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Deadly Police Shooting Sparks Fiery Protests In Atlanta; George Floyd's Death Sparks Calls To Defund Police Departments; Rate Of New Coronavirus Cases Trending Up In Multiple States; Trump Administration Rolls Back Obama-Era Transgender Health Care Protections; Protesters Demand Answers After Black Man Found Hanging From Tree. Aired 2-3p ET
Aired June 14, 2020 - 14:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN HOST: Hello, everyone.
Thank you so much for joining me this Sunday. I'm Fredricka Whitfield.
We begin right here in Atlanta where anger and frustration is growing after yet another black man is shot and killed by police. This Wendy's that you're seeing right there, the scene of an officer-involved shooting which left Rayshard Brooks dead.
His death coming nearly three weeks since the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis set off nationwide protests. And today, the public now able to view body cam video showing two Atlanta police officers attempting to arrest Brooks before you see that struggle taking place.
The Georgia Bureau of Investigation says Brooks grabbed one of the officers' tasers at this point. The officer, who fired then the fatal round, Garrett Rolfe, was terminated from his position after pursuing Brooks and then firing his weapon. Officer Devin Bronsan is being placed on administrative leave. He was the second officer at the scene.
Atlanta's police chief Erika Shields abruptly resigning in the aftermath of the shooting less than 24 hours after it happened. The anger boiling over last night as protesters set the restaurant where it happened, that Wendy's, on fire.
We have been getting a lot of new police body cam video of the interaction between Rayshard Brooks and the police. Also there is surveillance video that's also been released and is being further examined.
So what took place before the shooting when officers were questioning Brooks? And how did it all escalate? And why did it end in the 27- year-old's death.
We want to warn you, some of the footage is very disturbing.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Trying to make sure, man, you're safe to drive. That's all.
RAYSHARD BROOKS, KILLED BY POLICE: I know, man.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I just -- you scared me a little bit because you were sleeping in there. That's why I was making sure you are ok.
BROOKS: I know. I know, you just doing your job.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just take a deep breath in. Put your mouth over the mouthpiece. Blow as hard as you can until I tell you to stop. Blow, blow, blow, blow, blow, blow, blow, blow, stop. There you go.
BROOKS: I just had a few drinks, that's it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How many?
BROOKS: One and a half. Like I said, I was interested in -- I wasn't even -- I told her, baby, let's go. Because I'm hungry --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What kind of drinks did you have?
BROOKS: I'm not sure. Something she ordered. She said top shelf or whatever.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Top shelf what?
BROOKS: I'm not sure. Like I said, it was her birthday and it was my daughter's birthday -- intent to, you know, have a good time. And I said babe, you know, I'm hungry, let's go. My baby's mom, she was there.
I said, baby, go ahead. I'm cool. You know, here's the money for the blow-up bed tomorrow. Here's the money for, you know, to enjoy herself tomorrow. Get a burger or something, just take me home.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So you had about one and a half drinks but you don't remember what kind of drinks they were?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, sir. I really don't.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right. I think you've had too much to drink to be driving. Put your hands behind your back for me. Put your hands behind your back.
Hey, hey, stop fighting. Stop fighting. Stop fighting. Stop fighting. You're going to get tased. You're going to get tased.
Stop. You're going to get tased. Hands off the taser. Hands off the taser. Hands off the taser. Stop fighting.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (EXPLETIVE DELETED).
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Stop.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: Definitely hard to watch.
With me now, Paul Howard. He is the Fulton County district attorney in Atlanta where this took place. Mr. Howard -- good to see you.
So this one officer, Garrett Rolfe, has been fired. Devin Bronsan has been reassigned or at least is under investigation. When you look at this videotape and look at all the evidence that you have gathered, will charges be brought against Officer Garrett Rolfe who has been fired?
PAUL HOWARD, DISTRICT ATTORNEY, FULTON COUNTY, GEORGIA: Fredricka -- first of all, thank you for having me on the day. I can tell you definitely that probably sometime around Wednesday, we will be making the decision in this case.
