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New Day Saturday
One Officer Killed, One Injured In Attack At U.S. Capitol; W.H., Capitol Flags Lowered To Half-Staff To Honor Officer Killed In Attack; Majority Of States Expand Vaccinations To Everyone 16 And Up; U.S. Health Officials Plead For Caution As Variants Spread; Feds Looking Into Congressman Matt Gaetz's Relationship With Young Women; Witnesses Testify To Feelings Of Guilt, Helplessness And Trauma. Aired 7-8a ET
Aired April 03, 2021 - 07:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A second deadly attack on the Capitol grounds in less than three months.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: One of our officers have succumbed to his injuries.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It is clear that the Capitol is under some threat?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Putting your knee on a neck for that amount of time. It's just uncalled for.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The week filling in gaps of what happened on May 25th, 2020.
DEREK CHAUVIN, AMERICAN FORMER POLICE OFFICER: We got to control this guy because he is a sizeable guy.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I feel helpless.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Fully vaccinated Americans can now celebrate indoors without a mask and get back to traveling.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We need to hold out just a bit longer and give vaccines a chance.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The doomsday scenario could be the rise of a variant that is completely insensitive to the vaccine.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: New day, new hour. Good to be with you this morning. I'm Victor Blackwell.
AMARA WALKER, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everyone. I'm Amara Walker and for Christi Paul. This morning there are new questions about security around the U.S. Capitol after a man rammed his vehicle into a barricade. Killing one Capitol Police officer and injuring another.
BLACKWELL: U.S. Capitol Police Officer William Evans was killed in that attack. He was an 18-year veteran of the force. The second officer is still in the hospital.
WALKER: Police say the driver was 25-year-old Noah Green. He was shot and killed by police after they say he exited his car and lunged toward officers with a knife.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has ordered flags at the Capitol to be flown at half-staff. President Biden said he and the First Lady are heartbroken.
BLACKWELL: Officer Evans is the second U.S. Capitol Police officer to be killed in the line of duty this year. You'll remember that Officer Brian Sicknick died a day after he was injured in the January 6th Capital Riot
WALKER: CNN's Joe Johns following all of this from Capitol Hill now. Good morning, Joe. What's the latest?
JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Tight security here at the Capitol and that has been a fixture since January 6th. When I was coming in this morning, I could see busloads of D.C. National Guard personnel offloading and headed into the office buildings where they have been staging since like big riot on January 6th, but the immediate concern is about the current threat and what happened just yesterday.
The details are tragic and simple around 1:00 Eastern Time. A man in a car rammed the barricade on the east front of the United States Capitol. Emerged from the car charging the officers we're told with a knife. The man was shot and killed. But one officer was injured one officer was also killed in this confrontation. The officer who is dead is identified as William Evans, an 18-year veteran of the force.
A member of the first responders' team for the United States Capitol Police. Also, a father of two children. Now the other things we know including what this suspect, his picture is emerging. A man who was clearly emotionally disturbed, delusional social media posts and talking about Minister Louis Farrakhan of the Nation of Islam. He was apparently a follower of the Nation of Islam. Now, Congress was not in session at the time of this attack.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi put out a Dear Colleague letter, which he said was originally intended to be a celebration of Easter and Ramadan as well as Passover. In that letter, she writes that America's heart has been broken by the tragic and heroic death of one of our U.S. Capitol Police heroes. Officer William Evans, she called him a martyr for our democracy.
JOHNS: She said may it be a comfort to his family that so many mourn with them and pray for them at this sad time. The investigation continues. The officer who was injured we're told is in stable condition, still no indication of a specific motivation for this attack. Back to you.
BLACKWELL: Joe, after the insurrection, Speaker Pelosi impaneled this task force to look into security. They came back with the report at the beginning of March, some operational structural physical changes to security recommended. Do we expect that we'll see some of that in the coming months?
JOHNS: Well, as you know, General Russel Honore was the person who headed that up. And there is every indication that the United States Congress is taking seriously these recommendations, including the possibility of some type of fencing or other enclosure of the United States Capitol which does not exist at this time. And as you know, Victor, we've had a numerous security situation here. Not just what happened on January 6th but all the way back to 1998 when two United States police officers were killed inside the building.
