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Interview With Nikole Hannah-Jones; Interview With Houston, Texas, Police Chief Art Acevedo; Interview With Martin Luther King III and DeRay McKesson; Interview With D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton. Aired 2:16- 3:15p ET
Aired June 01, 2020 - 14:16 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hello, everyone, and welcome to "Amanpour." Here's what's coming up.
Who will answer the cry of pain from the streets? Who will make black lives matter in America? Tonight, we ask congresswoman and long-time civil rights
activist, Eleanor Holmes Norton.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For every black mother, brother, sister, uncle, cousin -- their family in George's space.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: The role and responsibility of law enforcement, Art Acevedo, chief of police in Houston, Texas, George Floyd's hometown, he joins us.
Also, ahead, the politics of protest with the old guard and the new. Martin Luther King III and Black Lives Matter organizer, DeRay Mckesson.
And the 400 years that led to this and every moment like it. With Pulitzer Prize winning journalist behind the 1619 Project, Nikole Hannah-Jones.
Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Christiane Amanpour working from home in London.
The images that stunned the world as protests roll through more than 100 American cities since the death of George Floyd a week ago today, it was
Memorial Day. It is the worst unrest in America since the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. in 1968.
Back then, though, the Democratic candidate for president, Robert F. Kennedy, came out into the streets to calm the terrible tensions and to
speak to hurt and angry black Americans. He also had this important message for the nation that calls itself exceptional.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERT F. KENNEDY, U.S. PRESIDENT: Some Americans who preach nonviolence abroad fail to practice it here at home. Some accuse others of rioting and
inciting riots have by their own conduct invited them.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Indeed, when we foreign correspondents cover protests and uprisings abroad from apartheid South Africa to the fall of the Berlin
Wall, the Green Revolution in Iran or the Arab Spring, we call those what they are, freedom and democracy movements, popular struggles for dignity
and justice and that is what we are witnessing in America now.
So, let's discuss all of this from as many angles as we possibly can for the next hour. My first guest is the distinguished congresswoman for
District of Columbia, Eleanor Holmes Norton. And she's joining me now. Feminist and civil rights leader who took part in the freedom summer of
1964. She was on the board of three Fortune 500 companies before heading to Congress. And she's joining me now from Washington.
Congresswoman, thank you for joining us.
We have seen the family of George Floyd plead for nonviolence and yet say that protests must continue until there is justice. Just give me your
reaction to what we're seeing on the streets and what has led to it.
DEL. ELEANOR HOLMES NORTON (D-DC): What has led to it seems to be is a really an unprecedented opportunity, that's what I would call it, to
actually see someone killed before your very eyes. That has enflamed the public has never before. And so, we find ourselves in the middle of an
unprecedented pandemic at the same time that we are seeing an unprecedented level of demonstrations because the public simply cannot understand how,
for the first time, as they see the police in action, this event could go unpunished and the punishment that has come forward so far may be the best
that the police and the authorities can do at this moment but it has not satisfied people who are seeing in real time the killing of a human being.
AMANPOUR: Congresswoman, you were there. You have been there. You have walked the walk and you have really been on the front lines of this
movement. You know, we mentioned, obviously, what happened in 1968 and what a terrible, terrible time of division and death and tragedy it was in the
United States. Did you think back then, after 1968, that we would be seeing this today 52 years later?
NORTON: Well, I use the word unprecedented advisedly. We had always hoped that our own demonstrations are peaceful often with gatherings ahead of
time to indicate how we were going to make sure they were peaceful, would lead to more and more peaceful demonstrations, and that we have seen.
But the fact that we now have social media evidence for the first time has taken protests to a new level. We were always talking about something that
the press, usually the printed press, had told us about or even folks like CNN had told us about, but always after the fact.
What do you do when you are seeing a killing in real time? And how do you make sure that you are having an effect? And that's why we are seeing these
demonstrations night after night and we are also seeing a mixture of people so that we are seeing the traditional peaceful demonstrations alongside
people who are taking advantage of the situation.
AMANPOUR: As many people know, your own great grandfather was a runaway slave, he escaped a plantation in Virginia. And clearly, obviously, as we
said, this has been building for 400 years and we have had a black president in the United States and many people say, look, that didn't work
either. And that this is so in endemic and so institutionalized that we just don't know what to do anymore.
Let me just read you the latest from President Obama, he weighed in today. He said, let's not excuse violence or rationalize it or participate in it.
If we want our criminal justice system and American society at large to operate on a higher ethical code then we have to model that code ourselves.
And of course, everybody is calling for voting and to actually, you know, claim ownership of their future.
But I guess I want to ask you because it's very -- violent protest is quite common around the world, as I said, in order to finally be a tipping point.
It's unusual to see it in the West. It is unusual to see it like this. Where do you stand on some of the -- you know, on the nature and the
character of these protests?