When I saw that footage that you just displayed, that conversation went on about 22 minutes with Mr. Brooks talking with these two officers. And it's very difficult when you see it, when you see the demeanor of Mr. Brooks, to imagine that some short time later it ends up with him being dead.
WHITFIELD: How do you describe --
HOWARD: I thought that it was cordial. He was very cooperative. He answered the questions that the officers asked. He did not seem to present any kind of threat to anyone. And so the fact that it would escalate to his death just seems unreasonable.
And Fredricka -- I guess when you see it, you understand why Mayor Bottoms said just because you should do something is different than if you can do something, because it just seems like this is not the kind of conversation and incident that should have led to someone's death.
WHITFIELD: So that viewpoint we were looking from the body cam video gives you perspective of the way they were talking to one another, the attempted arrest, and then you see the scuffle and then you don't see with clarity what other surveillance video and other eyewitness video demonstrates when you see then Mr. Brooks running.
And he, according to the police, and you see in the video right now, another point of view, he apparently had grabbed the taser from one of the officers. He turns, I guess to, you know, to shoot the taser. But then within seconds and moments, you see him go down. Audio from various angles, you hear the gunshots.
So how do you look at this, knowing that these officers had tasers, even if one taser was confiscated by Mr. Brooks. Help people understand the decision making that took place by these officers. What are they trained to do? What did you view in this videotape? And then what questions do you have? HOWARD: So this is the key decision that my office has to make. We
spent a lot of time looking over the very footage that you are describing. The footage that actually shows or depicts the very time of the shooting.
Because what we are trying to determine is, at that time, whether or not the officers felt their lives were in danger. Specifically Officer Rolfe, whether or not he felt that Mr. Brooks at that time presented imminent harm or death or some serious physical injury.
Or the alternative is whether or not he fired the shot simply to capture him or some other reason. If that shot was fired for some reason other than to save that officer's life or to prevent injury to him or others, then that shooting is not justified under the law.
WHITFIELD: Won't it be presumed that that officer will say that he felt his life was in danger and that's why he fired the shot?
HOWARD: Well, there's one good thing about video, Fredricka -- because in the video, we actually get a chance to hear the officer's first statement after the shooting took place. And what the officer said is, not that his life was saved. What his statement was, he said "I got him".
WHITFIELD: So given that, that gives you then evidence - am I hearing you correctly -- that he did not believe his life was endangered and that the firing of his weapon was not justified?
HOWARD: What that does it gives us a fact to consider. So if you believe that someone is firing at you with a deadly weapon, then you ask yourself questions. Well, would you attempt to take cover? Would you immediately proceed after that person? And again, as I mentioned the statement that was made.
And what we have the task of doing is adding all of those factors together, and then reaching the correct legal conclusion.
WHITFIELD: What are the possibilities of the types of charges that you would be entertaining here?
HOWARD: There are really three charges that are relevant. One would be the murder charge in the state of Georgia. That charge is a charge that is directly related to an intent to kill.
The second charge is felony murder. And that is a charge that involves a death that comes as a result of the commission of an underlying felony. And in this case, that underlying felony would be aggravated assault.
The only other charge that might make any sense at all would be some voluntary manslaughter charge. But I believe in this instance, what we have to choose between, if there's a choice to be made, is between murder and felony murder.
WHITFIELD: And then your view on the police chief's resignation. Why did she resign?
HOWARD: I have no idea. People have asked me that question. People have asked me, does this satisfy you? I've said to them -- Fredricka, no, it doesn't. Because even though the police chief resigns, we've had persons and actors and officers in other departments all across the country, but the same results are occurring.
I believe that what we need in this country is a national change. National change in our laws, national change in our policies. It doesn't matter that one or two police chiefs change. I think you're going to end up with primarily the same result.
I'm hoping this time that the change will be a lot more prominent, that it will involve some change in our laws and our policies.
Otherwise, the police chief leading in Atlanta will be quickly forgotten and we'll move on to something else.
