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Demonstrators Marching In Atlanta For Criminal Justice Reform; Supreme Court Says, Federal Law Protects LGBTQ Workers; Trump Expected To Sign Executive Order On Policing Tomorrow. Aired 10-10:30a ET

Aired June 15, 2020 - 10:00   ET




POPPY HARLOW, CNN NEWSROOM: Top of the hour. Good morning, everyone. I'm Poppy Harlow in New York.

Happening right now, demonstrators in Downtown Atlanta marching to Georgia's state capitol demanding changes and criminal justice reforms. This follows a weekend of heated protests across country after the fatal police shooting of Rayshard Brooks.

New police body camera video shows Brooks struggling with the two officers before he was shot twice in the back. Just moments ago, the district attorney told me his office is still pulling together all of the video that they need here to possibly bring charges by Wednesday.


PAUL HOWARD, DISTRICT ATTORNEY OF FULTON COUNTY, GEORGIA: One of the things that we must attempt to finalize before we make a decision is to confirm the ballistics. We try to make sure that the projectiles in the body of Mr. Brooks that we can expertly trace them to a firearm.


HARLOW: Let's begin this hour with Dianne Gallagher. She joins us in Atlanta. Where else are we on the investigation? We heard the D.A. there. There may be these charges coming. We don't know what they would be, involuntary manslaughter, murder, et cetera, but there are demands now from his widow.

DIANNE GALLAGHER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. And Rayshard Brooks' wife wants to see justice. And she has an idea of what justice looks like to her. And in part it is after -- she's not watched this video, but we are starting to see more videos. And, initially, there was some from the bystanders with the security camera, and now we have body camera video, dashcam video that paints a picture of those last moments of Mr. Brooks.

And you see everything from the moment that the police officer knocks on the window and tries to wake him up and that car gets him to move it. There's about half hour period where there's what could be described as almost friendly interactions. Mr. Brooks talks about going to visit his mother's grave site with the officers and his daughter's birthday.

He does a breathalyzer test. He tests over the legal limit. And at that point when the officer tries to put handcuffs on him, that is when you see the scuffle between the officers Mr. Brooks. He appears to get one of the tasers and then tries to get out of there. He runs away.

And you see him kind of turn around. Maybe he is trying to fire that taser there, and that is when you hear the three shots being fired there. Again, he was shot twice in the back. He died from blood loss and organ damage, according to the medical examiner.

This is what his widow says she wants to see. This is what justice means for her.


TOMIKA MILLER, RAYSHARD BROOKS' WIDOW: It was murder. It was not justified.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why was he murdered?

MILLER: Because he was shot and he wasn't armed. He wasn't dangerous.

I never imagined it being at my front door. I never imagined it being me having to do this and go through this it. And I honestly feel -- I felt the pain and now I really feel the pain.


GALLAGHER: Now, again, the officer who fired the shots that killed Rayshard Brooks was fired from his job. The others were placed on administrative duty. And, Poppy, the police chief has also resigned.

HARLOW: Dianne Gallagher, thank you for all of that reporting.

Now, let's talk with the march that is happening right now at the Georgia State Capitol. Our Boris Sanchez joins us again this hour with more.

It's such a diverse crowd there, not only in terms of race but in terms of age.

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, absolutely, Poppy, and we just heard from about a dozen speakers, the Atlanta Hawks head coach, the head of the Georgia NAACP, the rapper, Jeezy, they just wrapped up, and we're going to start marching towards the Georgia State Capitol. It's roughly a half mile from where we are right now.

A number of issues at the forefront, not just the relationship between African-Americans and the police, but also Georgia's stand your ground law, a citizen arrest law here also that they would like repealed.

One thing that you noted that I've also noted that is sort of endearing about this movement is the diversity, not only of people and their ethnicity but also of age, a lot of young people at these events.


We actually have an entire family here with us now. This is Yasmin (ph).

And, Yasmin (ph), you were telling me that you brought your family out here this morning because you wanted them to see this in person.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Absolutely. I think it's critical for them to understand the importance of active participation in peaceful protests and feel the power behind being a part of that movement, to bring an end to systemic racism, inequality, injustice and demand that everybody be able to live peacefully in a city that we love, in a country that we love.

There's no justice without making sure that everyone has equal access to opportunities. And marching to the legislature to make those demands heard is an important first step in that, participating in protests. And really having my daughters see this is so important for me so that they can know that they are a part of this solution, that the world is waiting for these young minds to really come forward with some solutions to systemic problems that have been plaguing this country since I was a child marching in New York.