NORTON: What we are seeing, we believe for the most part, because we witness these protesters, they're forming are nonviolent protests, what we
should be hearing, particularly from the president, is a call for intelligence forces to find out who it is that is disrupting these protests
and creating a situation where violent protests, we've heard antifa and others like that mixing in under the cloak of peaceful protest. Instead we
see the president essentially calling every part of this protest a mob and decrying all of it.
We need this to be explained to the public. As they see the peaceful protests gathering, we need to focus on them so that we can understand how
did this turn violent? It must have been somebody else, some forces that came in after these people gathered. That's why you need an intelligence,
that's why you need the United States which has the capacity to separate the sheep from the chaff to do so and every day to say to the public, this
is what we have found and this is what we're doing to make sure that these protests are, in fact, nonviolent.
Instead what we have seen is the president of the United States is that, we're not in this. We don't have anything to do with this. Governors, do
what you can. We need the intelligence forces of the United States to assist the governors of the United States so that they can know how to
separate people who are interfering with these peaceful protests. And most of the protests, as you can see with your own eyes, start out as peaceful.
AMANPOUR: In fact, you bring up a very important point and that is that there has been legitimate criticism of the press for only focusing on the
destruction, and I'm afraid that is an occupational hazard but there has been lots of peaceful protests, lots of nonviolent, you know, Gandhi-like
operations, if you like, to prove that this is a nonviolent and peaceful process that they want to go through.
But you mentioned the president. And as you know, word of his conference call with governors has come out and there is audio of it. And he has, you
know, basically appeared very rattled. Called governors weak, saying some of them should get -- you know, basically grow a spine, as he puts it, and
dominate the situation. And he also essentially said that, you know, America is a laughingstock. Listen to this and I'd like you to react.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT: What happened in the State of Minnesota, they were a laughingstock all over the world. They took over the police
department. The police were running down the street. Sirens blazing. They rest of them (INAUDIBLE). There was a camera. And then they wiped out, you
probably have to build a new one. But I have never seen anything like it and the whole world was laughing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
Eleanor Holmes Norton, I mean, I cover the world and I know there was no laughter around the world. In fact, deep, deep concern, even from China
about what's going on in the United States. Obviously, China has their own ax to grind, but, you know, black lives matter said the foreign ministry
and the human lives should be protected in the United States.
I just wonder, you know, the president has not had a national address, not had sort of a convocation in order to try to calm tensions and try to
foster some unity out of this. What do you expect going forward? How do you expect this national pain, this crisis to manifest over the next days and
weeks and months?
NORTON: Yes, I don't claim that president by himself could have quelled what happened on the last few nights. I can tell you that I believe that
every Democratic or Republican president that I have seen would have spoken to the American people by now, and that it would have had some affect.
There is only one person in the entire world who by himself could have had any affect here, and that is the president of the United States. Instead,
he has said that and threatened to use the military, that would be unconstitutional and illegal. He has called on the governors as if he had
no power and as if he had no role. We need a president who understands his role and function in the middle of a national crisis, which has brought
people to the streets all over the world. When have you seen people in the capitals around the world out on the streets as if they were in the United
States protesting what happened in the Floyd matter?
AMANPOUR: We have seen it here in the U.K. And, as you say, it's happening all over the world, solidarity for that terrible death.
And I want to take you back again to 1968 and just listen to what Robert Kennedy said about the bedrock of society that itself needs to changing.
Again, this was 1968.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, 1968)
ROBERT F. KENNEDY, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: We can move in that direction as a country, and greater polarization, black people amongst
blacks, and white amongst whites, filled with hatred toward one another.
Or we can make an effort, as Martin Luther King did, to understand and to comprehend and replace that violence, that stain of bloodshed that's spread
across our land with an effort to understand, compassion and love.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: I know you remember that. Of course, it was an extemporaneous speech to the people on that terrible, terrible night of April 4, 1968.
Do you think, Congresswoman, that white America does enough to join with black America and put an end to this?
Because we all know that it will not happen if it's just one group and another group doesn't join in. It has to be an all-nation project.
NORTON: Very important to note, if you look at these demonstrations, that these demonstrations are as multicolored, as interracial as any you will
It is very interesting when matters like this have arisen that affect African-Americans, the first to be in streets, of course, would be African-
African-Americans weren't even the first to be in the streets this time. Here in the nation's capital, where I live, you will see no difference.
This death, this killing has reached the hearts, it seems to me, of the American people.
And, sometimes, if you look at the crowd, you won't even see African- Americans. You will see only white people. So, it does -- and I think that reflects the fact that Africa -- after all, African-Americans are only
about 10 percent of the nation.
So, this has been an out-coming and out-calling of people all over our country of every single background, I think which goes to the level of what
they have seen. For the first time, videos are exposing us to attacks by police that we have only heard about and read about. Now we have seen it in
real time, and the American people are saying, we will not stand for it.