And there have been other threats since then. So there's long been a concern about increasing the security here at the United States Capitol. The concern is about keeping it as a symbol of democracy and openness. And how do you balance those two equities?
BLACKWELL: Joe Johns, thanks so much. And I want to start right there with CNN National Security Analyst Juliette Kayyem. She's an international security expert, former assistant secretary at the Department of Homeland Security. Juliette and what Joe just said there we've had this conversation at this hour too many times over the years in relation to mass shootings and terror attacks. How do you harden soft targets?
Now we're looking at how soft should -- what many people thought up until the insurrection was a harder than most target. Talk about that balance, because at some point, there's going to be a barrier, a barricade doesn't matter how far you put it out. And there will be personnel there.
JULIETTE KAYYEM, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Right. And at some stage, there is going to be vulnerability. So people like me don't talk in terms of something being safe, something like the capital that you need to have open. But how do you make it safer? So, the way we think about it is, of course, layered defenses. So before something happens, how strong is your intelligence? Is it being shared?
Who's doing what, who's talking about what. Are the police ready, are they ready to surge just in case? And then if something were to happen, can you minimize the harms or the consequences after someone rams a car in and wields a knife? I think in that regard, in the second regard, it was a success is the wrong word. But greater harm was stopped yesterday, as since we don't know the intentions of the assailant.
And that's how, you know, that's how fortunately and unfortunately, we have to think about it in a homeland as open as diverse as vibrant and after COVID as moving and mobile as it is. And so you just have to think about it in terms of can we just minimize the risk and minimize the harm, knowing that there's going to be vulnerabilities at different places.
BLACKWELL: So, I read the Task Force 16, that capital security review that we just talked about with Joe and on intelligence, specifically, I want to read this finding from the task force. They found that the United States Capitol Police is not postured to track, assess, plan against or respond to this plethora of threats due to significant capacity shortfalls, and adequate training, immature processes, and an operating culture that is not intelligence driven.
And we don't know if Intel could have stopped this. It looks like it was something that was improvised. The man shows up with a knife and had a gun, drives his car into a barrier, but how does a force this force? How's it been left so ill-prepared for the threats that it faces now?
KAYYEM: Right. That's -- and it's a great question because remember, the Capitol Police really did view themselves as sort of a, you know, protecting the building, protecting the individuals from random but not recurring threats. And I think what we've seen now is that your -- that it just may be a place that is consistently vulnerable. So, the way I would look at it and the way I read the report is you simply need to make the Capitol Police better consumers of intelligence.
We cannot expect them to know everything that's going on. But the FBI, local and state police and others have to get into the habit. We have to have stronger systems so that the Capitol Police are consuming this intelligence and then able to deploy, manage, train, exercise, do all the things they need to do given what is -- what may be a recurring threat.
KAYYEM: So, while we're talking about making the Capitol more open after January 6th, I think we need to take a pause. I just do, I don't think you make security assessments, you know, in the middle of what could be recurring threats, eventually we'll get a balance that's appropriate for all and appropriate for the building and the members in it. But just given what happened yesterday that may -- this may not be the time.
BLACKWELL: Basic personnel here. Something else that stood out was the recommendation was that the USCP should hire sufficient officers to fill all current vacancies. Now, at 233 vacancies, nearly 720,000 overtime hours in fiscal year 2020. They recommend adding 350 officers on top of that. It's difficult to train and sharpen skills and hone when you're barely filling the spaces that need to be filled.
You're paddling just to keep your head above water to keep men and women at doors that need to be guarded.
KAYYEM: Right. That's right. So and training could take anywhere from three to six months, you have to hire people, you want to get a diverse employment pool. So, that takes a while. So one option is of course doing detail ease from either, you know, Border Patrol or other federal law enforcement agencies just for the time being so that you can essentially search resources depending on what the -- what the thread is.
Those are open billets, as we call them in government. Those are open spots that that have been already budgeted. So, they should be filled because there is a need for them. And one of the questions I have about yesterday is there was an assessment done is where were resources that day? I mean, in other words, what are the decisions being made because if it's the outside parameter that is most vulnerable as compared to the inside the Capitol police are going to have to just align their personnel that way.
