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U.S. Wildfires Kill At Least 28, Scorch Nearly Five Million Acres; No Distancing And Few Masks At Trump Rally; Coronavirus Vaccine Trials; Ohio College Students Face $500-Plus Fines; Yellow Vests Return; Naomi Osaka Wins 2020 U.S. Open. Aired 5-6a ET

Aired September 13, 2020 - 05:00   ET






NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Thirty people dead, nearly 5 million acres burned, wildfires still engulfing the western United States with practically no containment.


ALLEN (voice-over): But it isn't the only major weather event the United States has to worry about. Tropical storm Sally is in the Gulf of Mexico, threatening the Louisiana-Mississippi coastline.

And this hour, President Trump says coronavirus is on its way out at a rally with very few masks and little social distancing.

Live from CNN World Headquarters in Atlanta, welcome to our viewers here in the United States and around the world, I'm Natalie Allen. This is CNN NEWSROOM.


ALLEN: 5:00 am here in Atlanta, Georgia, thank you for joining us.

U.S. president Donald Trump has said very little about the wildfires raging across the western U.S. during the past month. But as the disaster reaches historic levels, he's now expected to travel to California Monday to get a briefing from emergency officials.

No doubt he will experience the intense smoke that is choking the U.S. West Coast from Mexico all the way north to Canada. The air quality in some places is extremely hazardous. Medical experts are fearing that lung damage from the smoke will make people even more vulnerable to the coronavirus.

The fires have now killed at least 33 people since mid-August and dozens are missing. Entire communities, as you can see right there, are wiped out. One fire chief explains that flames are moving faster than people can escape.


FIRE CHIEF ROBERT GARCIA, ANGELES NATIONAL FOREST: We saw the unprecedented fire growth up on the Creek fire that rapidly grew and impacted our ability to evacuate and move people out of the way.


ALLEN: Paul Vercammen is near Los Angeles. First, let's hear from Camila Bernal following developments in Oregon.


CAMILA BERNAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The flames here are still out of control and at the moment we're at 0 percent containment. On top of that, you add the smoke. The very thick, heavy smoke that makes it hard to breathe and hard to see.

But it makes it hard for the firefighters as well because, in some instances, they're not able to see the fire line. They're also not able to fight these fires in the air because of the conditions right now.

Governor Brown telling us that this is really the worst air quality in the world. And she does say that there is still a number of people who are reported to be missing. So that is the big concern at the moment.

For the people who live in this area, they're, of course, so worried about their homes. We spoke to one woman who lives up the road, Ms. Brown, and she says she has a camera up in her home and she has been looking at her camera day and night.

But she says she can't sleep. She is thankful because she is one of the only ones who knows that her house is still OK. But she says her friends and neighbors already know that, when they come back, there will be nothing left.

CAROLEE BROWN, MARION COUNTY RESIDENT: It's unreal. You don't really -- you can't really fathom what is going on, you know. You think this isn't really happening. But guess we better be prepared. You take what you think and just get out.

BERNAL: And firefighters say the smoke and the air conditions will remain the same for the next couple of days. They say we may get some pockets of clean air but, for the most part, this smoke is going to stay here in the state.

They also say the fires are so massive and so large that they will not be put out completely until they begin to see some rain in the fall. So this firefight here is just beginning -- reporting in Marion County, Camila Bernal, CNN.


(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) PAUL VERCAMMEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: With this Bobcat fire, so many of the fires out West, just not too far from a suburban neighborhood, fire will be burning in the canyons. And this is a threat. Listen to this crackling.

So what firefighters are keeping their eyes on is whether or not these flames start to send up sparks and embers that could be landing on these neighborhoods.


VERCAMMEN: Or if the wind shifts and it pushes the fires back onto the neighborhoods.

In Los Angeles County alone, along a huge swath of the foothills, you have evacuation warnings for the residents just because of this fire, because it's so absolutely stubborn and difficult for them to get out.

In fact, the chief of the forest service here telling me that, usually on a fire like this, he would have up to 1,500 firefighters battling the fire, which has burned around 30,000 acres. But he just doesn't have the personnel. So they only have 500 people fighting this fire right now -- reporting from Los Angeles County, I'm Paul Vercammen.


