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Damar Hamlin Speaks Publicly For The First Time; Memphis Police Shut Down SCORPION Unit Tied To Deadly Beating; 2 Sheriff's Deputies Face Investigation After Video Release; Five Former Memphis Police Officers Involved In Arrest Charged With Second-Degree Murder And Kidnapping; One Dead, 2-Year-Old Among 3 Wounded In Baltimore Shooting; Netanyahu To "Strengthen" Settlements In Response To Attacks; Cleanup Underway In New Zealand After Deadly Flash Flooding. Aired 7-8a ET

Aired January 29, 2023 - 07:00   ET




CHRIS JONES, KANSAS CITY CHIEFS' DEFENSIVE LINEMAN: All right. Yes. Take care. See you all at Burrowhead Stadium.


COY WIRE, CNN SPORTS ANCHOR: All right. We're going to end with some Sunday motivation for you. Bills safety Damar Hamlin speaking publicly for the first time since suffering cardiac arrest during a game earlier this month.


DAMAR HAMLIN, BUFFALO BILLS DEFENSIVE BACK: What happened to me on Monday Night Football, I feel, is a direct example of God -- using me as a vessel to share my passion and my love directly from my heart with the entire world. And I'm able to give it back to kids and communities all across the world who need it the most. And that's always been my dream. I couldn't do this without any of the support and the love, and I can't wait to continue to take you all on this journey with me.


WIRE: Fans have helped rally, raising more than $9 million for Damar Hamlin's charity, which helps kids. American Heart Association, Amara and Boris, stated 356,000 people suffer out of hospital cardiac arrest each year. That's nearly 1,000 per day. 90 percent of them don't make it.

Damar Hamlin clearly taking nothing for granted on his opportunity here to create positive change.

AMARA WALKER, CNN ANCHOR: I love that moment to raise awareness as well. And by the way, I love that you use the word gnarly in your report. I mean, it brings me back to my -- not that I surf, the surfer days. That was a gnarly report, Coy.

WIRE: I didn't know all about Jim.

WALKER: I don't surf, I don't surf. I just like being near the surf. Thanks so much, Coy.

WIRE: You got it.

WALKER: The next hour of CNN This Morning starts right now.

SANCHEZ: Good morning. Buenos dias and welcome to CNN This Morning. I'm Boris Sanchez.

WALKER: And I'm Amara Walker.

Permanently disbanded. A major change at the Memphis Police Department after the beating death of Tyre Nichols as the country sees another night of protests.

SANCHEZ: Plus, a two-year-old child among those injured after an overnight shooting in Baltimore. The passionate message from the city's mayor and the ongoing search for the shooter.

WALKER: Plus, some teachers in Florida are now covering up or removing books from their classrooms. Why they say a new law is having a real impact on how they teach.

SANCHEZ: Plus, tapped out. Why the faucets in one California town have run dry, just ahead on CNN This Morning.

WALKER: Hey, everyone, good morning. It is Sunday, January 29th. Where has the time gone? We're at the end of the month. Thank you so much for being with us. Good morning to you, Boris.

SANCHEZ: Great to be with you, as always, Amara. A pleasure to start our week with you.

We begin this morning with residents in Memphis calling for additional reform after the city's police force agreed to shut down that controversial specialty SCORPION unit that was linked to the beating death of Tyre Nichols.




WALKER: Protesters in Memphis and other cities rallied for a second day after officials released graphic video showing the deadly encounter. A makeshift memorial has been set up near the corner street sign where the 29-year-old was repeatedly beaten by officers.

A GoFundMe account has also raised, nearly $1 million for his family. But residents of Memphis say more needs to be done for Nichols and for the city. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KIARA HILL, CONCERNED RESIDENT: To see the events unfold, how they've unfolded with this Tyre Nichols situation, it's heartbreaking. I have a son, and Tyre was out of the officers on the scene. He was the calmest. Tyre Nichols did not deserve this at all whatsoever.