And it's a really, you know, outside of all the politics of this. One of the reasons why we need to push back against us false narratives about the impact of January 6th or the vulnerabilities of the capital or what this language means throughout the United States for violence is because it is -- it is our police officers also who are -- who are the victims. It wasn't just those who were killed. Remember, there were two suicides after January 6th of the Capitol Police.
Those are -- those are deaths in the -- in the line of duty. And we should view them that way.
BLACKWELL: And we're going to have a conversation later this morning about the mental health of the members of the USCP because after what happened on the 6th, and now this loss and what we're seeing in some of the changes that could be coming to that department. That is something we certainly need to focus on. Juliette Kayyem, always good to have you.
KAYYEM: Thank you, Victor. And good luck. I'll see you -- I'll see you on the weekdays.
BLACKWELL: Yes, you will. Monday through Friday, 2:00 to 4:00. Thanks so much.
KAYYEM: Excellent. Congratulations.
BLACKWELL: Thank you very much, Juliette.
WALKER: All right. Still to come calm as families from coast to coast to prepare to celebrate the Easter holiday weekend. Health officials are urging people not to let their guards down. Just ahead, the new CDC guidelines for celebrating safely.
BLACKWELL: And later, a week of painful testimony reverberating across the country. What really a traumatized nation can learn from the grief and the guilt shown by the witnesses in the Dereck Chauvin trial.
WALKER: This morning, Capitol Police are mourning the loss of another officer to yet another violent attack on the Capitol grounds. A second officer is recovering from his injuries from that attack in a hospital. And this is serving as a painful reminder of how much of these officers have endure just this year. BLACKWELL: CNN's Alex Marquardt looks at what offices who served with the Capitol have been through in just a few short months.
ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For the third time this year, the United States Capitol Police is laying to rest one of its own. A procession on Friday afternoon for officer William Evans, a member of the first responders' unit who just last month had marked 18 years on the force.
YOGANANDA PITTMAN, ACTING CHIEF, U.S. CAPITOL POLICE: And it is with a very, very heavy heart that I announced one of our officers have succumbed to his injuries.
MARQUARDT (voice-over): The acting chief of the Capitol Police Yogananda Pittman reminding America what her officers have endured this year starting in the first days of 2021 with the insurrection.
PITTMAN: I just asked that the public continue to keep U.S. Capitol Police and their families in your prayers. This has been an extremely difficult time for U.S. Capitol Police after the events of January 6th. And now the events that have occurred here today.
MARQUARDT (voice-over): After a dramatic ramping up of security following January 6th, things had just begun to ease with the perimeter moving back fences coming down and to hope among members of Congress and law enforcement for some return to normalcy. That hope was shattered Friday with the second major act of violence on Capitol Hill in under three months. U.S. Capitol Police along with Washington, D.C. police were the first line of defense against the insurrectionists on January 6th.
They were screamed at, beaten and sprayed with chemicals by the rioters. Officer Brian Sicknick was hit with what's believed to have been bear spray. He died from his injuries a day later. Two officers later took their own lives. The wife of Capitol Police Officer Howie Liebengood said his suicide was in the line of duty. Saying the insurrection and the days that followed took an incredible toll.
MARQUARDT (voice-over): Officer Harry Dunn described the pain to CNN's Don Lemon calling it hell.
HARRY DUNN, U.S. CAPITOL POLICE OFFICER: You have good days, and you have bad days but just thinking about it just takes you back to that like you said that hell day and it's tough to -- it was tough to live through. And it's also tough to be live talking about it.
MARQUARDT (voice-over): Dunn told CNN that the Trump supporters who were there that day used racial slurs against black officers. He talked about the depression that many officers felt afterwards.
DUNN: Officer Sicknick was killed. We had officers that took their life because of the distress that they endured from that day. That is what happened. I don't know how you can word it any different than what exactly happened.
MARQUARDT (voice-over): In the examination of what happened on January 6th it was called the worst of the worst in the two decades of service of Capitol Police Captain Carneysha Mendoza.
CARNEYSHA MENDOZA, CAPTAIN, U.S. CAPITOL POLICE: As an American and as an army veteran it's sad to see us attacked by our fellow citizens. I'm sad to see the unnecessary loss of life. I'm sad to see the impact this has had on Capitol Police officers. And I'm sad to see the impact this has had on our agency and on our country.
MARQUARDT (voice-over): Alex Marquardt, CNN, Washington.