ALLEN: Firefighters are battling more than 2 dozen major fires in California. In some places where the flames have now passed, people are beginning to return to check on their homes and their animals. Brad Thomas is one of those people.


ALLEN (voice-over): He recorded this video here of where his home once stood. It's gone. The flames had destroyed thousands of homes and structures and businesses in California alone. Brad and his wife, Kelly, are just two of the many people who have lost nearly everything in these fires.


ALLEN: And they are with us now. Brad and Kelly Thomas are on the phone.

And I want to thank you both for talking with us at such a -- just a terrible time in your lives and, first of all, say I'm so very sorry for what you have lost.

And first up, how are you both doing right now?

KELLY THOMAS, FIRE EVACUEE: We've definitely been better. But morale is high.

ALLEN: That's wonderful to hear.

(CROSSTALK) ALLEN: Yes, go ahead, Brad.

BRAD THOMAS, FIRE EVACUEE: It's been a rough few days, that's for sure.

ALLEN: I know that at first you were staying in a Walmart parking lot when you escaped. Now you're in the back yard of friends, camping, and you're getting support from people.

But I have to ask you, Brad, I know, Kelly, you got out first; the order to evacuate came on Tuesday.

But, Brad, you stayed behind. Tell us about that.

B. THOMAS: Well, I felt it was more important to try to save my house than try to remove my belongings. And my best friend stayed with me and, you know, we stayed until the end.

We stayed, dowsing my house with water trailer-load after water trailer-load, shooting the water into my house to try to save it, with sprinklers going on top of my house.

And, you know, we stayed until the last minute until we saw about a 60-foot wall of fire, of orange, just coming upon us. And as far as to the left and right as you could look, till it started just heating your face.

That's when we left. And we made it down the street. The firefighters had pulled out of our area and they said Berry Creek has been compromised. You know, we wanted to hang out a little longer. The propane tanks started to blow up.

My friends, two dogs were still on my road at my neighbor's house. Two of my best friends rode back into the fire to rescue those dogs. And they did.

We made it out and then we became stuck. We got cut off and we had to ride it out, kind of hopscotching around from the flames and dodging, you know, where the fire was all night, with the fire department because we were all stuck together.

ALLEN: I can't --


ALLEN: Go ahead.

B. THOMAS: It was the most insane thing I've ever seen, I imagine it was what war is like, with propane tanks blowing every few seconds and just literally a wall of death coming upon you, you know, of the orange flames. And, you know, it's just unreal, it's unreal.

ALLEN: We see here the video of the constant flames and cannot imagine what people go through, like the two of you, trying to get out of that. Thank goodness you got out of there alive. And I know you had lots of animals as well and I hope that they're OK. I'm sure you're worried about them.

And, Kelly, I was reading that, is this correct, that your insurance had just been canceled before this fire?

K. THOMAS: Yes, well, when we paid off our house, it was no longer -- what is that called, honey, where --


B. THOMAS: In California, as soon as you pay off your home loan, if you don't have a very wide road in a rural area that's considered a high-fire risk zone, they drop you as soon as your home loan is, you know, you've paid off your house.

And that was us.


B. THOMAS: We had some neighbors that encroached the road. And the road was not up to the insurance company's standards. And, yes, we were dropped. We had a very good policy. And, unfortunately, it was gone with that. And we were uninsurable.

And we lost everything. I own a by-the-hour tractor business. I lost my excavator. You've seen the video; my Bobcat survived. But I lost my excavator, I lost other key things to my business. We lost our house, we lost our food truck business.

We just got a food truck paid off and we were about to open that business for our community, which has no food that you can come and buy, you know. And we literally lost everything in a matter of a few hours.

ALLEN: It's just unbelievable. I cannot fathom that. And I looked this up before I saw that I was going to be interviewing you and the area you live is just so beautiful.

B. THOMAS: It was.

ALLEN: Stunning. Yes.

B. THOMAS: It was very beautiful.

ALLEN: So I want to ask Kelly. I know you're probably just so thankful to be alive.

But can you go back to this area?

Would you feel confident rebuilding again if you're able to?