Moving forward, I just don't know what can help this city --


SANCHEZ: The city has confirmed all five officers who were fired and charged in Nichols' death were members of this disbanded SCORPION unit. The specialized force was created back in 2021 to tackle the city's rising crime. It's still unclear, though, why Nichols, who was unarmed, was targeted by these officers.

CNN's Shimon Prokupecz reports.

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: A significant move here by the Memphis Police Department. The police chief announcing that they are disbanding the SCORPION unit. This is the unit that the five former officers were part of. Their tactics have been called into question.

Of course, we saw their aggressive moves when they pulled over Tyre Nichols. And when it was learned that these five officers were part of that SCORPION unit, many of the community members and of course, Nichols' family all came out asking that the police chief disband this unit.

Now, what this unit does is that they drive around in unmarked cars, aggressively fighting crime, and some of their tactics have come into question. And because of the concerns raised by the community, the police chief said that she met with officers in that unit, and they all decided that in the interest of trying to heals the wounds here and try and help some of the work that the police department and the community knows, they're going to need to do to try and win back to respect, she is going to disband it.


And then we'll see what happens. You know, certainly there's a lot more work here to do as this investigation continues. Shimon Prokupecz, CNN, Memphis, Tennessee.

SANCHEZ: Shimon, thank you so much.

Let's get some legal perspective now from criminal defense attorney and former prosecutor Bernarda Villalona. Bernarda, thank you so much for sharing part of your Sunday with us. First, I want to get your reaction to the news yesterday that the Memphis Police Department disbanded this SCORPION specialized policing unit.

BERNARDA VILLALONA, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY & FORMER PROSECUTOR: Good morning, Boris, thank you for having me. In terms of them disbanding the SCORPION unit, I have great paws with it, because what happens commonly is that it just -- it becomes another unit with a different name, with different players, different law enforcement officers.

So the question would be, is this something that's going to be permanent. The change has to be systemic change. It's not just about disbanding our unit, because the issue with the culture within law enforcement.

SANCHEZ: So two more officers are under investigation now. I shouldn't say sheriff's deputies because of their appearance on some of the video that was released on Friday night. After it was released, the Sheriff's County Deputy's Office essentially put them on leave. They're now investigating their involvement.

The family attorney, Tyre Nichols' family attorney spoke to CNN about that. I want to play a soundbite for our viewers.


ANTONIO ROMANUCCI, ATTORNEY FOR FAMILY OF TYRE NICHOLS: Now, it's my personal opinion that those other officers who are on scene, they should be -- they should at least immediately be suspended. I would not be surprised at all if they're terminated. And then I would also expect criminal charges. That's my opinion.


SANCHEZ: Bernarda, given what you saw in the video, do you think they might face charges?

VILLALONA: Well, definitely the administrative charges, and that's why they been suspended. But they're suspended with pay. It's not like they're suspended without pay. And administrative charges can ultimately lead to termination. I think definitely when we're talking about administrative charges, we're talking about different burden, preponderance of the evidence.

Did they fail to act? Were they supposed to do something and they failed to do that? And I think that right there is clear. In terms of criminal charges, I don't see murder. I don't see assault. Probably, do we see like an obstruction charge? Do we see a failure to act chart? Possibly. But again, remember, that's a different burden. That's beyond a reasonable doubt.

And the prosecution will have to get a timeline, clear timeline of when they got there, and what they actually observed and what they did and did not do in order to determine whether they can sustain charges, whether state charges or federal charges for the failure to act.

SANCHEZ: And do you think we could see federal civil rights violation charges against the officers similar to what we saw in Minneapolis after the murder of George Floyd?

VILLALONA: Absolutely, this is a clear-cut federal charges that we can see in this case, because they acted under color of law, and they violated the civil rights of Tyre Nichols. That is definitely clear. There's no doubt about it. It's a matter of time of when that would happen. The question will be that the same issue that we had with Derek Chauvin's.

At the time of trial, or at the time of sentencing, where were these officers, former officers serve their time? Would it be in federal custody, or would it be in state custody? But, of course, the state charges and state prosecution always moves quickly and moves first. And it's going to be one that's going to be live for us to see.