It's time for change. The world is demanding change. Atlanta is demanding change. Georgia is demanding change, and it needs to happen. Who doesn't want to live in a peaceful world? Everyone wants to live in peace, but that's only going to happen once there is justice.

When we saw that killing this past weekend, I saw myself and this man getting killed at the Wendy's drive-in. I saw my daughters. I saw my husband, my father, my family, and my heart was broken. My sorrow was enormous for all of these killings where people's lives are lost. It has to end.

Your minds are critical. You need to think and you need to have conversations to think about ways that we can make change a reality and to live in that reality, so them, their children, people to come will have a world where we can live and really feel as though you are a part of this country that we've helped build and create.

SANCHEZ: Yasmin, thank you so much for your perspective. We won't keep you. We'll let you get on your way.

Poppy, I don't think I can say anything that follow that response.

HARLOW: Boris, thank you, incredible to hear from her and her bringing her children. Thank you.

Let's talk more about today and all that has happened in just the past few days over the weekend. Cedric Alexander is with me, former President for the National Organization of Black Enforcement Executives. Thank you so much for being here. You have a unique standpoint on this in terms of all of your past experience and what you have represented. Let's begin with the killing of Rayshard Brooks.

You've seen the video. You've seen all that transpired over those 22 minutes. Instead of being shot and killed, shot twice in the back and killed, what are officers trained to do? What should have been done?

CEDRIC ALEXANDER, FORMER PRESIDENT, NATIONAL ORGANIZATION OF BLACK LAW ENFORCEMENT EXECUTIVES: Well, let me tell you what they had an opportunity to do at the onset of them being called there by Wendy's. They had an opportunity to assess Mr. Brooks, which they did. And once they woke him up, they also asked him to pull him pull into a parking slot in which he did. And upon further investigation, it appears that they were having a relatively cordial conversation. I think at that point, officers had an opportunity to really to use discretion and either give him a ride home, have someone called to come pick him up or do something.

Everything does not have to end in an arrest, and particularly in a case like this, when in particularly in the climate that we're in. You would think right now, and we know officers have a very difficult job, but you would think in light of what's going on at this moment, there would be some sense of consideration and nothing tragic here was going on. He had taken himself off the street.

So I think even before it even got to the point where it turned into a wrestling match, even when it got to the point where it turned into a deadly encounter, and to be perfectly honest with you, this never should have gotten to that point.

HARLOW: Yes. I mean, you've said they could have called him an Uber. They could have taken him home.

ALEXANDER: They could have taken him home if he lived somewhere in their zone that they were working or they could have had his wife or someone come pick him up.

Oftentimes, discretion is the better half of what we can do, and it always doesn't need to be about taking someone to jail or taking someone to jail over an alleged $20 counterfeit bill that turned into a murder that riveted around that we have seen take place around the world. Really? These types of minute, minor cases are not supposed to turn into what we have seen here most recently.

And the lady that was just being interviewed in the streets of Atlanta, we feel her pain. Millions of people across America are scared. They are frightened of their public safety officials.


And it saddens me for someone who spent 40 years in this profession. I talk to other chiefs and sheriffs (INAUDIBLE). But it is a reality and it's got to change.

HARLOW: Chief Alexander, I'm sorry to keep this short. We do have breaking news to get to out of the Supreme Court. We'll have you back soon. I appreciate it very much.

Let's get to our Jessica Schneider with more. Good morning, Jess.

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Poppy. A landmark ruling out of the Supreme Court this morning. We have been awaiting this decision, and the decision now is clear from the Supreme Court. They have issued a ruling that now bans discrimination by employers against transgender individuals and gay individuals.

This is a big ruling that was hotly contested at the Supreme Court when arguments happened at the end of last year here.

This is quite an interesting opinion as well because this is a key, a landmark ruling for gay and transgender individuals. It was actually authored by Conservative Justice Neil Gorsuch, appointed obviously to the court by President Trump. This was written by him. This was a 6-3 decision. He was joined by the chief justice, John Roberts, as well as the liberal justices here. This is a 6-3 decision.

And I want to just read to you briefly what this decision entails. It is a massive victory for transgender and gay individuals. Justice Gorsuch writing in this opinion saying that, let's see, Congress outlawed discrimination in the workplace on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, and national origin. Today, we decide that whether an employer can fire someone simply for being homosexual or transgender and the answer is clear, an employer who fires an individual for being homosexual or transgender fires that person for traits that would would not have been questioned by members of a different sex.