K. THOMAS: Absolutely. I love our home. And I'm anxious to get back. It's probably not going to look very pretty for a few years. But you know, it will grow back, just like we'll all rebuild.

ALLEN: All right, are you fearful, though, with the wildfires that we're seeing in California and the longer burning seasons that are happening and the heat, that it's going to happen again?

K. THOMAS: Not, not anytime in the next, you know, say, 10 years. We're pretty scorched up there. So it's kind of hard for a wildfire to hit us like it did again, at least it's going to take some time.


ALLEN: We appreciate them taking the time to talk with me.

As California governor Gavin Newsom surveyed the fire damage in his state, he called out anyone who still denies climate change is real. He said the recent extreme weather is unlike anything his state has seen before.


GOV. GAVIN NEWSOM (D-CA): The debate is over around climate change. Just come to the state of California. Observe it with your own eyes. It's not an intellectual debate. It's not even debatable any longer what we are experiencing, the extreme droughts, the extreme atmospheric rivers, the extreme heat.

Just think, in the last few weeks alone, we have experienced the hottest August in California history. We had 14,000 dry lightning strikes over a three-day period. We're experiencing temperatures, world record-breaking temperatures, in the state of California, 130 degrees, arguably the hottest recorded temperature in the history of mankind, in the state of California, just a few weeks ago.


ALLEN: We're continuing to keep our eye on the West Coast. But now we turn to the Gulf Coast. We're keeping our eye on more extreme weather on the Gulf of Mexico. Tropical storm Sally is expected to become a hurricane by Monday evening and then make landfall along the Louisiana-Mississippi coast.

The mayor of New Orleans is ordering mandatory evacuations for people outside the city's levee protection system, beginning at 6:00 pm Sunday. More than 12,000 people from southwest Louisiana are still being sheltered after hurricane Laura slammed into the Gulf Coast as a category 4 storm last month.



ALLEN: We want to turn to a story developing from California. Police are searching for a gunman who brazenly shot two Los Angeles County Sheriff Department officers while they were sitting in their squad car. I want to show you the video of the shooting that appears to be from a surveillance camera nearby. It is disturbing.


ALLEN (voice-over): This happened in Compton, Saturday night, outside a transit station. It happens really fast there. The deputies were ambushed as they sat in their patrol vehicle. You can see the man approach the car and fire.



CAPTAIN KENT WEGENER, L.A. COUNTY SHERIFF'S DEPARTMENT: The suspect approached them from behind as the deputies were facing southbound in their patrol vehicle.

The suspect came from the north. He walked along the passenger side of the car. He acted as if he was going to walk past the car and made a left turn directly toward the car, raised a pistol and fired several rounds inside of the vehicle, striking both of the sheriff's deputies.

The suspect then fled on foot northbound from the shooting scene and out of view.



ALEX VILLENUEVA, LOS ANGELES COUNTY SHERIFF: That was a cowardly act. Two deputies were doing their job, minding their own business, watching out for the safety of the people on the train and seeing somebody walk up and just start shooting on them, it's -- it pisses me off. It dismays me at the same time. And I -- there's no pretty way to say it.


ALLEN: Certainly isn't. Both deputies were shot multiple times. One is a mother, new to the force, 31 years old. The other is a 24-year-old deputy. They had surgery, both in critical condition. We're told they're fighting for their lives. Donald Trump retweeted the surveillance video with the caption, "Animals that must be hit hard!"

The U.S. leads the world in coronavirus cases and deaths. But take a look at this crowd at a Trump rally in Nevada Saturday. Packed in. More on this straight ahead here.

Also, Peru now has to tackle a political crisis in the midst of the coronavirus crisis as the nation's president faces a potential impeachment. We'll tell you about that.





ALLEN: U.S. president Trump held a campaign rally in Minden, Nevada, Saturday night. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ALLEN (voice-over): There was a large crowd and little social distancing, as you can see. Mr. Trump made a variety of problematic claims during this event. He accused Democrats of attempting to rig the upcoming election and made a series of false claims about mail-in ballots. He also encouraged supporters to be poll watchers, a push some fear could lead to voter suppression.



TRUMP: What's he going to do with the ballots?

Where are they going?

Who are they sending?

Who is sending them back?