SANCHEZ: And I'm curious to get your perspective on this. I was speaking with former federal prosecutor Shan Wu yesterday, and he made the case that it may be easiest for these five officers charged with aggravated second-degree murder, among other charges, kidnapping, et cetera, to take a plea deal. Would you counsel them to do so?

VILLALONA: So it depends for which one of the five officers. Obviously, what those five former officers did not count for, they did not count for that pole camera to be recording their actions. Because if we take it back to the words that were used, at some point during the video footage where we hear with the body worn camera, whether it was intentional or not that one of the body worn cameras ended up on the floor and now recording the actual actions.

But at some point, we hear them trying to come up with a story as to why they use the force. You heard one said, well, he tried to reach for my gun. But when we see the sky cam, you don't see any of that. That was a story that they were coming up with.


SANCHEZ: Yes. If you look at that surveillance footage, it appears that Tyre Nichols is defenseless as he's getting hit with some of the hardest blows that they struck him with. These officers are due in court in mid-February. If you were their defense attorney, how would you start building their defense?

VILLALONA: Well, first off, try to retrieve all of the video because remember, after the indictment was told to the public, the attorneys did not have the video. So they weren't sure exactly, but for the words of their client of what actually transpired.

So at this point, if I were the defense attorneys, I will want to get all of the video footage, so I can try to parse out what each one of them did, even though it doesn't matter for the charges, because they're being charged for the collective actions of the group that ultimately led to the death of Tyre Nichols.

But what I will try to do for those attorneys, for those defendants is tried to see and sparse out each of their actions and try to separate yourselves from that. But that's going to be very difficult after you see that sky cam, because you see at least all of them, each one them, either put their hands, put their foot or use the baton or use the spray, all types of actions that are taking place on the body of Tyre Nichols. And in the end, there's no excuse for the failure to act and the failure to intervene. SANCHEZ: Bernarda Villalona, thank you so much for the time. We appreciate your expertise.

VILLALONA: Thank you.

SANCHEZ: Of course. So make sure you stay tuned into State of the Union this morning. Dana Bash is going to sit down with the Nichols' family attorney Ben Crump to talk about what happens next following the release of these disturbing videos. That and a slew of lawmakers are going to be joining Dana at 9:00 this morning right here on CNN.

WALKER: And sadly, we are following yet another deadly shooting in the U.S. Police in Baltimore say one person was killed, three others wounded in a shooting last night. Among the wounded, a two-year-old child. Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott says whoever carried out the shooting is a coward and he urged anyone with information to come forward.


MAYOR BRANDON SCOTT, BALTIMORE: We're talking about someone did. A woman shot, a child shot, another child injured, another person shot. Over what? I see a lot of folks trying to be acting like they're tough, but they're really weak. Because only weak people shoot somebody when you know children are right there.

And if you harboring that person and that's your homeboy, if that's your man and that's your cousin, I don't care who it is, then you're weak too. And we need to step up and be better for ourselves.


WALKER: The two-year-old was shot -- who was shot is now in stable condition. The two adults who were wounded are in critical.

California coping with its fourth mass shooting in a week. Los Angeles police say three people were killed, at least four injured in a shooting overnight. It happened just outside of Beverly Hills in the Beverly Crest community. Police say three people were shot inside a car and the other four while standing outside a home. This follows mass shootings in Monterey Park Half Moon Bay and Oakland.

All right, still ahead, Israeli-Palestinian tensions are escalating amid a wave of violence. Now, Israel's Prime Minister outlining a new plan after the Jerusalem attacks.

SANCHEZ: Plus, torrential flooding ripping through parts of New Zealand. A look at the devastation left behind as residents there trying to salvage whatever they can. We're back in just moments.



SANCHEZ: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says he has a six- point plan to fight terrorism in response to shootings in Jerusalem on Friday and Saturday. Netanyahu says that settlements need to be strengthened in light of the attacks.

WALKER: He says his plan will, quote, exact a price from terrorists and those who support them. CNN Jerusalem Correspondent Hadas Gold joins us now. Hadas, tell us more about what what we know about Netanyahu's plan and what this price is that he's talking about.

