial understanding of what policing should be about but someone who truly has the ability to understand how to go in, change a culture that is dysfunctional.
And many of our (INAUDIBLE), unfortunately, across this country when it comes to policing, they are dysfunctional. And they have had experience patterns and practices that I can account for because I did some of that work several years ago at the Justice Department under then- COPS Director Ron Davis.
But let me be clear about this. The next generation of chiefs are going to have to be smart, they're going to have to know how to connect to the community, they're going to have to know how to lead men and women of a variety different backgrounds and cultures, in order to give them a charge and give them the influence that they need to go out and carry out a very special duty, and that is being guardians. Because changing the culture inside of our police departments is what's going to make the difference and it's going to have to be wholesale changes that are made.
But, at the same time, as we go through a period of time, Wolf, it is -- it becomes very important, still, we do not marginalize the great work that the good men and women are still out there doing, even keeping those citizens safe tonight.
BLITZER: All right. Cornell, I want you to listen to what the director of the GBI, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, Vic Reynolds, said earlier. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
VIC REYNOLDS, DIRECTOR, GBI: We have now seen full video from the Wendy's restaurant showing this gentleman entering into the video frame, running or fleeing from Atlanta police officers. It appears that he has, in his hand, the taser. You can see that, at least to the naked eye, that's what it appears. He runs a relatively short distance. It looks like it's probably five, six, seven parking spaces' distance. And, at that point, turns around, and it appears to the eye that he points a taser at the Atlanta officer.
At that point, the Atlanta officer reaches down and retrieves his weapon from his holster, discharges it, strikes Mr. Brooks there on the parking lot and he goes down.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: All right. Very quickly, Cornell, give us your analysis of what we just heard.
BROOKS: What we heard was a description of -- bare-bone description of what happened without, I think, an explanation for the cause of this young man's -- the cause of this young man losing his life. Namely, this young man allegedly pointed a non-deadly weapon at an officer while fleeing. The point being here is having a bare-boned excuse to kill someone is still an excuse. It is not a sufficient rationale for taking a person's life. A taser is non-deadly weapon. And the fact that this man started off sleeping in his car at Wendy's, and ends up dead, ends up a hashtag, ends up another black life lost because he pointed a taser while running? This is Walter Scott revisited in 2020.
Wolf, let's be clear about this, those days are over. Those explanations are unnecessary and insufficient. And the fact of the matter is the Georgia Bureau of Investigation has 48 police homicides that they've been asked to investigate. That says all we need to know about what kind of a problem there is in Georgia and in the rest of the country.
BLITZER: All right. You know, it's important that I -- we just learned, Cornell, that the Atlanta police officer who shot and killed Rayshard Brooks has now been officially fired from the police department. We're going to continue to monitor all these developments. Areva, Cedric, Cornell, guys, thank you, very much.
I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington. To our viewers, thanks very much for watching. I'll be back tomorrow with another special edition of THE SITUATION ROOM. That's tomorrow at 7:00 P.M. Eastern. Our live coverage here on CNN continues next with Michael Holmes.