WHITFIELD: And I know this question might infer that I'm asking you to get into the mind of the officers. But when you have this consequence after the sequence of events that we just saw. And now a 27-year-old man is dead after initially sleeping in the car and then someone calls police, they do a check on him, and the next thing you know he is dead.
This comes after Walter Scott's pursuit in North Charleston, after Michael Brown in Ferguson and most recently now George Floyd. One would think that there is a more intense awareness of duty when going out on any of these calls amid every police department right now is being further scrutinized or even entertaining additional training, sensitivity training, et cetera.
And that this would happen the way in which it happened on the heels of all that has happened, it just is very confusing and perplexing that a few more seconds, if not minutes, were made at that Atlanta Wendy's before it unfolded the way it did.
So how do you make sense of what has just happened that we're all trying to grapple with and further investigate?
HOWART: That's why I think it's just imperative that at this point in our history that we have to make some substantial change. I think that's why people are continuing to protest.
You know, usually what we've seen is two-or three-day protests and then it's over with. People are still protesting the death of George Floyd. And I believe the reason that this is happening is because many of our citizens have realized that this time it has to be different.
So when this incident happened in Atlanta, you kind of say to yourself how could this officer do this under all of these circumstances? But when you look at what has gone on in the history of our country, this has happened over and over again.
Rodney King happens, and we say, you know, we aren't going to do this again. Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice -- and it just keeps going on over and over again. And so what we have to realize is that we've got to move beyond just being upset about it, beyond just protesting about it, and we have to make some statutory and policy changes that are nationwide. Otherwise, sadly, I believe that it will happen again.
S1: Fulton County district attorney Paul Howard -- thank you for your time. I know you've got your hands full and as you say, by midweek you will get closer to assessing what kind of charges, if any, are coming against these officers, or at least one. Thank you so much.
HOWARD: Thank you.
Coming up, a fight over defunding the police. Congressman James Clyburn offers a different approach to reform.
Then later, progress and setbacks in the fight against coronavirus, as cases spike in multiple states. Vaccine trials are moving forward.
WHITFIELD: All right. Welcome back.
Protests continue across the country fighting against injustice. Live pictures right now in Los Angeles as the crowd is still very sizable there -- people in the streets as far as the eye can see.
All this as police departments across the country are being urged by citizens to re-evaluate some of their methods.
This morning, Congressman James Clyburn told CNN's Jake Tapper about the issue.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JAMES CLYBURN (D), SOUTH CAROLINA: Nobody is going to defund the police. We can restructure the police forces -- restructure, reimagine policing. That is what we are going to do.
The fact of the matter is the police have a role to play. What we've got to do is make sure that that role is one that meets the times; one that responds to these communities that they operate in.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: All right. Let's talk about this push of defunding police and other matters.
Joining me right now to discuss Carol Moseley Braun, the first African-American woman elected to the U.S. Senate and a former U.S. ambassador to New Zealand. Ambassador Moseley Braun -- good to see you.
CAROL MOSELEY BRAUN, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO NEW ZEALAND: I'm so happy to be here. Thank you for inviting me.
WHITFIELD: Thank you.
Well, before I ask you about the push of defunding the police and even Congressman Clyburn's response to that, may I can you about your response to this latest police-involved shooting that has led to the death of Rayshard Brooks in Atlanta? What are your thoughts as you see this unfolding, and as now more surveillance video, body cam video is presented?
MOSELEY BRAUN: It's heartbreaking, of course. It's just terrible. and I hope this means that this will be a moment when America really turns to a different kind of relationship between THIS larger community and the black community. If this is a point of change, a point of inflection then it will serve some good. I hope that that is what the outcome.
However, we have seen so many of these as the police captain just pointed out, or whoever he was -- the district attorney. We've seen so many of these and they have been -- not been resolved in any way that's tangible.
And so really it's a matter of coming to grips with white supremacy and fixing that situation so that black Americans can be safe and comfortable in their own country.