BLACKWELL: Coming up. New guidance from the CDC dramatically easing travel recommendations for people who've been fully vaccinated. But it comes at the same time that the country is seeing a surge of COVID infections especially among young people. We'll discuss next.
WALKER: U.S. health officials are stressing caution despite millions of Americans receiving vaccines every day. New numbers from the CDC show that nearly 40 percent of U.S. adults have received at least their first vaccine shot.
BLACKWELL: But new COVID cases are on the rise across the country. More than 68,000 new cases were reported Friday with around half the state seeing increases over the past week. Now, there is fear of another surge. At least a dozen states have expanded vaccine eligibility to anyone 16 or older with even more states planning to do so in the coming weeks. One state seeing an alarming surge in cases, Michigan.
And that's where we find CNN's Polo Sandoval this morning. So officials say that the virus is spreading most among children.
POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Victor. And when you talk about that search officials here in Michigan do fear that they're already experiencing that for -- for the surge, especially when you consider those numbers here. Now granted, they are not as high as we saw them in December when the average number of cases reached at one point about a thousand. But nonetheless, about a month and a half ago, we're experiencing about 1000 new cases a day.
And now that number as of this morning, roughly 5800 here in the State of Michigan certainly concerning for officials here.
SANDOVAL (voice-over): First, the promising news, the total number of people who have been administered at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine exceeded 100 million yesterday. And shots are going into arms at a seven-day average rate of about three million a day tells the White House. The CDC is also out with much anticipated guidance announcing the roughly 18 percent of Americans that are fully vaccinated should feel safe while traveling, eliminating some testing and quarantine recommendations.
The CDC also issued guidance saying it's safe for vaccinated people to gather indoors this Easter. The rest are still advised to keep celebrations outside and within the household. But with more than three quarters of the country still not fully protected by a vaccine. CDC Director Rochelle Walensky still advising against non-essential travel.
DR. ROCHELLE WALENSKY, CDC DIRECTOR: And while we believe that fully vaccinated people can travel at low risk to themselves. CDC is not recommending travel at this time due to the rising number of cases.
SANDOVAL: And that's what worries health officials especially with the increasing number of viral variants. This week, Michigan confirmed its first patient infected with the mutation of the virus first reported in Brazil but it's a dreaded B117 variant that has Michigan hospitals dealing with another patient spike.
GOV. GRETCHEN WHITMER (D-MI): We haven't abandoned our protocols. It's just that we've got a higher proportion of variance and part of that is people getting tired. There's fatigue and there's variants and there's more travel and that's some of what the story is here for sure.
SANDOVAL: That's Michigan's governor who says in her state young people are among those feeling Michigan's latest surge. This infectious disease expert agrees.
PROF. WILLIAM HASELTINE, PRESIDENT, ACCESS HEALTH INTERNATIONAL: The majority of people going to hospitals not just getting infected, going to hospitals are under 60. And many of them are between 30 and 20. So this is not what was happening before. It's a different virus. More transmissible, more lethal and more dangerous to the young.
SANDOVAL: Michigan joined by New Jersey and New York on the list of states with the highest COVID infection rate per capita. Kansas, California and Arkansas has the lowest as the race between vaccines and variants picks up speed.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SANDOVAL: So, COVID fatigue and also recent travel is as you just heard from the governor, that's likely what's essentially feeling some of these numbers here in Michigan, there's hope that these vaccine -- vaccination numbers continue to increase will likely at least helped the situation that will be expanding eligibility come Monday to all Michigan residents ages 16 and above.
Also (INAUDIBLE) will be increasing their vaccination goal here in Michigan. Nearly doubled from about 50,000 a day to 100,000 a day.
WALKER: There really is a race between his vaccines and the variants. Polo Sandoval, thank you.
BLACKWELL: Doctor Susannah Hills is with us now. She's an ENT surgeon at Columbia University Medical Center. Doctor, good morning.
SUSANNAH HILLS, ENT SURGEON AT COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY MEDICAL CENTER: Good morning. Thank you for having me.
BLACKWELL: So thank you for being up with us. Let's start here with the new CDC guidance on travel. Dr. Walensky, director of the CDC says that fully vaccinated people can travel with no threat to themselves, no risks to themselves, but discouraged it because of the uptick in cases. Is there a correlation there?