And the only way we know not to stand for it is to come into the streets. I must tell you that I have called for hearings in the House of
Representatives, and there are going to be hearings in the House and Senate.
This pandemic has kept us where I am now, in my home. But I think, in the coming days, even from our homes, we will be participating in hearings,
because the people are demanding to hear from their elected officials. It is not enough to hear from them. They want to know from us, what are you
going to do about it?
AMANPOUR: Indeed, everybody does.
Congresswoman, thank you so much for joining us, Eleanor Holmes Norton.
And now one of America's leading human rights advocates is in fact urging people to make themselves heard at the ballot box this November. He would
be Martin Luther King III, son of the civil rights leader who we have just been talking about. And he tweeted about why we are seeing violence saying:
"As my father explained during his lifetime, a riot is the language of the unheard."
For more, we're pleased to welcome Mr. King live from Atlanta. And joining him from New York is DeRay McKesson. He's a fellow activist and a leading
voice of the Black Lives Matter movement.
Gentlemen, both of you, thank you so much for joining me.
And we're really happy to have you both representing the different generations of this struggle. And so I want to know.
I want to ask you first, Martin Luther King III, you just heard Eleanor Holmes Norton. You have heard all that we have been saying about your
father's assassination and what might have happened had that not happened and not taken place.
Do you feel that this is a moment, as Eleanor Holmes Norton said, that, in fact, the promise of civil rights and equality and justice can actually
start to be heard in this moment because of what happened to George Floyd and the reaction to it?
MARTIN LUTHER KING III, PRESIDENT & CEO, REALIZING THE DREAM: Well, what I would say, of course, is, if we do not hear and heed to a call now, then
our nation is on the brink of destruction.
My father used to say, we must learn nonviolence, or we will face nonexistence. And what that means is, we have to treat our fellow human
beings with dignity and respect. Fifty-plus years ago, my father stood with sanitation workers, and they had a sign that said, "I am a man."
Those men were saying, treat us with dignity and respect. Yes, we are sanitation workers, but we need to be paid; 52-plus years later, blacks and
whites and children and Latino and Hispanics and everyone is standing up saying, Black Lives Matter.
Why should we have to be saying that? We are human beings. And society has not recognized that. I believe, though, that this incident may perhaps be a
tipping point and a turning point for our nation to really engage in some serious action institutionally.
Dad wanted to see the eradication of poverty, and my mother, I should say, racism, and he said militarism. But it today is violence. We, as a human
species, have the capacity to do these things. It takes a few good women and men coming together and creating a strategic plan and effort.
In this context, it may be different policies. And so, yes, I believe this might be, as the congresswoman stated, that opportunity. It should have
happened already. It is tragic, over and over again, that we have to keep going through this. But enough is enough.
KING: And it's not -- it is clear that people are not going to take it anymore.
AMANPOUR: Well, this is the interesting moment that I wonder whether it will last and be a tipping point.
So, I wanted to ask you, DeRay McKesson. You know, you come at it from a less years of activism and maybe a different view. I said old guard and new
guard. I don't know.
What do you think, DeRay? What do people on the streets think about this moment? Might it be hope, or is it still sort of just another in this
DERAY MCKESSON, CO-FOUNDER, BLACK LIVES MATTER: Let me just say three things. I'm tired of hearing about nonviolence and violence.
The only violence I have seen in the street is the police. That's the violence. The violence of the police is what got us here. You might have
seen property damage, but I haven't seen violence from the protesters. So I don't even -- that framing to me is really -- I don't get it.
The violence -- I just saw a picture online of the police officer who shot somebody's eye out. I have a friend who is now permanently blind in one eye
because the police shot her in the eye with a rubber bullet. That is violence.
So, I'm not interested in having a conversation about the violence of the - - there has been no violence from the protesters. There's been property damage. And that property will return. Those buildings will be back. Those
stores will be made whole again.
George Floyd will not. Tamir Rice will not. Mike Brown will not. And Rekia Boyd will not. So, that's one.
The second is that the police keep killing people. So, since 2014, the police have killed more people, not less. In March of 2020, March and April
2020, they killed as many people as they did in March and April of 2019. No change. Coronavirus, quarantine, lockdown, still killed people. People
weren't even outside, and they killed them.
That is a problem. That is a choice. And the third is that this is explicitly about race. We think about Minneapolis. In Minneapolis, black
people are 13 times more likely to be killed by a police officer than white people.
That is about race. In 2015, there were 14 police departments that only killed black people. That is about race. And black people are 1.3 times
more likely to be unarmed. The idea that black people are threatening the police is a myth. And it's a racist myth to enforce racist actions by
racist police departments.
This is a choice. So, when I think about hope, I am hopeful, because we learned in 2014 that the only time people pay attention is when we stand in
the street. We tried everything. We went to the meetings. We called. We e- mailed. We testified. People didn't pay attention.
