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Mayors Urge Congress on Police Reform; States Lift Eviction Freezes; Tulsa Grapples with Racist Past ahead of Rally. Aired 8:30-9a ET

Aired June 19, 2020 - 08:30   ET



MAYOR LORI LIGHTFOOT (D), CHICAGO, IL: Whatever the Congress imposes, we'll be the ones responsible for executing it. So we believe that members of Congress, before they push the reform movement down the track, need to listen to mayors and we need to have a seat at that table. And it has to go --

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And have they not consulted you?

LIGHTFOOT: Well, I think a lot of mayors have consulted their individual members of Congress. But what would be helpful, as the House is preparing to mark up this bill, and the same thing that will happen in the Senate, is to actually formally invite mayors to come and have consideration of what these various reform measures are going to mean.

And the truth is, is that all across the country a lot of things have been implemented over the last four or five years around police reform and accountability. Things like banning chokeholds, allowing anonymous complaints, body cams, dash cams. We've done a lot across the U.S. Do we need to do more? Absolutely. Has the status quo failed? No question. But hearing from mayors and police chiefs who are on the front lines I think will only enrich and inform the discussion and debate that's happening at the national level.

CAMEROTA: But what would you specifically want to tell them? What do you think they're missing?

LIGHTFOOT: Well, I think that they're missing the nuance, which is where the detail lies, about things like having licensing, about things like reporting uses of force. All those things sound good, but we've got to figure out how we do them in a way that doesn't add to the burden of cities and states and an unfunded mandate that in this time of austere budgets that we can't handle. So that's why it's important to have that back and forth and that dialogue.

We are in the process of laying out a set of specific guidelines through the U.S. Conference of Mayors. And I hope that members of Congress will take heed of what we're doing, what the path forward looks like and invite us into the conversation on the front end, not on the back end.

CAMEROTA: On a local level obviously there are a lot of passionate and heated feelings going back and forth.


CAMEROTA: And I know that you've been on the receiving end from the Chicago Teachers Union of what you think are some racist messages. And one of the things that they did, I believe yesterday, is they posted this cartoon. And I'm going to put it up for our viewers just so that they can see what we are talking about. This has since been deleted, but basically it's a cartoon, a graphic, from a Scooby-Doo scene, or depicting something out of Scooby-Doo, and you are depicted as being tied up and they've just sort of taken a white police officer's mask off of you.

Why did you consider this so offensive and racist?

LIGHTFOOT: Well, I think that it speaks for itself. And the fact that this came from people who purport to be educators of our children really is an incredibly sad message.

I think that one of the things that we have to learn in this very challenging, but important time is, we have to build bridges to each other, not against each other. We can't keep erecting barriers for conversation. The -- our -- the heart of our democracy really depends upon us absolutely vigorous debate, absolutely being passionate, but vilifying the other, whether you're on the left or the right, that's not how we get towards solutions. We form solutions throughout our history by making sure that we are listening, that we are open to conversation and then we forge solutions together. Solutions, not in retreat, but in thoughtful compromise to build on success so that we can deliver for the residents and a constituency that we represent.

But what we've seen way too often, and I think this exemplifies it, is, we try to be persuasive by vilifying people who don't agree with us. All that does is earn scorn and enmity, but it doesn't advance anything. And it's disappointing that someone who -- an entity that wants to be part of the narrative would resort to these kind of tactics.

I said yesterday, if this was something that was done by a so-called right wing group, they would earn our scorn and enmity, and rightfully so. And we should have no less -- no less scorn for something that comes from any group, whether they're on the right or the left. And I'm disappointed that these folks, who claim to represent educators, would do such a thing while our children are watching. That is not the example that we should set.

CAMEROTA: Well, I only have -- I hear you and I only have a few seconds left, but I do need to get their statement in, in response to all of this.


They say, black organizers and activists have been risking their lives to advance a set of clear demands to begin to correct injustices perpetrated by our racist system, establish a civilian accountability police board, defund the police and invest directly in our communities, remove Chicago Police Department from our public schools and invest in students' well-being, institute an elected civilian review board and governor our police and establish Juneteenth as a paid civic holiday just as was done for Columbus and Pulaski. To every demand this mayor and the administration has offered a resounding no.

LIGHTFOOT: Absolutely.

CAMEROTA: Very quickly, are there some things on that list that you would consider.

LIGHTFOOT: Absolutely. Absolutely, absolutely false. And, again, do the homework. There's no mayor and no leader in the city that has been more assertive and aggressive on police reform and accountability than me. I led the Police Accountability Task Force. I led the police -- the police board oversight that held more officers accountable than any other in the same period of time.