WHITFIELD: This is in part why you have people by the hundreds and thousands in the streets of major cities. You're looking at live pictures right now out of Los Angeles. Many of whom are, you know, making these very loud calls for defunding police.
Others are saying perhaps not defund it all together but defund certain programs. Where are you on this new discussion about defunding police departments or programs, et cetera?
MOSELEY BRAUN: Well, you know, I think Congressman Clyburn's response was very smart, actually. Because it really is a matter of refocusing resources in a way that police departments funded are on the local and the statewide level. It's not something that you do nationally -- that is done nationally.
But at the same time, they have to reform themselves. And without reform, you know, our whole country is in trouble. So I think that -- I think that redirecting resources -- remember, I think you don't know this, but I'm a second generation police family.
So both my brother and my uncle before him, my father before him -- you know, the police have been called on to do so many different things -- from mental health to drug interventions, I mean it's just. You know, their jobs are very, very difficult.
And so (INAUDIBLE) where we can impress upon police that kindness is called for in addition to force. Because a lot of it is about power. And so we have to, I think, begin to address how they exercise power. That it should be -- that they should be mindful that they are there to serve the public and not otherwise. WHITFIELD: So perhaps that really underscores you talking about all
those things that, you know, your family members in law enforcement were facing. That means resources need to be devoted -- am I hearing you say -- into programs, training, different methods in which to help officers either empathize (ph), help officers and staff address certain situations, you know, ranging from mental health to, you know, domestic problems.
MOSELEY BRAUN: It comes down to kindness -- and that sounds really simple but I think --
WHITFIELD: How do you teach that? How does one teach kindness?
MOSELEY BRAUN: That is the part of the problem because, you know, we ask police to do so many different things. And if they do it with an attitude of my will versus you, then you're going to wind up with these murders. And that's not going to serve.
The people in the streets of Los Angeles and elsewhere are saying they're not taking it anymore. and that I think is progress for our country and it's something to be proud of for these young people doing this. I mean the youngsters have gotten out there where people -- you know, the older generations have frankly gotten worn out.
But the fact is that it's really important that we have reform, and I'm hopeful that unfortunately, I mean George Floyd became a martyr. We don't need any more martyrs. We need progress, we need reform, we need change. And I think that that's where hopefully we'll wind up.
WHITFIELD: You mentioned will. There have been some voice said there has to be a national will, you know, as well as municipalities are approaching, you know, their police departments in, you know, very individual ways.
WHITFIELD: So listen to what Senator Tim Scott, you know, who is leading police reform efforts for Republicans in the Senate. He boasts that he's been doing it for some five years. He had this to say about the possibility of a national standard for use of force.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. TIM SCOTT (R-SC): I think it's really difficult to establish a, you know, codified and long standard for use of force. There are millions of scenarios that play out. It's one of the reasons why what we are trying to achieve through the legislation is finding the best practices around use of force around the country and then to provide that clarity and guidance for those departments who may need to have a better perspective on use of force.
So we're getting at it, but I'm not sure we're going to ever codify in law a use of force standard.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: Your thoughts?
MOSELEY BRAUN: That's a good question, how do you codify kindness? So the question is how do we go about fixing the standards so the police know what they're supposed to do, how they can be respectful to the community, but at the same time protect the community from bad actors.
I mean those are the many questions that get raised by these situations. And I hope that we can find it and now is the time for us to find an answer. We cannot go on with the same kind of conduct that we have experienced.
For everybody-- my first experience with race was Emmett Till. And just to show you -- I mean that goes back a ways but we can just reel off the names and it's just tragic and heartbreaking that we still have not gotten to the point where we can say that's part of America's past and it's not going to be part of the future.
I just hope that we can come up with a standard even at the local levels. However it comes up, if we do it locally or at a statewide basis, it has to happen. Again, that was why we fought a civil war over whether or now we're going to be one country or 50 little ones.
And so I think that if we're going to be one country, we need to have a national standard how police interface with the communities they are supposed to serve and protect.
WHITFIELD: Senator and Ambassador Carole Moseley Braun -- thank so much. Always good to see you. Appreciate it.