You see people out on the street right now, and I'm getting calls all day from like elected officials trying to figure out what they do to undo the
mess that they didn't have the courage to do for the past six years.
AMANPOUR: And so, DeRay, what next then? Is it about, as Killer Mike said in Atlanta over the weekend, organizing, strategizing, mobilizing,
planning, plotting? Is it -- what next on the street, then?
What happens, especially to those people who you're addressing, those who haven't done anything for the last 60 years?
MCKESSON: Yes, so it's a two-pronged -- it's a two-pronged solution.
One is reduce the power of the police. They just have too much power as they are constituted today. So we track eight things around use of force,
and they are simple, but not small, so banning choke holds and strangleholds, requiring officers to intervene if they see other officers
engaged in misconduct, requiring de-escalation, making sure that there's a use of form force continuum, so that it's really clear.
These things, when all eight are present, when a department goes from none of them to all eight of them, there's a 70 percent reduction in police
violence. And you might think that these are simple, but choke holds are a great example. Only 28 of the 100 largest cities in America ban choke holds
That is wild. You can learn more at UseofForceProject.org about those, where we map it out.
The second is that we have to shift resources, and we have to shrink the role of the police. But, in America, only 5 percent of arrests happen for
violent crime. We arrest more people for marijuana than we do for all violent crime combined.
But we staff police departments as if 80 percent of the arrests are happening for violent crime. We know that we don't need somebody with a gun
to come to car crashes, to find missing kids, to come when there are cats missing. Most of the 9/11 calls are for non-emergencies. They don't require
somebody who is armed to intervene.
We need to shift all those resources from police departments and put them somewhere else. And then we should have a conversation about, do we need
the police at all? For the small set of things that require an intense intervention, we should think about what that looks like.
But let me tell you, the police -- the outcomes even aren't on the police side. It's not like they are leading to some epic decreases in crime around
the country. In New York City, the last two times that the police decided that they were going to do a slow -- what's called a slowdown, where they
decided they weren't going to make arrests, they were just not going to be present in communities, you know what happened? Crime decreased by 20
percent when the NYPD fell back.
Neighborhoods are not safer because the police are around.
AMANPOUR: Martin Luther King, do you -- how do you relate to what DeRay is saying?
KING: Well, I certainly believe -- and I would only add a dynamic to what he said, because, clearly, there -- maybe a police presence of some sort is
But in addition to community policing, I think that the one dynamic that no one is much talking about -- we hear a little bit of it -- I have been
talking about it for quite some time now -- is if there is not the kind of result that people can begin to feel, in a relatively responsible amount of
time, then maybe we need to decide to start exercising our buying power elsewhere.
My father and his team used boycotting very effectively. For 385 days -- 81 days -- folks didn't ride the buses in Montgomery. The bus company almost
went out of business. I'm not suggesting that that should be the only thing.
But I need to hear corporate America saying, this is wrong, and we are not going to accept this kind of behavior anymore. Corporate America needs to
stand up, not stand down, because when corporate America is engaged, then things happen.
The people have already said what they want and should get. It shouldn't even be the one has to demand respect. It should be automatic, based on the
fact that we are human beings. But we have lost our humanity.
And, unfortunately, a lot of the humanity is disconnected, because, at the top of the leadership chain, the president of the United States
communicates in a way that is divisive and not unified. We need a unifying message to unify this nation at this time and beyond.
And we need to have specific actions that will be taken, just as we purport to take other actions that have created division. We can also newly take
actions that create something else.
And I -- the president needs to dig deep within his soul, and hopefully within his heart. Hopefully, somewhere, there is a thread of humanity,
where he can say something differently, where people may begin to respond differently.
But, also, I think the corporations have to do something. And if they choose not to, then maybe we need to decide to withdraw our economic
support of some of these corporations.
Last year, we spent a trillion dollars, by the way.
AMANPOUR: That is so interesting, because, of course, the "I have a dream" speech -- yes.
The "I have a dream" was also incredibly about economics and that aspect of it and what was necessary for the black community. Some corporations have
come out and said, we condemn this.
And I want to ask you, finally, DeRay, because, if this president hasn't said much, certainly, the previous president has been saying things.
President Obama has said, the bottom line is that, "If we want to bring about real change, then the choice isn't between protest and politics. We
have to do both. We have to mobilize to raise awareness, and we have to organize and cast our ballots to make sure that we elect candidates who
will act on reform."
What do you say to that, actually just going to the ballot, and the combination of what Mr. King has just said in terms of economic power and
the like and that kind of protest?
MCKESSON: I think those things are interesting.
I'm mindful that, at the local level, mayors, governors, city council people are too afraid to engage the police. And I shouldn't have to boycott
anybody to make a mayor decide to ban choke holds. That's ridiculous to me in some ways that.