HILLS: Right. So, Victor, I think it's really important to lead with what she's not saying, right? She's not saying that now is the moment for everybody who's vaccinated to get on the plane to go visit their family. It's not the moment for grandparents to rush onto a plane to visit their grandchildren.
What she is saying is that for people who've been fully vaccinated, who really need to travel. This is for essential travel that they can travel without the same quarantine and testing requirements that have been in place.
And the reason that there's still that condition that really people should stick to just essential travel is because of what you just mentioned, because cases are rising, variants strain numbers are increasing, and it's happening not in pockets of areas of the country, but really across the country in more than half the states across the U.S.
BLACKWELL: Let's look at where that climb of new cases is the steepest. That's in Michigan. Let's put it up. This is the trajectory over the last couple of months. And what we heard from the governor is actually the reality in so many places. Losing restrictions there, other states have loosened restrictions.
The governor blames mobility, people are getting out and around everywhere. But the states are not seeing this climb. To what do you attribute what we're seeing in Michigan if anything unique?
HILLS: Well, I think that public health experts are really still trying to understand why some areas are having increased cases of variant strains now compared with other areas. It's hard to know exactly where the variant cases are because we don't do genomic sequencing on the majority of tests that are done.
But certainly, if you look at what is driving the surges that are happening across Europe, it seems to be variant strained cases. And what happens in Europe tends to follow here in the U.S. a few weeks later.
Also, in Michigan, cases among young people have increased like 230 percent since the end of February And so, the fact that we're seeing children be affected more and more at a higher level, goes along with the fact that there is thought that these variants strains affect children more frequently and give them perhaps more severe illness.
So, we're still learning more about the variant strains but it's likely that we're seeing the effect of that spread now.
BLACKWELL: Yes, also some good news from Pfizer, 100 percent of efficacy with young children in their tests of the vaccine on children.
Let me jump to as we speak about vaccines, a new wave of cases in New Jersey as well. The governor there asked for additional doses to combat the surge that Biden administration is committed to allocating doses based on population, not infection rates. Is that the best public health strategy from your perspective?
HILLS: Well, in looking at how this disease progresses, you know, there's a latency period where people can be infected for three days, five days, seven days, before having symptoms. And so, we may have a spike in cases in one area, but that does not mean that there's not an increasing asymptomatic infection rate elsewhere.
So, in terms of targeting vaccines to where we're seeing the case numbers be the highest, I think it's really hard to know exactly where your numbers sit because there are plenty of people who get asymptomatic disease, and then they develop symptoms, you know, days to a week later.
So, I think, you know, the current strategy that Biden's team has had in vaccine distribution seems to be incredibly effective. We're up to 3 million doses a day. The plan that they've implemented is really moving forward quickly.
And so, I think keeping with the current strategy that they have and with the plans and the channels that they've already established for distribution makes sense.
BLACKWELL: All right, Dr. Susannah Hills. Thanks so much for being with us this weekend.
HILLS: You bet. Thank you.
BLACKWELL: Sure. Amara?
AMARA WALKER, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR (on camera): Up next, the images and the final words of George Floyd. They've been played over and over again. And for many Americans, it's taking an emotional toll. We're going to speak with a psychologist next.
BLACKWELL: This morning, embattled Congressman Matt Gaetz is now without a key congressional staffer. This is, of course, during the widening federal investigation into whether he paid cash to women for sex and whether he had a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old girl.
WALKER: Now, the spokesperson for Gaetz resigned Friday as more details emerged in the allegations against the Florida congressman. CNN's Paula Reid reports on newly resurfaced audio that can make things worse for Gaetz.
PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The federal investigation into Florida Congressman Matt Gaetz for possible prostitution and sex trafficking crimes, including an alleged relationship with a minor, now centering around his friendship with this man, Joel Greenberg.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOEL GREENBERG, FORMER SEMINOLE COUNTY TAX COLLECTOR: It really is an honor to be here today.
REID: In addition, investigators believe Greenberg, a former Seminole County, Florida tax collector recruited multiple women online for sex, and that he introduced the women who received cash payments to Gaetz who had sex with them too, according to The New York Times.
The Times said it reviewed Apple pay and Cash App receipts that show Gaetz and Greenberg made payments to one of the women, and one payment from Greenberg to a different woman.