MOSELEY BRAUN: Great to be here. Thank you.
WHITFIELD: And A reminder, join Laura Coates with four of the nation's top mayors: D.C.'s Muriel Bowser, Atlanta's Keisha Lance Bottoms, Chicago's Lori Lightfoot and San Francisco's London Breed. "MAYORS WHO MATTER: A CNN TOWN HALL ON RACE AND COVID-19" live tonight at 9:00.
We'll be right back.
WHITFIELD: Coronavirus cases in the U.S. are on the rise in multiple states right now and it's causing enough concern that some governors are either delaying the next phase of reopening or taking a more cautious approach. This comes as the U.S. now has more than 2 million confirmed cases in more than 115,000 people have died.
Still, there remains renewed optimism. Some coronavirus vaccine trials are advancing quickly. Here now is CNN's Elizabeth Cohen.
ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Some news on the vaccine front. The University of Oxford in England saying that they're already on phase three clinical trials, those are large-scale clinical trials where you really find out if the vaccine works.
The University of Oxford is saying that, along with the pharmaceutical companies, AstraZeneca, they will be doing a trial with 42,000 participants.
Another company based in the United States, Moderna, based in Massachusetts, they say that they are going to do a trial with 30,000 people, and that that will begin next month.
Now, this is what the National Institutes of Health wants to hear. They want large trials with around 30,000 people so they can make sure that the vaccine is truly safe and truly effective. But the issue is that it's the Food and Drug Administration that gives permission to vaccines to go on the market. And the FDA has not committed, they have not said we will require that there be trials in at least 30,000 people.
That has some scientists worried that President Trump is going to put pressure on the FDA to put a vaccine on the market before it's been tested out on the full 30,000, just to have a vaccine and get votes in November.
WHITFIELD: Elizabeth Cohen, thank you so much. So how will the potential of a vaccine shape how we deal with this pandemic?
I want to bring in now Ed Yong, he's a Science Writer for The Atlantic. As we just saw, one trial, Ed, is in phase three and another that is close to that, and then there are more than 100 other vaccine trials in the works around the world. So, should everyone be feeling rather optimistic.
ED YONG, STAFF WRITER, THE ATLANTIC: Look, the vaccine progress is clearly good news. But even if everything goes according to plan now, and there's no guarantee of that, we're still looking at a lot of time before something like this can actually help us.
And in the meantime, we need to do a lot more than we've already done. I really don't think we're in a good place in terms of public health measures, in terms of our ability to test for the virus, to trace contacts, to maintain the kind of collective action that's necessary to keep us all safe.
America's failure to really do all of that in a way that a lot of other countries have successfully done is, I think, a national shame and it's left us in a place going into the summer where we're really not that better prepared than we were going into the spring. And the rise in cases in several states that you have already talked about is a sign of that laxity.
WHITFIELD: So, among those deficits, you mentioned tracing. This country is just not doing a good enough job in tracing. Specifically, what other areas do you think, you know, needs to be improved to help get a handle of things before it gets worse?
[14:35:00] YONG: So, testing for the virus, it's something that America has deeply at the very start, and really still hasn't caught up to the extent that's necessary. Tracing, so finding people who have had contact with people who are infected, same thing.
But, really, most important of all, above all of that, is just coordinated, central leadership. We do not have that. The federal government has abandoned to the state leaders to do their own thing, which leads to this patch work effect where different states are experiencing the pandemic in very different ways, a lot of them are unprepared and that's going to cost and weaken the entire country's response to COVID-19.
That is something that America really has deeply struggled with from the very start and shows no sign of progressing in.
WHITFIELD: And while there is less contact and less -- fewer public appearances now involving the coronavirus task force, this is happening at a time when the president is going to pick up on his rallies, he's encouraging people to come out in large numbers, Tulsa next week, and then asking people to sign waivers, essentially saying come at your own risk.
As far as we know, there have been no precautions being put in place, urging people that they have to wear masks, et cetera.