Like, we should be demanding from these people that they show up and go to work, follow through with the commitments that they said they were going to
do. And it's that simple to me. This isn't complicated. It's not the role of the president in this -- Trump -- Trump does much wild stuff, and I
don't want him to use him as a scapegoat around the police stuff.
The federal government doesn't have a lot to do with policing. It is local. There are 18,000 police departments. This is failed leadership at the local
level. It's a lot of speeches, and not a whole lot of courage.
So I think that the demand now is for them to do what they know they can do, to exercise the power that they have to do it, and to just do it. I
don't think that we need to talk around it. We don't need to talk about a boycott. I don't need to -- we don't need that right now.
Like, what we need is people already in the streets. And the reason you're talking to me right now is because they're in the streets. So, because we
are in the street, because people all across the world are in the street, it has gotten people's attention. And mayors, city council people, they
need to respond to that and do something that is meaningful, because they have the power to do it today.
They can't punt. And the more they punt, the more people are just going to stay in the street.
AMANPOUR: So, DeRay, as you correctly said, you are in the streets. And that's why we're talking about -- talking to you. And I have been doing
that my whole career around the world, watching, as I say, uprisings for freedom and democracy and dignity and justice.
So, what I want to ask you is this. The family of George Floyd, just as we speak, came out and said, end the violence, but you have got to keep out on
the streets, keep protesting in peace, but lock those guys up. In other words, they're saying, all the rest of the others, the police, the three
others, need to be held accountable, like Chauvin was.
Is that what you're saying also needs to happen now? Is that the -- I guess the purpose of being in the street, until that actually happens, as Floyd's
family was saying?
MCKESSON: Yes, so you already know how I feel about telling protesters not to be violent. The violence isn't coming from the protesters. It's coming
from the police.
But when we think about the solution, it is about making sure that there's justice and accountability, accountability. People confuse the terms, but
they are similar, but not the same. Accountability is what happens after the trauma, just as the idea that there should be no trauma in the first
So, arresting the officers is good. That is accountability. But justice is what you see people in the street for too. They are saying that this has to
stop, that there can't be another case in any city at any time.
And until we figure out a plan to get there, I don't know how the unrest ends.
AMANPOUR: Well, I'm very pleased that you took time to talk to us, DeRay of Black Lives Matter and Martin Luther King III.
Thank you both for your really important contributions.
Now the images of this crisis, the police brutality are dominating, but there have also been incredible instances of peaceful protest and hope,
like these pictures from Des Moines, Iowa, where white officers knelt in solidarity with the protesters, and, in Flint, Michigan, where over the
weekend white officers join protesters on a peaceful march.
And over in Houston, George Floyd's hometown, police Chief Art Acevedo said that his death should be condemned by law enforcement all over. And he
spoke up for people of color with rousing words that have gone viral.
Here is some of it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ART ACEVEDO, HOUSTON POLICE CHIEF: What I love about this man, and this man, this man, what I love about this city is that they want people of
color to be talked about as being thugs and we're bums, and my people, for as an immigrant, we're rapists.
You know what? We built this country.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: These are strong words. And I have been speaking to Chief Acevedo about the road ahead.
AMANPOUR: Welcome to the program chief.
Let me just ask you your reaction today. The family of George Floyd is calling for an end to looting, for an end to violence, but to continue
protests, until there is justice and until all the officers involved are -- quote, unquote -- "locked up."
I just want to know, from your perspective as a law enforcement, what you react -- your reaction to that?
ACEVEDO: Well, first, I want to just say that I send my deepest condolences to the Floyd family.
I have been able to speak with some of the family members here in Houston. And it's representative of what Houston's about. Houston has been faring so
much better, because we have people like the Floyd family.
They're -- we're a community of faith. We're a richly, richly diverse community, the most diverse community in this nation. And I want to say
thank you from the bottom of my heart for showing people, for showing the world that in the -- in Houston, a melting pot of America, we do things
differently, which sends a message to those that may want to hijack the memory of George Floyd.
Don't come to Houston trying that nonsense, because the police stand with the community, and the community stand with the police, and we're a
department homegrown that reflects this richly diverse community.
So, God bless them.
AMANPOUR: Chief Acevedo. I hear you. I hear you loud and clear.
And you're absolutely right. In their grief, they are doing the right thing and asking for calm and peaceful protest. But I want to ask you. You
created quite a stir over the weekend, because you went out into your very diverse community.
And you tried to calm the people. And you had some harsh words for the kind of law enforcement that we saw which led to the death of George Floyd.
Tell me where you stand on this. Explain to us about -- a little bit of about the speech you made that went so viral.
ACEVEDO: Let's be real clear.
I want to make it real clear. The vast majority of police officers in this country, 100,000 of them, 18,000 police departments, do a phenomenal job.
They serve 25, 30, 35, 40 years. They never shoot anybody. They never hurt anybody. They serve with honor, distinction, and courage.