This court saying, for first time ever, that employers who discriminate against individuals simply for their sexual orientation or for their transgender status are, in fact, violating the law. This was the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Title 7. These justices now saying, employers, you cannot discriminate.

Poppy, this is a huge win for more than 7 million transgender and gay individuals throughout this country. And, again, this decision coming from Conservative Justice Neil Gorsuch writing this decision in a 6-3 opinion, Poppy.

HARLOW: It is huge, Jess. As you say, this impacts more than a million transgender workers in this country, more than 7.1 lesbian, gay and bisexual workers if you look at the data out of UCLA.

And, Jeffrey Toobin, how monumental this is, and fact that Justice Gorsuch wrote this decision and was joined by the chief justice. People were looking at Gorsuch and looking in all oral arguments at what he said. And the question was, where was he going to fall? And now, it's very clear.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Well, you know, this is a fascinating and enormously important decision, and it all turned on the meaning of one word, one word in the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which is sex. Because it was quite clear that the Civil Rights Act barred discrimination on the basis of gender, like you can't fire someone just because they are a woman. But does the word sex also mean sexual orientation and transgender status? And what the Supreme Court decided today by a vote of 6-3 is that it does, is that means you can't fire someone simply because they are gay. That's a violation of federal law.

It's an important point to realize is that most courts that had addressed this issue previously, not all of them, but most courts had gone the other way, had said that it was -- that the word sex did not include sexual orientation.

But the Supreme Court has spoken very clearly in this decision, 6-3, that it is now unlawful under federal law to fire someone simply because they are LBGT or they're transgender, and it's a big difference from how the law was half an hour ago the way it is today.

SCHNEIDER: And, Poppy, interesting here --

HARLOW: And, Jessica, to that point, I think it's important for people to also know about who brought this case and the story behind Amy Stevens, right, the first time that the court has heard arguments on civil rights from a transgender individual. That is also historic.

SCHNEIDER: It is. And I actually spoke with Amy Stevens back in the fall when this case was being heard here at the Supreme Court. Amy Stevens had gone to her employer, the owner of a funeral home in Michigan, and told that employer that she was transitioning to becoming a female. And pretty immediately, the owner of that funeral home fired her, and that is what began her court fight up here to the Supreme Court.


And I spoke with her. Unfortunately, she's passed away. She passed away just a month ago before this decision came down. She said that this wasn't just about her. She said that this was about all of the millions of other transgender and gay workers out there. And she did say that even despite this ruling, even if it did come down in their favor, that their fight would continue. They would continue potentially to be discriminated against, though now it's unlawful for employers to discriminate.

But it was quite moving to talk with her right before she was listening into arguments here at the court. Unfortunately, she will not be able to really bask in the glow of this victory for transgender individuals as well as gay individuals.

And, Poppy, what I'll note too is that Justice Gorsuch, the conservative appointed by Donald Trump, he authored this opinion. And during arguments, we saw that maybe there was a chance that he would, in fact, side with transgender and gay individuals because he said he wanted to look at the text of the statute and the fact that the text says, no discrimination based on sex. And he believed that it was very clear that sex incorporated being gay or transgender.

One thing that Gorsuch worried about at oral arguments was whether or not a decision in favor of the transgender and gay individuals might create what he called massive social upheaval. They worry about how this would resonate throughout the country. But, obviously, Justice Gorsuch in authoring this opinion has really put that aside and look to the strict meaning of Title 7 of the Civil Rights Act, and said that these people, all 8 million plus of them throughout the country, must, in fact, be affected. Poppy?

HARLOW: You're so right. And following the story of Amy Stevens, the fact that she's not here see it, but the legacy that is left behind is enormous.

Jeffrey Toobin, again, I just want to focus on the point that everyone was looking at Gorsuch here, Justice Gorsuch. And, indeed, not only did he side with the liberal justices, he wrote the majority opinion here and was joined by the chief justice. How big is that?

TOOBIN: Well, it's -- I mean, it's just -- Supreme Court decisions are often -- you know, talk about abstractions and we talk about trends in the law. This has a very practical impact on people's lives. You know, it is true that in some states, it was unlawful under state law to fire someone because they are gay or transgender, but not all the states. And in many states, it was legal to fire people because of their sexual orientation.

And now, that's changed for the whole country. You can't fire someone simply because they are gay or transgender anymore. That is a big change in American law and American life and American culture, and it's just an example of how our country is changing.

You know, Neil Gorsuch didn't turn into a liberal overnight. You know, this was what a decision simply about what the statute meant and really what one word in the statute meant, sex. And I wouldn't extrapolate more from his views about the Constitution generally, but this decision is this decision and it's a big one.