How do you suppose potentially that might add to straining the systems in this country, hospital care, et cetera?
YONG: It's really concerning. You know, outdoor spaces are safer than indoor ones, sure. But you're talking about congregating large groups of people in crowds, and then not modeling the kind of precautions that would keep them safe, like wearing masks.
And it's so counterproductive. It weakens public trust in public health messages. It's very counterproductive for the president, because he's actively jeopardizing the health of his own base. And he's doing it in places where health systems are going to struggle if masses of surges of people start getting sick.
We're already starting to see that in a lot of red states. And I think that problem is likely to get worse over time.
WHITFIELD: Ed Yong of The Atlantic, thank you so much.
YONG: Thank you.
WHITFIELD: Now in France, the country is making a major shift as it prepares to further ease its travel and confinement restrictions beginning tomorrow. French President Emmanuel Macron making a major address to the country just moments ago, warning that despite the easing of restrictions, France should prepare for a possible second wave of the virus.
CNN's Cyril Vanier is in Paris for us. So, how much easing are we talking about, Cyril? CYRIL VANIER, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Well, Fredricka, France has been easing and coming back online, and easing restrictions for a little over a month now, and it's been a phased process. But Emmanuel Macron, in his fourth address to the nation, only since the beginning of this coronavirus crisis, significantly accelerated the de- confinement, as it's known here. Meaning that a week from now, kindergartens, primary schools and middle schools, although not high schools, will all be opening back up, it will be mandatory for students to go back to class, they won't have to respect social distancing and have only half classes, as has been the case over the last few weeks.
And travel also is going to be eased significantly between now and the end of the month. French nationals are now, as of now, allowed to travel without restrictions within the European area, the Schengen Travel Area. And starting July 1st, the president said that French nationals will be allowed, authorized to travel outside of Europe provided their destination is country is a where the pandemic is under control.
So if I had guesstimate, Fredricka, a number, I would say, by the end of the month, France will be 85 to 90 percent reopened.
This has been possible because all the coronavirus trends and numbers have been good, have been positive and have been doing so for the last several weeks, with the deaths in low double digits. You have to compare that, Fredricka, to upwards of 1,400 people dying a day at the peak of this epidemic here in France.
WHITFIELD: All right. They have a long way indeed. Cyril Vanier in Paris, thank you so much.
All right, we'll have more on coronavirus coming up. But, first, the Trump administration rolls back healthcare protections for transgender Americans on the fourth anniversary of the Pulse Nightclub shooting. I'll talk live with a leading LGBTQ activist who calls the decision cruel.
WHITFIELD: The Trump administration is rolling back an Obama era regulation that protects transgender patients from healthcare discrimination. The move was announced on the four-year anniversary of the deadly mass shooting at Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, Florida, and it also comes during pride month.
Joining me right now to discuss is Sarah Kate Ellis, CEO and President of GLAAD. Sarah Kate, good to see you.
In an op-ed, you called this move by the Trump administration cruel, especially given the timing of it. So what message does this overall send to the LBGTQ-plus community?
SARAH KATE ELLIS, CEO AND PRESIDENT, GLAAD: Thank you for having me. I think, you know, this has been a message the Trump Administration has been sending, especially to the trans community, but the LBGTQ community since day one. He's been rolling back protections, especially for the trans community.
So this is -- you know, we track this at GLAAD.
We're at 150 attacks by this administration, both in rhetoric and policy rollbacks since he came into power.
And I think you're right, this is a particularly harsh blow. This comes in a time during the world's largest health crisis that we've ever lived through during -- when we should be centering our hearts and minds around the Black Lives Matter movement, especially during pride. And here he goes attacking our trans community again.
Also last week during -- at the beginning of the week, two more trans people were murdered, were found murdered. That makes 13 and 14 for this year. This is a particularly disproportionately marginalized community within our own community. And we should be raising up their voices, not targeting them.
WHITFIELD: So what are you anticipating and what are a lot of trans people anticipating now with this healthcare rollback? I mean, what do they expect their lives, the continued hardships to be, you know, the escalations of from this point forward with this kind of rollback?