HADAS GOLD, CNN JERUSALEM CORRESPONDENT: Yes. So Netanyahu rolled out this plan partly last night and also this morning during a meeting of his security Cabinet. I should note he also went to visit some of the victims of the attack this morning. And amongst those are sort of more immediate actions including the increasing of deployment of security forces.

You heard him talking about trying to increase security for settlements. There's been a few instances in the last day or so where settlements, these -- in the occupied West Bank have had security incidents. And he's also saying that he's going to demolish the home of the attacker in that Friday night shooting, a 21-year-old Palestinian resident of East Jerusalem.

This is something common that happens here, for those who are accused of terrorism, is that their home will be first sealed and then go through a legal process and then potentially ultimately demolished. They're also expanding -- talking about expanding further issues. Among those is expanding the number of people in Israel who can get gun permits and carry guns on the street.

Netanyahu saying that that Saturday morning shooting was stopped only because one of the people that was shot at actually had a legal gun on him and shot back. So Netanyahu says he essentially wants to allow thousands of more people to have gun permits in Israel. It's more difficult to get a gun license here than for example in the United States. He wants to speed that process up.

And likely what will encounter the most legal pushback and the most controversy is he says he's going to discuss possibly revoking the Israeli identity cards and residency of families of terrorists. Not just the people themselves, but also their families of terrorists that he says that support terrorism.

Now he says that they are not looking for escalation, but they're prepared for any eventuality. He's also though calling on Israeli citizens despite the fact that he's talking about increasing gun permits to not take the law into their own hands. Guys?


SANCHEZ: Hadas Gold reporting live from Jerusalem. Thank you so much, Hadas.

Cleanup efforts are underway in New Zealand right now after deadly flash flooding. In Auckland, officials say that a summers worth of rain. an entire summers worth of rain fell in just one day.

WALKER: Yes, that is way too much in a short period of time. Residents in hard hit areas are trying to salvage what they can from what is left of their belongings. CNN's Michael Holmes has more.


MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Mud on the floor, waterlogged drawers. This is what the floods left behind in Auckland. This was someone's house full of a lifetime of possessions. Residents say it took just minutes before chest deep waters washed through it. No time to save anything except themselves.

REBECCA MAGEE, RESIDENT: I felt quite helpless. Never been in this situation before. They happen real fast.

HOLMES (voice-over): New Zealand's new Prime Minister Chris Hipkins inspected the damage by air and on the ground and says the cleanup will be massive. That's because the amount of rain that fell Friday in Auckland has never reached such recorded levels in such a short amount of time.

The city had its worst downpour on record, a burst of about 240 millimeters of rain falling in just a few hours. The heavy rains caused flash floods, closing highways, grounding flights and stranding passengers, plunging neighborhoods underwater.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The water I think is up here. But when we're trying to open that door to swim outside.

HOLMES (voice-over): The waters have since receded, but there are new fears in Auckland and further south where the storm has moved. The saturated ground giving way to landslides in some areas, leaving houses dangling from cliffs and backyards sliding down hills.

Stunned neighbors are trying to determine the scale of the damage using the drier conditions to try to find anything salvageable from their homes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I have been in this community my whole life, 45 years. I've never seen it like this.

HOLMES (voice-over): But the brief cleanup that was started may have to be on hold as meteorologists say there is more rain in the forecast.

Michael Holmes, CNN.


SANCHEZ: Thanks to Michael Holmes for bringing us up to speed on that.

Still to come, the death of Tyre Nichols is sparking major questions about policing in America. And this morning, we have CNN's Van Jones joining us to discuss an op ed he published explaining why he believes this tragedy is a bit more complicated.


[07:26:45] SANCHEZ: As prosecutors build their case against five Memphis police officers accused of murdering Tyre Nichols, CNN is now getting a closer look at exactly how and where the 29-year-old's encounter with police unfolded, putting into context the circumstances of his death. We should again warn you that this video is graphic and contains strong language and it begins with what officers' claim was a traffic stop.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He'll get away. Blow the fuck up.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Get your ass out the fucking car.