In a statement, Gaetz office said, "Matt Gaetz has never paid for sex. Matt Gaetz refutes all the disgusting allegations completely.
REP. MATT GAETZ (R-FL): Providing for flights and hotel rooms for people that you're dating who are of legal age is not a crime.
REID: But a source telling CNN, investigators are examining whether any federal campaign money was involved in paying for travel and expenses for the women.
Gaetz and Greenberg have been friends for years, posting photos together, and Gaetz even telling a local radio station that Greenberg would make a good member of Congress in 2017.
GAETZ (via telephone): If Joel were to run from Seminole County, I think he becomes the next congressman from the 7th District.
REID: The duo, according to a Florida lawmaker, leaving an unsolicited voicemail on her cell phone. She gave a recording of the message to CNN.
GREENBERG (via telephone): This is your favorite tax collector, I'm up in the panhandle with your favorite U.S. Congressman Mr. Gaetz.
GAETZ: Hi, Anna!
GREENBERG: And we were just chatting about you and talking about your lovely qualities and your -- (CROSSTALK)
GAETZ: We think you're the future of the Democratic Party in Florida.
REID: Additionally, information that may connect Gaetz to a fake I.D. scheme at the center of Greenberg's case was presented to federal investigators at a meeting last year. Sources familiar tell CNN. Greenberg had entered a plea of not guilty. Attorneys for Greenberg and Gaetz had no comment.
In addition to the federal investigation, multiple sources told CNN, Gaetz showed lawmakers photos and videos of nude women he claimed to have slept with. One source saying Gaetz shared the images on his phone while on the floor of the House.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
REID (on camera): Gaetz finds himself with a few public allies. And even though Gaetz has been one of the most vocal Trump supporters, so far, the former president has remained silent amid this escalating set of scandals that could potentially end Gaetz's political career.
Paula Reid, CNN, Washington.
BLACKWELL: Much more ahead on NEW DAY. But first, "FOOD AS FUEL". It's back. And today, we're taking a look at some steps you can take to start eating better.
CNN health reporter Jacqueline Howard shares three habits that can help improve your health.
JACQUELINE HOWARD, CNN HEALTH REPORTER: Making small changes to what you eat can help make big improvements to your life. So, here are three healthy eating habits that can help you cut the bad by adding the good to your routine.
To help cut the salts, look to add herbs and spices to get that flavor you crave and research suggests that certain spices like cloves, cinnamon, and nutmeg contain nutrients that can help sharpen your memory and reduce stress.
And ginger has been found to help relieve pain. According to one study, it helps ease muscle pain after working out by as much as 25 percent. And speaking of inflammation, try avoiding inflammatory foods, those are junk foods, like French fries, pastries, sodas, and red meat. Go for more anti-inflammatory foods like tomatoes and leafy greens. And some studies link nuts with reduced inflammation.
Remember, try to always have a glass of water with you to help quench your thirst. It can help you avoid sugary drinks and help you stay hydrated.
ANNOUNCER: "FOOD AS FUEL" is brought to you by noom. Noom is based in psychology for lasting health and weight loss results. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
WALKER: Millions of Americans this week tuned in to the Derek Chauvin trial, which means millions of Americans were reintroduced to the disturbing video of Officer Chauvin kneeling on George Floyd's neck for 9 minutes and 29 seconds. It is graphic, hard to watch, including for those who saw Mr. Floyd's death with their own eyes.
On the stand this week, several eyewitnesses expressed feelings of overwhelming guilt, helplessness, and trauma in their testimony.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEW FRANK, MINNESOTA PROSECUTOR: What was going through your mind during that time period?
CHRISTOPHER MARTIN, WITNESS TO GEORGE FLOYD'S DEATH: Disbelief and guilt.
FRANK: OK. Why guilt?
MARTIN: If I would have just not taken the bill, this could have been avoided.
ALYSSA FUNARI, WITNESS TO GEORGE FLOYD'S DEATH: I was upset because there is nothing that we could do as bystanders, except watch them take this man's life in front of our eyes.
DARNELLA FRAZIER, WITNESS TO GEORGE FLOYD'S DEATH: It's been nights, I stayed up, apologizing and apologizing to George Floyd for not doing more and not physically interacting and not saving his life.