Who is signing?

They don't even have to have an authorized signature in Nevada, did you know that?

They don't have to have -- you don't have to have an authorized signature on a ballot?

No. They're trying to rig an election and we can't let that happen. I hope you're all going to be poll watchers. I hope you are because with you people watching the polls, it is going to be pretty hard to cheat, I'll tell you. I wouldn't want to be a cheater.


ALLEN: For more on the rally, here's CNN's Boris Sanchez, he was there.


BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Largely a return to form for President Trump in Nevada on Saturday night, the president speaking to a huge crowd of supporters at a rally in a way that we haven't seen since March and the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic.

The crowd rushing to fill the venue, at one point, grabbing chairs that had been separated, part of social distancing guidelines, and rearranging them as they wished.


SANCHEZ: A massive, sizable crowd. The president noticing and apparently getting angry at the media for what he says is an underreporting of the number of supporters that were here. Keep in mind the venue had to change for this event. It was originally

going to be held at the Reno Tahoe airport but that was scrapped because there is a mandate in the state of Nevada banning gatherings groups of people 50 people or more.

The president says the campaign got around that by effectively calling this a political protest, a peaceful protest. The president railing against Democrats, repeatedly going after Joe Biden, insulting his intelligence, his cognitive abilities as well.

The president also trying to make the case that he is the person to lead the country through economic rebound because of the crushing shutdown as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

The president saying the country is turning the corner, despite what we've heard from a number of health experts within his own administration. President Trump, again returning to form, speaking candidly to his supporters and they ate it up -- Boris Sanchez, CNN, traveling with the president in Minden, Nevada.


ALLEN: There is an impeachment case against Peru's president. And on Saturday, Peru's state news agency reported authorities raided eight homes linked to the impeachment. The properties belonged to a singer, who is at the center of corruption allegations involving Peru's president and at least seven other government officials.

The impeachment case comes as Peru grapples with the coronavirus pandemic and one of the highest death rates in the world. Our Matt Rivers has the details from Mexico City.


MATT RIVERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Peru's coronavirus outbreak is one of the worst of any country around the world. But now it has to deal with a different kind of crisis, this one of the political nature.

Peruvian president Martin Vizcarra will now face impeachment proceedings as he's accused of both lying and interfering with an investigation into corruption into several members of his administration.

The Peruvian congress voted to move forward with these impeachment proceedings that could start as early as this week. It was three audio recordings presented to lawmakers by the head of the congressional oversight commission.

On those tapes, it is alleged that President Vizcarra can be heard talking to government officials about visits that a singer paid to the presidential palace. The commission alleges that those recordings proved that Vizcarra was asking his officials to lie about those alleged visits.

The oversight commission is investigating the president's relationship with that singer and whether he helped him maintain motivational speaking contracts within the culture ministry.

The singer denies having any kind of relationship with the president and the president himself has denied these allegations. In an address to the nation earlier on Friday, President Vizcarra said he would not resign.

He said, quote, "If you want to impeach me, here I am with my head held high and with a clean conscience."

Allegations of corruption have plagued successive administrations in Peru and it appears this administration will be no different in that respect. This comes as the country is dealing with this coronavirus outbreak.

The per capita death rate in Peru is among the highest in the world. It is averaging several thousand new cases of the virus each day. And yet, instead of only focusing on the coronavirus, the government of Peru will now have to deal with the impeachment proceedings as well -- Matt Rivers, CNN, Mexico City.


ALLEN: Drug trials for one potential coronavirus vaccine were suspended a week ago. Now they're set to resume but only in one country. We'll have a live report from London with the latest on this. Stay with us.





ALLEN: Welcome back to our viewers here in the U.S. and around the world. I'm Natalie Allen. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM live from Atlanta.

Pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca will partially restart phase three trials for a key coronavirus vaccine candidate. That is good news for those hoping for a vaccine to come soon.

Meantime, there is worrying data out of several countries and encouraging news out of others. Lynda Kinkade has our story.


LYNDA KINKADE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A green light again for a promising vaccine that was put on pause last week over safety concerns. Oxford University says its phase 3 vaccine trials in partnership with AstraZeneca are resuming in the U.K.