TYRE NICHOLS, MEMPHIS RESIDENT: Damn. I didn't do anything.

SANCHEZ (on-camera): Police body camera footage shows that officers first encountered Tyre Nichols at this intersection in Memphis. It was about 8:24 p.m. on January 7th, when they pulled him over. He stopped his car in the middle of that left turning lane and almost immediately, officers withdrew their weapons and they rushed his car demanding that he get out.

In seconds, they ripped him from the vehicle. Tyre was on the ground struggling. They deployed pepper spray. He was demanding an explanation trying to figure out why they stopped him to begin with. A struggle ensued. He finally wound up on his feet and he took off heading in that direction.




SANCHEZ (voice-over): Officers discharge a taser at the 29-year-old but apparently it misses. They begin to chase him as other officers are called to the scene.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Young male black, slim build, blue jeans and a hoodie.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Check. Which way he's running?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Southbound on Ross where we last saw him.

NICHOLS: What are you doing?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Shut the fuck up.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Give me your hand. Give me your hand.

SANCHEZ (on-camera): The body camera footage picks up about a quarter mile away and eight minutes later at this intersection. It shows two officers on top of Tyre beating him and pepper spraying him all as he calls out for his mother.

Over the next five minutes, that mounted police surveillance camera shows what unfolded here. Officers bludgeoning him with punches and kicks and a nightstick, much of the blows coming with Tyre not posing any apparent threat. Eventually, it's here at this intersection that they dragged his body and slumped him over onto a police vehicle. All of this unfolding only about 80 yards from his mother's front door.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You -- spray it again.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Watch out. Watch out.


SANCHEZ (voice-over): Then officers are seeing fist bumping and heard speculating whether he was on drugs, while Tyre Nichols is slumped over and bleeding.





UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey, sit out, bro. Sit out, man.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Motherfucker (inaudible).

SANCHEZ (voice-over): At 8:41 p.m., two medical personnel arrive on the scene. They've been placed on leave as their response to the incident is investigated.


It isn't until 9:02 p.m., 21 minutes later, that an ambulance finally pulls into view of the camera, rushing Tyre Nichols to the hospital where three days later he dies.


SANCHEZ (on camera): We should also add that two deputies with the Shelby County Sheriff's Office have also been placed on leave following the video's release. Their actions that night now also under investigation.

WALKER: All right. Still a lot to talk about. CNN Political Commentator Van Jones joining me now to discuss.

First off, thank you so much for joining us early this morning. I know it's 4:00, 4:30 there in California. So, really appreciate the time. In a recent opinion piece on, Van, you wrote, the police who killed Tyre Nichols were black, but they might still have been driven by racism.

And I was struck by the part of the piece where you wrote this. One of the sad facts about anti-black racism is that black people ourselves are not immune to its pernicious effects. Society's message that black people are inferior, unworthy and dangerous is pervasive. Over many decades, numerous experiments have shown these ideas can infiltrate black minds as well as white. Self-hatred is a real thing.

So, you believe this racial bias played a role in the officers' behaviors?

VAN JONES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR AND FORMER OBAMA ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Yes, I do, because, first of all, black people are at risk from police no matter what color, black, white, brown. You talk to African Americans, they will tell you it doesn't matter. There is this pervasive view from law enforcement that if you are black, you're dangerous.

And I think some people think, oh, well, so a white police officer going after a black person, you understand the racial implications. The problem is there are whole neighborhoods that, in many cities, are just considered by police departments kind of war zones and anything goes there.

And so, I think we have to have a more nuanced view of what's going on to root out racism. It's not just about having black cops or white cops or brown cops. It's about having cops that are trained to respect everyone and who are disciplined and punished when they don't. And we don't have that in place. Black people are at risk no matter the color of the police officer.

WALKER: For some reason your opinion has been a bit controversial, at least from what I have seen on social media. What has the backlash sounded like and what is your response to your critics?

JONES: Oh, well, listen, I think some people say, hey, listen, you guys just want to find race no matter what. You are just going to scream racism even if it's all black, you are going to scream racism. And I understand, it does seem weird when we are saying there is a racial dimension here even though the police are African American. But I think what's important for us to be able to do is this is about power. It's not about black. It's about blue. It's about power.