So, again, the thing to do is not list a list of demands, a manifesto. Work to build consensus for your ideas. That's what democracy is fundamentally all about.

CAMEROTA: Mayor Lori Lightfoot, we really appreciate your time. Thank you very much for being here.

Here is what else to watch today.


ON SCREEN TEXT: 12:00 p.m. ET, Former Atlanta officer in court.

12:00 p.m. ET, Juneteenth rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

1:00 p.m. ET, Hearing in John Bolton book case.


CAMEROTA: The economic toll of the pandemic is leading to the growing number of Americans facing eviction. We take a look at how bad it is, next.



JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: Now to a devastating consequence of the economic slowdown. As states reopen, freezes on rent and evictions are beginning to expire and people will now be faced with repaying months of rent, back payments.

CNN's Vanessa Yurkevich explains.


VANESSA YURKEVICH, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Kianah Ashley is being evicted and a nightmare is unfolding for her and her five-year- old son Nazir (ph). KIANAH ASHLEY, RENTER FACING EVICTION: That's something I wouldn't

wish on my worst enemy because not knowing where you're going to rest your head at for the next day, that's not good.

YURKEVICH: Up to 23 million Americans are at risk of eviction by the end of September. It's a housing crisis in the making.

ASHLEY: There's not really many options out here for us, you know, when it comes to trying to find a place during this pandemic.

YURKEVICH: Renters in 42 states have been protected under eviction moratoriums, postponing rent payments as the economy stutters due to Covid-19. But 40 percent of those moratoriums have lifted, and more than 45 million Americans are still without a job.

EMILY BENFER, DIRECTOR, HEALTH JUSTICE ADVOCACY CLINIC, COLUMBIA LAW SCHOOL: The United States can expect an avalanche of evictions that will impact the entire community and have a cascade of additional losses. Everything from financial well-being, to health, to housing opportunities across the country.

YURKEVICH: Ashley has a section eight voucher, making her search for affordable housing more difficult. She's one of 50 million people who live in rentals in the U.S., experiencing job or income loss because of the pandemic, with people of color taking the brunt of it.

BENFER: Eviction disproportionately affects communities of color and women with children at the highest levels.

Black households are more than twice as likely to be evicted as white households. So it's a significant impact that we're going to have here.

YURKEVICH: And that could lead to record homelessness. The Coalition for the Homeless in New York City says its mobile soup kitchens have seen a 100 percent increase in need.

DAVE GIFFEN, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, COALITION FOR THE HOMELESS: We've never seen anything like this. And, again, we know that this isn't the end. It's not even the middle. This is only the beginning of the crisis to come.

YURKEVICH: The Heroes Act, passed by the House, but stalled in the Senate, would provide $100 billion in rental relief, including a national moratorium on evictions, keeping people like Ashley out of shelters.

She's been there before with her son and doesn't want to have to go back.

ASHLEY: No child deserves to have to go through an experience like that, but it's a -- that's a very big fear of mine because just going through the process of a loop -- a loophole of being denied and not knowing where you're going, it's not a good feeling.


YURKEVICH: Now in order to help people stay in their homes, states like Iowa and New York are providing rent relief bills. This is funding for people who can't pay rent. But in New York, here in New York, the bill calls for $100 million. And some housing experts, Alisyn, say that's simply not enough. It's only going to cover about 50,000 renters. And that is the same amount of evictions that is expected in one day on Monday here in New York when the rent -- the eviction moratorium here lifts.


CAMEROTA: Oh, my gosh, Vanessa, thank you for bringing all of this to our attention.

So, a reminder, Sunday is Father's Day. And, of course, that's the day that we recognize the important role that dads play in our lives.

For the last decade, CNN Hero Sheldon Smith has been dedicated to teaching parenting and life skills to young black fathers in Chicago who want to be better dads. When coronavirus hit, he mobilized to make sure they have the resources and support they need.



SHELDON SMITH, CNN HERO: The message that I'm trying to spread is that black fathers are important. When businesses were closing and doing layoffs, we wanted to just make sure that our fathers knew that we were there for them.

So how many boxes of food do you need?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just like one box.

SMITH: We'll get you two.

The young men in our program have beautiful hearts and they are volunteering their time so that they can be better fathers.

And right now, we're talking about the injustices in America that need to be changed. We have to continue to believe and work together and not make it about when a death occurs that this is a time we need to stand up.

Right now, as a country, as a nation, we have an opportunity to change and show the world what we're really made of. Once you invest, build and believe, you bring about a different solution.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you so much.