HARLOW: And Justice Sotomayor asked the then solicitor general during arguments, right, at what point does a court continue to permit invidious discrimination? We've been very closely to see what this is. Thank you for laying all of it out for us, Jeffrey Toobin, Jessica Schneider. We'll see if we get more key decisions today.

18 states have seen a rise in new coronavirus cases. The country though still pushing forward with reopening. We'll talk about those states ahead and the implications.

And the U.S. calling for the immediate release of a former Marine being held in Moscow. This is after a Russian court has sentenced him to 16 years in prison.


HARLOW: The White House says President Trump will likely sign an executive order on police reform tomorrow. We don't have any details about what is going to be included in that.

Joining me now is Marisa Renee Lee. She serves as Managing Director of My Brothers' Keeper, the alliance was formed during the Obama administration. We're so glad you could be here.

And before we get to you, I just want to read people some of your powerful words and why we hoped you could join us.

You write, quote, I decided a long time ago that grief is really just another form of love. Black people are grieving right now. So find ways to show them you love them.

Tell me about why it was so important for you in this moment in this country to write about grief and why we're not talking about it enough.

MARISA RENEE LEE, MANAGING DIRECTOR OF MY BROTHERS KEEPER: Yes, absolutely. First of all though, I do have to correct. I'm the former Managing Director of My Brothers' Keeper Alliance. I don't want to take that job away from my dear friend and former colleague, Michael Smith.


But I felt like --

HARLOW: Fair enough, and thank you for that.

LEE: No problem. I felt like it was really important for me to write about grief in this moment, because I woke up one morning and I was so sad and felt so anxious myself. And I knew from my experiences, having lost my mom and more recently having lost a pregnancy, that what I was experiencing was grief. And then I took a step back to think about it, and then I realized, you know, African-Americans in this country have literally been carrying this grief for hundreds of years.

And this place that we're in right now where, you know, you showed some folks in the streets in Atlanta and people are calling for the police to be defunded and, you know, folks are really showing their pain, and I think we need to give a moment to acknowledge that pain.

I know from my experiences with grief and loss, if you don't give your grief space, if you don't take the time to properly heal, you're not going to make it successfully to the other side as a complete person.

HARLOW: You know, to your point, you say, I know that all of you agree that what has happened is horribly unfair, but most of you don't also have to carry the grief that those of us with black skin have to figure out how to navigate during these times. And you write, I am exhausted by it.

What can people do to help their friends, their black friends who are experiencing this grief that I -- that I can't understand that grief, right?

LEE: Yes.

HARLOW: But how can we be most helpful?

LEE: That's a great question, and I really appreciate it. And in my work around grief and loss, you know, one of the things that I always say is that the worst thing that you can do is nothing. Because, again, I know from my experience having lost a parent, you know, there were definitely people who said things that maybe weren't the perfect thing, but you don't remember that as much as you remember the people who didn't say or do anything when you were suffering.

So I think that's a combination of finding a way to show up authentically for the black people who are in your life. You know, if one of your close friends, family members, et cetera, is a black person right now, make sure you're thoughtfully checking in on them. Make sure you're thinking about ways to make their life easier, you know?

So many people have shown up for me these last few weeks, whether it's been to send a really thoughtful card or cute care package or steps that, you know, white people have taken to help advance my career and provide opportunities. You know, those things matter.

And then once we're outside of this immediate great (ph) moment, figuring out how to use your privilege, as my friend, Great Tudy Thurston (ph) says, as a superpower.

People who are walking around in white skin need to think about how they are going to use their position in the world to make it better for the rest of us.

HARLOW: You worked in the Obama administration. Before we go, do you believe that this is the moment where the Senate and the House will be able to actually meet on something, agree on some sort of police reform package that the president will sign and follow in, you know, the form we saw with criminal justice reform? Will this happen, or will the sides be too divided?

LEE: That's a tough question. You know, I think we are in a unique moment. I certainly am in a place now where I have hope for our future and hope for real racial reconciliation and healing, but I don't think the current bill gets us there.

You know, Poppy, if your house was on fire, would you ask the person who set the fire to help you put it out? You know, the fact that the current bill allocates even more funding to law enforcement to fix a problem that they have helped to create just doesn't make sense to me.

HARLOW: Marisa, I appreciate you being here. I hope people read your words in your opinion piece. Thank you very much.

LEE: Thank you so much.

HARLOW: Well, in the rush to try to get back to so-called normal or life before COVID, are we all just being set back even further now, next.