And when you have police officers who know in certain neighborhoods, they better not act that way, but in other neighborhoods they can act that way, that's about power. That's about domination. And so, I think it's important that we use this as an opportunity to get more nuanced and more clear about the dangers that African Americans face from police officers, period, when there is not accountability. WALKER: Yes, and you also make the point, Van, that at the end of the day, it is the race of the victim who is brutalized, I'm quoting your article, not the race of the violent cop that is most relevant in determining whether racial bias is a factor in police violence. How do we, as a society, you know, all the way from the federal government and down to individual police departments in our communities, prevent this from happening again, from adding to this long list of black deaths, unfortunately, tragically, in this country?

JONES: You know, unfortunately, after George Floyd we have people marching of all colors. There were Black Lives Matter protests where there were no black people. There were people of all colors. White people saying something needs to be done. Unfortunately, the federal government still has not passed a single piece of legislation since George Floyd to make a difference. Thankfully, President Biden did do some executive orders, it's not enough.

And so, I think it's time now for us to relook. Here we are, almost three years later, there has been no federal change in the law to make this stuff go away. And so, I think that this should be a chance for us to be looking at it. I also just want to say, you know, human rights abuses happen all around the world. And often the human rights abusers look exactly like the people they are abusing. Look at the Philippines, what the law enforcement is doing there with this unbelievable attack on the community around drug enforcement. Those people all look the same, they talk the same.

Human rights abuses are about power, often discredited and marginalized minorities get the brunt of it. But it's about power. And so, we have to start saying, we don't want human rights abuses in the United States from any color cop and we don't want the black community people to continue to bear the brunt of it.


WALKER: You know, Van, I know that a pivotal moment in your life, as a human being, as a black man, and also as a lawyer was the Rodney King beating. What? 30-some years ago, I remember, you know, being in California, watching these images as a kid play out. Yes, very traumatizing. And I know you dedicated much of your career, you know, to helping reform the system.

I am just curious to know what impact this Tyre Nichols case has had on you as a human. You know, because I've have seen reactions from the black community, from friends of mine who told me that they refuse to watch the video. They couldn't do it emotionally because it would just bring them back to reliving the trauma of seeing yet another black person being treated in this way. Did you watch the video and how has this changed you or impacted you?

JONES: Well, you know, I wouldn't have watched it except I had to because I work at CNN. So, you know, we all watched it together and we all had the same impact. You know, this is -- it's hard because, you know, I have black sons and they are not, unlike Tyre. you know, Tyre is a skateboard kid. He's a Starbucks aficionado. He is an Instagram photographer. He is a good kid. He was a good kid. And I got a kid that loves, you know, RipStik and Starbucks and all this.

And it's every black parent's nightmare that your kid, who was never been in trouble before, gets somehow in a situation where his humanity cannot be seen and his humanity cannot be honored. And you saw him -- he was saying, you know, sir. And he -- hey, calm down. The only calm voice in that entire thing was Tyre trying to calm the police down. And then finally the brutality got so bad. The pepper spray, which is a horrifically caustic chemical, got to him, he jumped up and ran and it cost him his life. You know, that should not happen for a traffic stop.

And so, again, it rips back the scars. It rips off the scabs. My sister said she could not watch it. A lot of people just couldn't watch it. And I, frankly, wouldn't have watched it except it was my job. But to see him pummeled and beaten and stood up and punched in the face over and over again, it was horrifying. And you know, I hope this galvanizes some action.

I am proud that the City of Memphis, after George Floyd, changed some of their rules and regulations and policies so they could take swift action. And you saw that swift action. But the swift action shouldn't just come in this one case with -- by black cops. People are being beaten right now, conceivably, in similar situations. They may not have the video camera, but bad things are happening and we need to change the laws and do something about it.

WALKER: Yes. Something absolutely needs to change. Van Jones, really appreciate this conversation. Thank you so much.

JONES: Thank you.