But we still live in a country where we make too many excuses and tolerate mediocrity and tolerate police abuse. There is no excusing a police officer
putting his knee and keeping it on the neck of a man that is handcuffed calling for mercy and calling for his mama.
There is no excuse for that. And there's no excuse for three officers sitting there and not intervening, as required, not just by policy, not
just by law, but by our conscience, if we have one, and by the God that we're supposed to be following.
So we stand with the Floyd family. We stand with our community of all colors, all races, all creeds, and we are going to stand with them and
march with them until they get justice, because that's what they deserve. And that's what's going to finally bring this kind of stuff, not to an end,
because the human condition is imperfect, and we will always have to deal between good and bad, but it will greatly reduce the potential for this
AMANPOUR: These are, again, very strong words.
We will march until we get justice. You are the police chief of a very diverse city. In fact, I know that it's a majority-minority city. And I
want to know why it was important for you -- why was it important for you to go out onto the streets this weekend?
ACEVEDO: Well, I have been doing this my whole career and been criticized for it.
But people forget, the rage that we're seeing is an example of the fact that our greatest force multipliers is police officers in a nation of laws
and a nation where people have rights. We cannot do our jobs if we lose the consent of the people.
And what we're seeing is that we will lose the consent of the people if injustices like this, A, continue to happen, but, B, when they happen, we
don't take the action that needs to be seen.
People know really bad policing and criminal policing when they see it. It doesn't require a law degree.
It requires just common sense. And so it's important for me to be out there with my community, because I live in this community. I care about this
community. And my number one hope is that good comes out of George Floyd's death, and, secondly, that we're responsible for this community and we're
responsible for our protesters, that we continue to have the kind of Houston strong mentality that we have here to keep this big melting pot
And I have every intention of joining my community to ensure that nobody comes here and tries to hijack the peace of the love that we have here,
despite the anger.
AMANPOUR: So, you have said what happened in Minneapolis to George Floyd and everything that's happening there and around the country is a crucial
test of your profession.
You have said that. It's a crucial test of our profession in terms of law enforcement. I need to ask you this, because some of the latest news is
that President Trump, as we know, has had a conference call with governors.
And some of that audio has come out, and we're using it. And in it, he says to governors, he says, you're weak. He says, many of you should be not
showing this weakness. We're laughingstocks. You need to dominate. You need to dominate.
I want to ask you not to, if you don't want to, comment on the president of the United States. But is the right direction for police today in this
environment to go out and dominate and to show that they're -- quote, unquote -- "not weak"?
What is -- what should the police be doing now to calm this terrible situation?
ACEVEDO: Let me just say this to the president of the United States on behalf of the police chiefs in this country.
Please, if you don't have something constructive to say, keep your mouth shut, because you're putting men and women in their early 20s at risk. It's
not about dominating. It's about winning hearts and minds.
And let's be clear. We do not want people to confuse kindness with weakness. But we don't want ignorance to ruin what we have got here in
And speaking for my colleagues across the country, where their officers are being injured, community members are being injured, if you don't have
something to say, like Forrest Gump, then don't say it, because that's the basic tenets of leadership.
And we need leadership now more than ever. And it hurts me to no end, because we -- whether we vote for someone, we don't vote for someone, it's
still our president.
But it's time to be presidential and not try to be like you're on "The Apprentice." This is -- this is not -- this is not Hollywood. This is real
life. And real lives are at risk.
And I ask the American people to please join with the police, stand together. Let's shift this to where it needs to be, to the voting booth.
Pay attention to the hearts and of the people that we elect.
And the reason this stuff happens is because too many people right now in this country that are throwing block -- bricks and damaging property never
bother to vote.
So, you have a choice. Lift up your voice. Be heard in the voting booth, and continue to march peacefully, so the focus remains on bad policing,
criminal policing. And let's be real honest. This is not just about policing. It's about society, and the disproportionality of the things
going on in our country, from education, to health, to food to everything that we all as human beings hold near and dear.
ACEVEDO: So, please, please don't -- don't react to that.
If we just hug one another, the only thing that will happen to overcome hate is love, and love and engagement. Let's engage, and let's do what we
can control, which is our own actions, our own hearts, and exercise, without fail, our right to vote.
AMANPOUR: Police Chief Acevedo, those are very strong words.
And particularly you are a Cuban immigrant. You came when you were 4 years old to the United States. And you are the police chief, the first such in
the city of Houston.
So I want to ask you, lastly, there have been reforms planned, made. For instance, in Minneapolis, the police force did implement training on
implicit bias, on mindfulness, de-escalation, crisis intervention. It did diversify the department's leadership. It did create tighter use of force
standards. It adopted body cameras.
In other words, it did all this stuff. But it did not work. Chief Acevedo, what is it going to take, how much reform, how many of these playbooks?
What is it going to take?
ACEVEDO: Listen, Christian, that's a great question. And here's my response from my heart.