The need for a viable vaccine couldn't be more critical as cases skyrocket across the world. India now has the second highest number of cases in the world, after the U.S. Its richest state surpassed 1 million cases on Friday, closing in on Russia, which has the fourth highest numbers of infections in the world.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (INAUDIBLE) As you can see there is a lot of traffic. I think that's one of the main reasons the virus is being spread.

KINKADE (voice-over): A round of applause for a patient in Mexico, one of the lucky ones to recover from COVID-19. The country's death toll recently topped 70,000.

But even with those numbers, some people say the need to make money outweighs the risk of getting sick.

"The figures do scare me but I can't stay at home," this woman says, "my income won't allow it."

Several thousand people crowded the streets of Germany and Poland Saturday to rally against coronavirus restrictions.

Meanwhile, in France, the prime minister warned the spread of the virus there is clearly worsening. For now, there will be no new national lockdown. He says the virus is here to stay for several more months and we have to be able to live with it.

Even this Spanish princess, heir to the Spanish throne, who once reminded her father, King Felipe, to wear a mask, is under quarantine, after a classmate tested positive for the virus -- Lynda Kinkade, CNN.


ALLEN: Let's talk more about AstraZeneca and the Oxford vaccine. Let's turn to Scott McLean, he's live in London.

Good morning to you, Scott. Looks like this trial is back on track.

SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, you're absolutely right, Natalie. The person who had this unexplained illness was here in the U.K. But the trial was paused around the world.

And when this type of pause happens, which is not without precedent, the first thing that they have to do is figure out, well, was this person actually given the vaccine or were they given the placebo?

If they had the vaccine, you have to figure out, was it caused by the vaccine or was it completely coincidental?

AstraZeneca said this is not first time this trial was paused. It was paused in July when they discovered a case of multiple sclerosis. Now this is a matter of Oxford University and AstraZeneca going to the other health regulators to get the same permission before they can resume there.

The CEO says, despite the setback, it is still very possible to have this vaccine approved by the end of the year. It just depends how quickly health regulators can review the results of the trial once it is finished. This is not the only potential vaccine that the world is banking on.

There are 35 vaccines in human trials around the world. Right now, eight of them are actually in the late stages.

President Trump in the United States, he's been hinting that a vaccine could well be approved before Election Day, which is raising concerns about the politicization of any potential vaccine that is approved.

AstraZeneca was one of nine companies that signed this pledge not to cut corners, not to push for a premature approval. But despite that, a recent poll found that most Americans, 62 percent, believe that political pressure from the Trump administration will cause health regulators to rush the approval of a vaccine.

ALLEN: That is a concern, that that many people feel that way. All right, Scott McLean with the latest, the good news is these trials are marching forward. Thank you, Scott.

Police in Victoria, Australia, have arrested at least 74 people during a second day of demonstrations over the coronavirus lockdown there.


ALLEN (voice-over): Those are people in Melbourne, chanting, "Freedom," at police. Authorities say many of the protesters were aggressive and threatened officers with violence. This comes as Victoria State said it plans to begin slowly lifting COVID-19 restrictions on Sunday night as infections there continue to drop.


ALLEN: Some college students in the United States, in Ohio, each face hundreds of dollars in fines for throwing a house party after at least one of them tested positive for COVID-19. Police body camera footage that shows an officer talking with one of those students went viral this week. Dianne Gallagher has the footage and the story.


DIANNE GALLAGHER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Six students from Miami University in the state of Ohio were cited for violating the public gathering ordinance due to COVID-19.

But it was what was captured on a police officer's body camera footage that really kind of shed some light on the disconnect and perhaps why we're seeing so many cases of coronavirus in college students around the United States.

The officer noticed there were a lot of people at this house. And at that point, the public guidance is, no more than 10 people indoors or outdoors. He speaks to the students, tells them they're violating the ordinance and then asked one of them for his I.D., which he scanned, and got the very unexpected result.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I've never seen this before.

There's an input on the computer that you tested positive for COVID?



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This was a week ago.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you supposed to be quarantining?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, that's why I'm at my house.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you have other people here and you are positive for COVID?

You see the problem?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I mean, they were, honestly, all just walking by when we were out here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How many other people have COVID?