GENEVIEVE HANSEN, WITNESS TO GEORGE FLOYD'S DEATH: I was pretty focused on trying to get the officers to let me help. I tried different tactics of calm and reasoning. I'm tried to be assertive. I was desperate to help.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALKER: Joining me now to discuss the emotional toll this trial is having on those who are directly involved with it, and those who've been watching from home is psychologist BraVada Garrett-Akinsanya. She is the founder of the African American Child Wellness Institute in Minneapolis.
Thank you so much for joining me. I have to say -- and I know you know, if anyone's watched a few minutes even of this trial, you know it's been a very rough and emotional week for so many people.
I was really struck by the visceral pain and the guilt that many of the witnesses talked about on the stand this week, including, especially from 61-year-old Charles McMillian. He was driving when he saw officers struggling with George Floyd. He said he had recognized him around the neighborhood. He got out of his car to see what was going on, and he's one of the earliest eyewitnesses.
And I want to play that sound bite from you -- from him where he broke down testifying. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. McMillian, do you need a minute?
CHARLES MCMILLIAN, WITNESS TO GEORGE FLOYD'S DEATH: Oh my God. I couldn't help but feel helpless. I don't have a mama either, but I understand him. My mom died, June 25th.
Basically, what I'm saying, I became aware because once -- like I said before, once the police get the cuffs on you, you can't win. So, I'm trying to tell him, just cooperate with them. Get up, (INAUDIBLE), get in the car, go with them, you can win.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And did he say, I can't, to you?
MCMILLIAN: Yes, ma'am.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK, do you understand him to be talking to you?
MCMILLIAN: Yes, ma'am.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALKER: Could you talk a little bit about this helplessness that Mr. McMillian talked about. That many people seem to have felt as they stood there and watched George Floyd die?
BRAVADA GARRETT-AKINSANYA, FOUNDER, AFRICAN AMERICAN CHILD WELLNESS INSTITUTE: I would like to talk about that. And I really appreciate you having me on this morning to be able to talk about the pain that's in my community.
The trauma that he was experiencing as you said earlier was visceral, because when we are traumatized, the part of our brain -- the prefrontal cortex, it is the part that helps us problem solve, it's the part that lets us think clearly.
But when you witness a death before your eyes and you can't do anything about it, it really creates depression, anxiety, helplessness, and so much of our psychological research looks at how people learn to be helpless.
And as African Americans in this country, over centuries of child slavery, and Jim Crow, and the multiple deaths that even preceded this one, we've seen that even when we cry, nobody matters.
So, when you hear people saying, black lives matter, that is not just for the white folks in the audience or for the people who are protesting, it's an affirmation for us ourselves to recognize that we are valuable.
And so, for him to see that, and not be able to do it like we haven't been able to do for hundreds of years, it went to a very, very deep and tribal, and American, and soulful place, where the loss was exhibited right before our eyes in that courtroom.
WALKER: It's so important that you point this deep-seated historical pain out to our viewers.
Let's talk more about this trauma. And I found it very interesting because our CNN political analyst Nia-Malika Henderson wrote this piece for cnn.com titled: Why I can't watch the Derek Chauvin Trial.
And she wrote, in part, "I have not read a single article about the proceedings. I keep my television muted if it is on screen. Or I change the channel to avoid seeing anything at all. More specifically, I like so many others who have seen too much I'm avoiding yet another display of Black pain, Black trauma, and Black death."
We have about 30 seconds left. Could you just talk to us more about this trauma and should people just avoid watching it altogether if they're feeling this kind of pain or is it their duty to see what's happening in reality?
GARRETT-AKINSANYA: For Black folks is a reality every day.
So, in 30 seconds I'm going to say that we need to take doses of it and not overexpose ourselves to it because it is re-traumatizing. And avoidance is one key element -- one part of the diagnosis of post- traumatic stress disorder.
Avoiding it, avoiding places and things and people that remind you of it, that's what we're dealing with right now.
WALKER: Heartbreaking. Thank you so much for talking with us. Dr. BraVada Garrett-Akinsanya. Appreciate your time. Thank you very much.
GARRETT-AKINSANYA: Thank you.
WALKER: And for more information about how you can protect your mental health during the Derek Chauvin trial, go to cnn.com/impact. We'll be right back.