SANCHEZ: Still ahead, some Florida teachers are expressing frustration after new state laws require the approval of books in classroom libraries. Now, some of them are taking action.



WALKER: Fear and confusion are what some Florida teachers are feeling in the wake of a new state law that requires the approval of books in classroom libraries.

SANCHEZ: Championed by Governor Ron DeSantis, a state memo says the new law require all books be pre-approved or vetted by a media specialist trained by Florida's Department of Education. Now, some teachers are taking action. CNN's Leyla Santiago has more.


LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voiceover): Behind the covered wall of paper in this Manatee County classroom, books. Teacher Don Falls told us he covered the bookshelves out of concern for a new state law that requires all books in classroom libraries to be approved or vetted by a media specialist or librarian that is trained by the state. DON FALLS, SOCIAL STUDIES TEACHER, MANATEE HIGH SCHOOL AND HIGH SCHOOL TEACHER SUING FLORIDA GOVERNOR RON DESANTIS: We were instructed last week that we were, essentially, had three choices as far as our personal libraries at our -- in our classrooms. We could remove them completely, box them up. We could cover them up with paper or some sort of something, or they could be entered into a database where the school district has all of the library books and all the other kinds. And if the book was in the system, then it could remain on the shelf, open.

SANTIAGO (voiceover): Falls, who is part of a lawsuit against Governor Ron DeSantis regarding his Stop W.O.K.E Act says, it has all caused him and other teachers much fear and angst. But the district says, it never instructed teachers to shutdown classroom libraries. According to the school district, volunteers will be helping to catalog books in classroom libraries. If a book already has the green light, it can go right back on the shelf for students. But if it is not pre-approved, it must be vetted before a student can have access to it.

GOV. RON DESANTIS, (R-FL): We are going to make sure that parents have a seat at the table and that we protect their rights because nobody is more invested in the proper well-being of kids than the themselves.

SANTIAGO (voiceover): According to Florida's Department of Education, selection of -- which includes classroom libraries must be free of pornography and material prohibited under state statute. Suited to student needs and their ability to comprehend the material presented.


Appropriate for the grade level and age group for which the materials are used and made available. Violations can be result in a third- degree felony.

CHAD CHOATE III, MANATEE SCHOOL BOARD CHAIR: This is us protecting the teachers, not saying we are banning books.

SANTIAGO (voiceover): During a school board meeting this week, Manatee County school officials acknowledged they don't know how long it will take to verify all the books. In the meantime, the district said students have access to books in their school's main library, but the process has sparked confusion and high emotion.

LACY HOLLINGS, PARENTS: I would not suggest banning books. It's a slippery slope. This is good literature with value. Please, do not ban books.

SANTIAGO (voiceover): During a school board meeting in Pinellas County, school officials confirmed they too are working to align policies with state requirements. School officials say, a group of library media specialists reviewed 94 book titles over the summer.

DANIEL J. EVANS, MANATEE CO. DEPUTY SUPERINTENDENT OF INSTRUCTIONAL SERVICE: And that team did recommend 10 titles to be weeded out of our collections or moved to our adult-only resource library.

PAM MCALOON, PARENT: There is appropriateness and there is inappropriateness. Where books are concerned, we have to keep -- really the minors in mind. You cannot substitute adult supervision. You just cannot. Adult supervision, parents, whether it be a guardian, or grandparent, have to be aware of what the child is being taught.

SANTIAGO (voiceover): While some parents praised what they call parents' rights at work, others worry it's a slippery slope.

FALLS: Anytime you restrict access to information, to knowledge, it's censorship. There's -- I don't think there is any other way to categorize it.

SANTIAGO (voiceover): Leyla Santiago, CNN, Miami.


SANCHEZ: Thanks to Leyla for her reporting. Stay with "CNN This Morning." We'll be right back.



SANCHEZ: As House Speaker Kevin McCarthy assumes the new role of House Speaker here in Washington, D.C., some faucets in his home California district have been running dry.

WALKER: And some say the solutions he is proposing to fix the crisis don't go far enough. CNN's Rene Marsh investigates.


RENE MARSH, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voiceover): In California's drought ravaged central valley, wells have gone dry.