GALLAGHER: As the officer pointed out, that kind of defies the point of a quarantine. Now those citations start at $500 apiece. CNN spoke to Miami University but didn't go into detail on what would happen to those students but did say that any violation of quarantine or the public gathering ordinance would result in some kind of disciplinary action.


GALLAGHER: Dianne Gallagher, CNN, Atlanta.


ALLEN: In 2018, they took on a president forcing reform in France. Now the Yellow Vests are back. Ahead here, a live report from Paris after a new round of protests.




ALLEN: Some familiar but dramatic scenes played out in France Saturday as the Yellow Vest protests returned.


ALLEN (voice-over): Things got violent at times. Police in Paris fired tear gas and detained hundreds of people for questioning. The Yellow Vest protests started in 2018 over a plan to hike fuel prices. But they have been largely quiet this year during a COVID-19 hiatus.


ALLEN: For the latest, CNN's Melissa Bell is live for us in Paris.

Good morning to you, Melissa.

What brought the protests back to the streets again?

MELISSA BELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, a real hope on the part of the Yellow Vests that they could breathe some new life into this movement, that for the last year had lost so much of the momentum that had made it such a formidable force on the streets of Paris.

Not only taking over the center of Paris Saturday after Saturday in the beginning but actually forcing a number of different climbdowns on the part of Emmanuel Macron's government.

And for a while looking as though it might approve (sic) to be a lasting threat to it. Now that really has evaporated over the course of last year. Then there was lockdown, then the restrictions.

So this announcement they were gathering once again for this return to work and school in the month of September to test really the momentum they might have will have disappointed them; 2,500 people turned out on the streets of Paris.

And we saw those changed police tactics over the course of the last few months. They learned how to deal with them much better than they did in the beginning, when this was just getting underway and was a new fact of Saturday mornings in France, really managing to keep them away from the Champs-Elysees, a symbolic avenue.


BELL: And also for their movement because they managed to gather such numbers in the beginning and cause such damage, iconic throughout the world.

The police managed to keep it blocked off from the protesters. There were two different protests that were allowed, despite the COVID-19 restrictions in Paris. But they followed a particular route. A number of protesters tried to get into the Champs-Elysees.

And what you would have seen if you were near the Champs-Elysees yesterday is a tremendous amount of police, riot police, trucks making sure those protesters never made it to this central avenue.

And yet, of course, on the margins of the demonstrations, the police were saying they were having scuffles, they used tear gas to push them back but nothing like the violence of a year ago, nothing like the damage caused and nothing like the numbers, Natalie.

ALLEN: Thanks so much, Melissa Bell for us, watching that in Paris. Thank you, Melissa.

And I'll be right back.




ALLEN: For the second time in her career, Japanese tennis star Naomi Osaka has won the U.S. Open. She came from behind to defeat Victoria Azarenka in three sets in yesterday's final. But Osaka's influence went far beyond the courts at Arthur Ashe Stadium.


ALLEN: She won wide respect with her quiet face mask protest that highlighted the names of victims of racial violence. CNN "WORLD SPORT's" Don Riddell asked her about it.


NAOMI OSAKA, WTA NUMBER 1: For me, I chose those names because some of them were very recent, some of them I felt needed more attention and, I don't know, I feel like there are stories that needed to be told. And for me personally, some of those stories affected me a lot.

DON RIDDELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: In what way would you say they affected you?

OSAKA: Of course, everyone is really sad reading into it. For me, I think the one that most affected me was Trayvon Martin, because I was young when that happened and I just remember it shaping a little bit the way that I think, shaping my -- sort of my fears sometimes.

RIDDELL: Your campaign has really got people talking. I know that some of the parents of these victims have expressed their gratitude to you for what you've been doing.

How does it feel to make such an impact with something that is so important?

OSAKA: For me, I wasn't really -- I don't know, I wasn't really aware of the scale that things would get. For me I just felt like it was important to hopefully use my platform for something good.

I wasn't sure, you know, that the reach it would get but I just felt like while I'm here, while for some reason there is a TV camera on me, I might as well use it to the best of my ability.