What we're seeing is not just about the death of George Floyd. What we're seeing is a response to not just police brutality. What we're seeing is a
response to disproportionality of wealth and everything else in this country.
Let's not kid ourselves. Unfortunately, when policing -- when good policing happens, which happens every day in our country, it doesn't make the news.
Tens of millions of contacts every year, in very dynamic situations, it doesn't make the news.
We're the most visible cog of government. When we get it wrong, there's no excuse. We can't excuse it. We have to accept it. But don't kid yourself
into believing that the rage is just because of what happens with police.
It's about society, from pre-K education all the way up. So, please, let's just keep moving the ball. I promise you that the police chiefs are willing
to lead. We need police, labor union leaders. It's time for them to either step up and be part of the solution, or we're just going to have to get
elected officials to be doing what they need to do, which is to do everything we can to weed out bad cops, so we can lift up the very vast
majority that are honorable professionals and really deserve our support.
AMANPOUR: Well, Chief Acevedo, we thank you. And we thank you for leading by example.
Thank you for joining us.
ACEVEDO: Thank you.
AMANPOUR: Now, our final conversation this evening with our next guest, who says racism is in America's DNA.
It comes from the original sin of slavery. Nikole Hannah-Jones spearheaded, as we know, "The New York Times"' 1619 Project, which reframed American
history from the moment the first enslaved Africans were shipped over.
And Nikole Hannah-Jones is joining us now from New York.
Welcome back to the program. It's the second time we're talking in -- since this has started to unfold.
And I wonder, with all that you have seen and all the you have heard, not just this hour, but over these last five days, over this terrible weekend,
where you think this is heading. Has something happened that might bring the country to a new stage, to a new tipping point, to a new tomorrow?
NIKOLE HANNAH-JONES, PULITZER PRIZE-WINNING JOURNALIST: I'm not sure.
I think it largely depends on how those empower who have influence and the resources to produce structural change respond to this crisis that we're
I will say we have not seen this level, this number of uprisings across American cities for this sustained period of time probably since the mid to
late 1960s. So, we are in an era -- a moment whether there is potential for great structural reform.
But it's left to be seen whether that actually occurs.
AMANPOUR: So, Martin Luther King says -- Martin Luther King himself said, riot is the language of the unheard.
What goes through your mind when you hear those words and when you see these scenes and what happened to George Floyd and all the other names that
came before him? What goes through your mind when you hear that sentence, riot is the language of the unheard?
HANNAH-JONES: What goes through my mind is clearly what he was attempting to address it, which is that people have tried peaceful protest. People
have tried to bring these issues to the national conscious. People have been asking for police reforms and for resources and investment in their
And it's largely fallen on deaf ears. And so what ends up happening is, you get a spark like this. As your last guest said, police are the most visible
agents of the state in black communities. And, at some point, it becomes combustible.
We don't pay attention, but we're certainly paying attention now.
HANNAH-JONES: Go ahead. Go ahead.
AMANPOUR: No, you go ahead. The other thing? Go ahead.
HANNAH-JONES: Well, I was just going to say, what other levers do the poorest black communities have? They do vote, they do protest, but they do
not run the institutions that can actually change their lives.
And at some point, they have to use what they have.
AMANPOUR: So, in a previous conversation this hour, I spoke to Martin Luther King III and to DeRay McKesson.
And there was a difference of view as to actually what even violence meant.
AMANPOUR: And DeRay was very clear that the black community is not being violent, the police are, that property damage is property damage, but it's
the police who are being violent against people's bodies.
So I want to ask you, because I know you have talked about it. And there was this amazing piece of video over the weekend where two people were
talking -- one was a 16-year-old, the others were older -- about the nature of what was unfolding and about what the young -- the young one should do.
And the older ones were saying, don't engage in violence. Let's just play it. Then I want you to talk to me a little bit about it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Always standing around for a kumbaya. Ain't nobody coming to protect us. We got to start our own (EXPLETIVE DELETED) in life.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I understand. But let me tell you something right here. This 16 -- he's 16. He's 16.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What we going to do?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You tell me.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What we going to do?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But this ain't the way, because they ready to let loose.
If the United States president say, if you loot, we shoot...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I know it. I know it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But it's time to stand up. At this point -- at this point, I'm ready to die!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: So, it's intense, because it's exactly what's unfolding, the dilemma.
What do we do? How do we do it? You sort of said, both are right and wrong. Tell me about it.
HANNAH-JONES: I mean, what that clip is really showing is this sense of helplessness, that we are a 13 percent minority in a majority-white
We are descendants of people who were enslaved in this country. And so, ultimately, our protest is only as successful as we can convince white
Americans to actually comply with the Constitution and treat black Americans as full citizens.
I think I would not describe looting as violence. Looting is property damage, but it is not violence.
And I would actually like to go to Martin Luther King's own words. He wrote a letter to the American Psychological Association in September of 1967.