GLORIA MENDOZA, DROUGHT VICTIM: (Speaking in a foreign language).

MARSH (voiceover): Gloria Mendoza relies on five jugs of water delivered to her home in Tulare County every 15 days for drinking cooking, but it's not always enough. Two hours southeast, in Kern County, Randy Kyt's Community Well is also dry.

RANDY KYT, DROUGHT VICTIM: You can't flush toilets. You can't keep your house clean. You can't, you know, have drinking water.

MARSH (voiceover): despite the recent parade of intense rainstorms, both Tulare and Kern counties have experienced the most weeks of severe drought in the past decade, compared to just about any other part of the country. Both counties have long been represented by Congressman Kevin McCarthy.

REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA), HOUSE SPEAKER: On our district, the community of Tooleville, has run out of water. MARSH (voiceover): When asked how the newly elected house speaker will wield his power to help fix his home states' water crisis, his office says, McCarthy has been a staunch advocate on water issues, introducing broad legislative solutions like grants for enlarging reservoirs dams and increasing infrastructure to store rainwater during wet seasons.

PETER GLEICK, PACIFIC INSTITUTE: Those old solutions are not the answer to California's water problems. There are no more places to build dams. There's no more new water to fill dams today, given climate change, given overdemand.

MARSH (voiceover): McCarthy has voted against bills, addressing climate change and drought. And since becoming speaker has dissolved the congressional Democrat's Select Committee on the climate crisis. His office did not respond when asked whether addressing climate change is a part of the solution.

GLEICK: Anyone, frankly, who talks about trying to solve OUR water problems without talking about the reality of human caused climate change doesn't understand the scope of the problem.

MARSH (voiceover): In McCarthy's district, trucked in water fills emergency community tanks that connect to household plumbing for sanitary needs like washing dishes. But it is not safe for drinking. Mendoza shows us what she believes the water that reeks of chlorine has done to her laundry.

The non-profit, Self-Help Enterprises, uses state funding to deliver 7 million gallons of trucked water and 30,000 gallons of bottled drinking water per month to some 9,000 people in the central valley.

TAMI MCVAY, SELF-HELP ENTERPRISE: We have seen kids taking baths at local gas stations. Being bullied at school because they don't have access or -- because they don't have clean clothes.

MARSH (voiceover): Mendoza whose story represents many of the poorest communities bearing the brunt of California's water crisis has this message for McCarthy.

MENDOZA (through translator): I want to live like you. I want to be able to have water running through my house.


SANCHEZ: Our thanks to CNN's Rene Marsh for that report.

This morning more than 13 million people are under winter weather alerts as an arctic cold front continues to pushes south and east.

WALKER: And the storm system expected to some bring dangerously cold temperatures and heavy snow with it. Meteorologist Britley Ritz is at the CNN weather center with more.

Hi, Britley. BRITLEY RITZ, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Hey, yes. We are under several winter weather alerts, including windchill advisories and windchill warnings. Windchills warnings in the areas in purple, that includes parts of the Dakotas back into the upper Midwest where temperatures are going to be dropping or feels like they're dropping down to about 45 to 50 below zero.

Current windchills right now, international falls, right there on the Canadian line there in the northern parts of Minnesota at 44 below. That's what it feels like when we factor in the wind.


The forecast, over the upcoming three days, notice there's not much of a difference. We try to warm up, but it's really difficult to do so especially when the winds are so strong and that cold air mass coming down from the north sets in.

The snow across the Great Lakes now, most of it rain all the way down through the Ohio Valley back into the south, that changes over. We've got a stalled boundary. So, we'll watch that get cooler and we wind up with a lot ice. So, it's not a good situation especially across the south when they're not prepared for it. Some of these areas could pick roughly about a quarter to half an inch of ice. Boris, Amara.

WALKER: All right. Be careful out there. Britley Ritz, thank you very much.

And thank you, Boris, for hanging out. Fun morning with you.

SANCHEZ: As always, Amara. Great to be with you. Don't go anywhere because "Inside Politics Sunday with Abby Phillip" is up after a short break.