RIDDELL: Earlier this year, you told CNN that you were done with being shy. Now that you're speaking up and harnessing your platform, how loud do you think you can be?

OSAKA: I don't want to be loud, actually. I want people to think about what I said. So for me, honestly, if someone has a genuine curiosity over the things I say, that's better than me being loud and abrasive and trying to force my opinion on them. So I think a discussion is better.

RIDDELL: You're going to look back on all of your victories with a lot of fondness, I would imagine.

Who knows how many more there are going to be?

What will your abiding memory be of 2020 when you look back on everything that happened this year?

OSAKA: I hope I matured as a person. I hope that's my greatest memory. For me, it has really been a challenge and I think this tournament sort of shows my growth.

RIDDELL: You now have played in three major finals and you've won them all. And you're really starting to dominate your sport.

So what goals have you set for yourself next?

OSAKA: Yes, I mean, honestly, every tournament that I play I want to win. And I'm sure that, you know, that can't be possible, so just growing my game and improving as a person and then staying very positive.


ALLEN: Naomi Osaka.

In one U.S. state of the old Confederacy, Black families are joining together to build something new and hopeful. It is a budding city with a special name. Victor Blackwell has the remarkable story of Freedom.



That is the sound of Freedom, a lush and rugged expanse about 130 miles south of Atlanta, just shy of 97 acres, it's undeveloped, unincorporated and it has new owners.

RENEE WALTERS, PRESIDENT, FREEDOM GEORGIA INITIATIVE: It feels amazing. It feels really amazing, I cry every time I come here.

BLACKWELL: Renee Walters is one of them. She's president of the Freedom Georgia Initiative. It's a collective of 19 Black families who recently bought this land. This dream all started a few weeks ago during Renee's typical morning call with her friend Ashley Scott.

ASHLEY SCOTT, VICE PRESIDENT, FREEDOM GEORGIA INITIATIVE: She said, Ashley, did you see the article about Toomsboro for sale?

BLACKWELL: It turns out that the entire small town was never for sale, just a bundle of a few dozen homes and buildings. So Ashley, a real estate agent, looked for listings in the area and found one for this. SCOTT: And it was just such a beautiful piece of land, it was affordable and it just made sense that we could create something that would be amazing for our families.

BLACKWELL: Why were these two women interested in the prospect of buying a town in the first place?

SCOTT: It really was a -- when we saw what happened with Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd and Breonna Taylor and the protest.

WALTERS: We both had Black husbands, we both had Black sons and I was starting to get overwhelmed and have a sense of anxiety when my husband would leave the house to go to work.

SCOTT: So watching our people protesting in the streets while it is important and I want people to stay out in the streets, bringing attention to the injustices of Black people.


SCOTT: We needed to create a space and a place where we could be a village again, a tribe again.

BLACKWELL: So Renee and Ashley reached out to family and friends and together, they bought what they intend to name Freedom Georgia, a new Black city.

SCOTT: We don't intend for it to be exclusively Black but we do intend for it to be pro-Black in every way.

BLACKWELL: Jessica Gordon Nembhard is an economist and an expert on Black collectives.

JESSICA GORDON NEMBHARD, PROFESSOR, JOHN JAY COLLEGE AT CUNY: I've found tremendous benefits to individuals, families and the communities that are involved in it, including, you know, the economic stability and prosperity but also leadership development, social capital development, other kinds of human capital development.

And so it's really a win-win for everybody involved to be involved.

BLACKWELL: The owners hosted the big Black campout over Labor Day weekend, supporters drove in from across the country. The plan is to introduce farming next, create a lake for sustainable fishing, facilities for recreation and eventually, develop a fully operational expanded city.

SCOTT: By being able to create a community that is thriving, that is safe, that has agriculture and commercial businesses that are supporting one another and that dollar circulating in our community, that is our vision and to be able to pass this land down to my children and to the children that are represented by each of our 19 families as a piece of legacy. We're hoping to create legacy.

BLACKWELL: Victor Blackwell, CNN, Wilkinson County, Georgia.


ALLEN: Soon to be Freedom, Georgia.

How about that one?

We'll watch them grow.

I'm Natalie Allen. Thank you for watching. Follow me on Instagram or Twitter. And I'll see you next weekend.