ELLIS: Absolutely. This opens the door so that doctors, hospital, health insurance, can potentially deny them. And it gives them no recourse that they can be denied just based on who they are. And so it does -- it removes all the protections that the Obama administration put into place for the trans community under the Affordable Healthcare Act.
And now, they are vulnerable. They can be denied services. They can be turned away from health insurance. They can be turned away from hospitals. It opens the window to that. And it allows those people to determine whether or not they serve the trans community.
And I think any of us in America would say, that's no way to live. That puts this community in a very insecure place. And we are talking about -- I mean, your segments before, this have been about the coronavirus. We're living during a pandemic. And now we're saying you're not safe, you're not protected. You can be denied because of this. So, I think it is cruel and it's harsh and it continues to marginalized a community.
And I think that, you know, next week within the next two weeks also, the Supreme Court is going to rule on three court cases about employment law and the LBGTQ community. So whether or not my wife and I can be fired from our jobs simply for being LBGTQ is going to be decided by the Supreme Court in the next two weeks.
And at the top of this is our dignity. Where is the dignity for the LBGTQ community when our rights are being rolled back or debated at the Supreme Court?
WHITFIELD: This is all so sad many times over. Sarah Kate Ellis, thank you so much. I really appreciate your time.
ELLIS: Thank you for having me.
WHITFIELD: All the best.
All right, we'll be right back.
WHITFIELD: Welcome back.
Calls for an independent investigation are growing in California after a black man was found hanging from a tree in a public square. 24-year- old Robert Fuller was found dead nearly a week ago. Palmdale City officials say it was an alleged death by suicide. Protesters and now even some state lawmakers are calling for answers.
CNN's Suzanne Malveaux is in Palmdale, California. Suzanne, where does this investigation stand?
SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Fred, now you have the state attorney general's office involved in this, as well Palmdale city officials and the sheriff county's office all calling now and saying they will cooperate in an independent investigation, as well as an independent autopsy.
This after protests and demands from the family and residents of this community who quite frankly are very suspicious of the initial explanation that was given to them by city officials that this, in fact, was a suicide. They say, it just doesn't make any sense, Fred.
You see the tree behind me. This is where officials say that the body of Robert Fuller, 24 years old, was hanging from this tree with a rope around his neck. You can see the memorial underneath there, that this has been set up for him. His family says that, no, they believe this is a lynching, that he did not have mental issues, it makes no sense at all.
Fred, if you just see over there beyond the other side of the square is the city hall. They are calling for cameras, anybody who has a recording of what took place that evening or early morning. So far, officials say they don't have any type of audio or visual recordings of this. And that is something that people are demanding.
I had a chance to talk to an eyewitness, Fred, this afternoon. He describes what he saw as well as one of the residents who says she is with the family and that they just have a lot of questions and don't believe the story. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) were taped off. I've seen all around that brick area down on the ground taped off, where they say he hung himself, wouldn't tape off. I've seen the body laying down. I've seen five sheriff cars in there, and I've seen one of the detective cars in there, all (INAUDIBLE) cars.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I spoke to his family, and they told me that he wasn't even that type of kid.
He was 24, he wasn't suicidal, he didn't have a mental issue, and a passerby has seen him at 3:40 hanging from that tree over there.
We all know who did it. But, you know what I'm saying, of course, they want to cover it up and try to not move as fast as they should.
MALVEAUX: Who do you think did?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: KKK, Klu Klux Klan all day.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MALVEAUX: And, Fred, this is where Black Lives Matter has set up a memorial here underneath the gazebo. They want questions answered. They will be protesting here later today and throughout the week until they get those answers, Fred.
WHITFIELD: All right. Suzanne Malveaux, thank you so much, in Palmdale, California.
All right, coming up, protesters set fire to a Wendy's in Atlanta after police shoot and kill a black man. See what happened before and after the death. Of Rayshard Brooks, plus, reaction from the family's attorney. And I'll have an important conversation about racial bias.