CAMEROTA: For the full story on Sheldon's efforts, you can go to

So all eyes will be on Tulsa, Oklahoma, this weekend, the site of President Trump's planned rally and one of the worst race massacres in U.S. history. So what's changed nearly 100 years later?



SCIUTTO: Today is Juneteenth, a day commemorating the end of slavery in the United States after the Emancipation Proclamation before the 13th Amendment. This month also marks the race massacre in Tulsa, Oklahoma, nearly 100 years ago. The Vernon African Methodist Episcopal Church is the last standing black-owned structure on what was known as Black Wall Street in Tulsa and the only structure that remains from the worst race massacre in American history. Also, the anniversary of that commemorated this month.

Joining me now, Reverend Robert Turner. He is the pastor at Vernon AME Church.

Pastor, good to have you on this morning. We appreciate you taking the time.

REV. ROBERT TURNER, PASTOR, VERNON AME CHURCH: Thank you so much for having me.

SCIUTTO: Let me ask you, if I can first, in light of the anniversary of the Black Wall Street massacre there, also Juneteenth today, the president coming to Tulsa, Oklahoma, tomorrow to have a rally, what's your reaction to that? Is that a good time for the president to speak there and kick off his presidential campaign rallies?

TURNER: It is indeed a terrible time for the president to come here to launch his re-election campaign, especially considering where we are as a country. People are protesting in the streets, calling for change and looking for leadership. And right now, not just in Tulsa, but all over America, we don't need candidate Trump, we need President Trump and we need him to take action to help this country overcome this terrible situation we're in.

SCIUTTO: As he often does, the president is claiming credit for himself for drawing attention to the Juneteenth holiday. In his words, he said, he made it famous. Your reaction?

TURNER: I think our president needs to read a history book. African- Americans have been celebrating Juneteenth since we were liberated. For him to say in "The Wall Street Journal" that nobody knew about Juneteenth really is insulting because that is saying as though black people are nobody. You know, we have known about this and celebrated this holiday since the very beginning.

SCIUTTO: Tell me about the particular history of the massacre there on Black Wall Street, the importance to the black community in Tulsa. I mean even still looking for some monument to mark this event and still not there.

Tell us about the importance of that and how that ties in to the president's choosing Tulsa for this first campaign rally.

TURNER: Absolutely. Tulsa is a city that almost 100 years ago destroyed its own citizens, destroyed its own prosperous area, simply because the folks who owned that land were African-Americans. The first time airplanes were used to terrorize on American soil was right here in Greenwood. And those perpetrators, to this day, have never been brought to justice. So I would welcome the president and his attorney general to come to Tulsa and file a federal investigation. There has never been one federal investigation into what happened here on Greenwood. Not even our state's attorney general, nor our local district attorney's office has ever had an open investigation, no arrest warrant has given to any of those white perpetrators who looted, bombed and killed innocent lives and dumped bodies into mass graves.

SCIUTTO: Yes, still to this day in unmarked graves.

I want to ask you about tonight there because a curfew has been announced in Tulsa. There are going to be demonstrations and there's genuine concern of outside groups coming in, the possibility of violence.


Tell me the mood there in Tulsa tonight and what do you -- what are you expecting?

TURNER: We are expecting a joyful time of jubilation, but also a moment of soberness as we reflect on the plight of African-Americans in this country that, unfortunately, we still are not totally free. We have been liberated, thankfully, from chattel slavery, but there are other many forms of slavery that we still suffer from as a people.

SCIUTTO: Well, Reverend Turner, I hope that Tulsa gets the opportunity to mark it -- mark the Juneteenth holiday well and I hope things are safe there tomorrow too. We appreciate you coming on this morning.

TURNER: Thank you so much for having me.

SCIUTTO: Alisyn, it's going to be a big weekend, is it not? This is so much history there, Juneteenth, the anniversary of the massacre. The president flouting that, it seems, but also health concerns to hold this rally tomorrow.

CAMEROTA: Look, everything is a teachable moment right now. And I think that we can all use a history lesson in what happened in Tulsa.


CAMEROTA: And this morning I was reading and it's really enlightening to learn more about that -- you know, the huge, vibrant, entrepreneurial hub --


CAMEROTA: That was a model for other, you know, places and cities that was then burned to the ground and thousands of people killed.


CAMEROTA: So -- so, yes, this is a very important and interesting weekend.


CAMEROTA: And, Jim, thanks so much for everything that you have brought to the table this week. It's been great to have you here.

SCIUTTO: It's been great to be with you, Alisyn. I wish you a good weekend.

CAMEROTA: You too.

SCIUTTO: And CNN's coverage continues after this break.