And what he said is that looting comes from the most enraged and deprived Negro and allows them to take hold of consumer goods with the ease that a
white man does by using his purse.
Often, the Negro does not even want what he takes. He wants the experience of taking. Negroes have committed crimes, but they are the derivative
crimes, and they are born of the greater crimes of the white society.
So, when we ask Negroes to abide by the law, let us also demand that the white man abide by the law in the ghettos as well. So, I think we need to
have some perspective on what exactly we're seeing when we call that violence and looting.
AMANPOUR: I think it's -- it's so interesting to hear you say this. And it really made me sit out when DeRay said it, because this is how it's being
And I have to say that we are being criticized by some very prominent members of the black community, from LeBron James, to various people in
Congress, to all over there, that we're focusing maybe on the wrong thing, that we go just to one area, and not to the other area with our cameras and
our lenses and our reporting.
And it's really, really interesting to try to break it down. And I want to say, obviously, because you are the producer of the 1619 Project, 400 years
since slavery in America, and you won the Pulitzer Prize for your work on that.
And you have said, among other things, "People who've been left out of the social contract find no need to adhere it."
And then somebody sort of checked you on that and said, not left out, excluded from the social contract. And you kind of agreed. You agreed with
being term-checked, so to speak, on that.
I mean, this is the thing. You are asking people whose communities have been looted for decades, who don't have proper schools, who don't have
proper amenities, who have been -- when we see someone killed by the police, that is the worst manifestation of police violence, but it doesn't
get to the daily police violence that doesn't end in death, the daily degradations that black Americans face, the fact that these communities
have been preyed upon by predatory lenders.
It goes on and on. And so, when we think about someone taking an act to take something from some big box name store, it is symbolic. That one pair
of shoes that you have stolen from Foot Locker is not going to change your life, but it is a symbolic taking.
And so when we -- we think about what the social contract was and who created it, it is that, if you follow the rules, if you do the right thing,
then you will be able to access an equal society.
And that has never been true for black Americans, and particularly for the lowest-income, most segregated black Americans. So you cannot regularly not
include them in the social contract, regularly violate the promises that this country makes to Americans, and then, at this moment in time, say,
well, you should abide by the laws and the rules of our country because that's the right thing to do.
There's no reason to expect that people who have regularly been left out will comply with this right now.
AMANPOUR: And so building on that, back in 2016, you wrote an essay called "The Grief That White Americans Can't Share," four years ago. What is that
HANNAH-JONES: We in this country, white Americans are raised to think of themselves as individuals, and they have been allowed for 400 years to be
But black people are a collective. We are a collective, because, by virtue of being assigned the race of black, what we were and were not able to do
legally, what circumstances we would live in, what schools we could go to, what neighborhoods we could live in, what jobs we could have were all
constrained by our membership in a race.
And, to this day, we see incidents. It doesn't matter how much education you have. It doesn't matter what type of job you have. You are treated --
quote, unquote -- "as a black person" in this country, which means your rights can be violated at any moment.
And so we see this as a collective pain. These are not individual incidents of rogue cops. This is a continuing pattern of violence against black
Americans. And even though I don't know George Floyd, he's like a family member.
I know that what happened to him could happen to my uncle, it could happen to my cousin. And that is the grief I think that is very difficult for
white Americans to feel. Maybe they have felt it in incidents like 9/11, where there was this kind of collective grieving, but that is our regular
That collective grieving for the desecration of black life is a regular, daily experience for black people in this country.
AMANPOUR: It's just so important to hear from you and this whole hour, hearing about what's happening and what needs to happen in the future.
Nikole Hannah-Jones, thank you so much for being with us.
And, finally, in dark and painful times like these, we want to swerve a little, but we want to give thanks to those who bring light and joy and
hope. After a lifetime of doing just that, the great artist, the mega- performance artist Christo has died.
He died over the weekend of natural causes. He was 84 years old. And he was famous for wrapping iconic monuments and landscapes in reams of colorful
material. He fled communist Bulgaria in 1957 during the Cold War, and he spent 56 years in the United States, where he created some of his best-
In 1983, he surrounded 11 islands off the coast of Miami with pink fabric. It looks like a mirage blowing in that blue water. In 2005, he mounted
thousands of orange gates in Central Park in New York. That took 26 years to get permission from the city.
But perhaps one of his most powerful and important words, particularly in this context, was taking a symbol of tyranny and oppression, the Nazi era
Christo in Berlin and wrapping it in 100,000 square meters of soft cloth to mark the emergence of a new democratic and free Germany.
When I spoke to him, when I spoke to Christo during his London exhibition, he told me that his youth under violent and harsh Soviet communism taught
him never to concede not one millimeter of his freedom.
And we can see that happening on the streets of the United States today. Those were powerful words then, and they are powerful now.
That's it for us. You can always catch us online, on our podcast and across social media.
Thank you for watching, and goodbye from London.