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CNN Special Report: "I Can't Breathe: Black Men Living and Dying in America; Minneapolis Police Chief Talks To Floyd Family; Families Of George Floyd And Ahmaud Arbery Speak To CNN As Protests Escalate From Coast To Coast; Over 20 States And Nearly 40 Cities Enacted Curfews In Light Of Protests Turning Violent; Protests In Atlanta Turn Violent; President Trump Briefly Taken Into Underground Bunker During Friday's White House. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired May 31, 2020 - 21:00   ET



DON LEMON, CNN HOST: And again, as Sara pointed out every time he - it is very respectful, every time he talked - addressed you and your family, he took off his hat and he spoke very candidly about at least what he could share about how he felt this case was going.


LEMON: Ben, I'm going to talk to you Ben. What did you think of what the Chief said?

CRUMP: Well, he was very respectful to the family and we thank him for that. His family is in great pain, Don and yesterday was the anniversary of George's mother's death, two years ago. And so they're now having to grieve probably bigger than before. (inaudible)

But they need these offices to be arrested that we you know go through all this just to get equal justice, simple justice. That's all they want that is what would happen if the roles were reversed to happen here. That's why he continues to express about black Americans keep getting killed by police and nobody held accountable. It's an expression of righteous anger that people are expressing all across America.

But even as much pain as Philonise is going through, he's still asking people to be peaceful because we don't want innocent people to be affected and we don't want people to misconstrue equal justice for Philonise, justice for Ahmaud Arbery, justice for Breonna Taylor and so many others.

LEMON: Well, Philonise and Benjamin Crump, we are having trouble with your signal and we can see it's very emotional and Sara, standby, don't go anywhere Sara. I haven't forgotten that you're there. I want to get to Lee Merritt though and back to Ms. Cooper.

Lee, you know they've had a chance to speak with really the people so to speak who are at least involved with their loved ones death. Ahmaud Arbery's family, Ms. Cooper really hasn't had that opportunity. What's going through your mind right now? LEE MERRITT, LEAD ATTORNEY FOR AHMAUD ARBERY FAMILY: Listening to the

police chief and listening to Floyd's brother, I can appreciate that he was respectful, that he was directing and even from an attorney's perspective, you know what the most difficult part about holding police officers accountable is the silence of other police officers.

So it's not just the other police officers who were there, who should be charged in that case but when it comes time for trial, will the Chief be able to stand up and say what the other officers did in not intervening was criminal and that they - they should be held accountable for it.

I've never seen a police of chief - a chief of police take the stand and make that kind of statement but he has now because there's a record. He just went on CNN live and made those statements and it - if he does not say that at the trial, he'll be impeached on his previous statement and he sounds like Chief, Chief Arradondo from the community and I'm here in Minnesota now.

The community has put their trust in him and he sounds like a man who will keep his word but I wonder if he's frustrated from a community, law enforcement perspective that there are criminals in his jurisdiction that used to wear the uniform - same uniform that he wears that are still on the loose.

In Ahmaud's case - in Ahmaud's case, the chief of police, he actually left office shortly after Ahmaud's murder in hand custom so because of the criminal activity and so it - and he failed to make any arrests in that case and so I can - when you compare the two, I take my hat off to Chief Arradondo but we still want to see these additional arrests on behalf of the families.

LEMON: Two black men, their deaths were caught on video tape. We saw it happen. I want to thank you Lee Merritt and I want to thank you of course Philonise. Thank you so much. Thank you Benjamin Crump. I appreciate it. I know it's a very emotional time for your family and we appreciate you sitting through all of this and I hope that this has provided an opportunity at least in the moment for a momentary release and relief of something and I don't know what it is provided you but I hope it helps in some way through what Sara has done and what CNN has provided here.

Thank you so much, OK? And thank you Ms. Cooper. I'm not sure Ms. Cooper, I'm not sure if she's still there and we'd love to have Ms. Cooper back and continue to talk and you as well from the Floyd family. Sara, thank you. We'll be back, continue your great reporting and we'll continue to check back in with you as we progress here this evening. Thanks so much.


LEMON: OK everyone, it's just past the top of the hour here on CNN and welcome back. This is a CNN Special Report: I can't breathe. Black men living and dying in America. And there you see crying in America as well this evening. I'm Don Lemon. The death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police has sparked angry protests that are escalating tonight in cities and towns all across America. The video showing a former police officer with his knee planted firmly on Floyd's neck as George Floyd pleads for his life, crying, crying out that he can't breathe. That he wants his mother. It has shocked the nation.

Many thousands of people have been protesting peacefully but others have taken advantage of the raw emotions felt by millions of Americans to incite rioting and looting and clashes with police. Tonight, at least 22 states, 37 cities have enacted curfews. I want to get straight to CNN's Martin Savidge. He's live for us in Atlanta with the very latest.

Martin, when last we saw you, there were clashes with police, even some tear gas going off there.

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's upsided for the moment, Don. It's now 9:00 or just out which means of course for a third night, the city of Atlanta, it's actually second night is under a curfew that'll run until 6:00 in the morning.

A state of emergency has been declared by the governor throughout all of Georgia and that has allowed him to draw up additional National Guard forces so there are several thousand now that are now said to be deployed not just in Atlanta but in other parts of the state or at least being told to be standby to be deployed.

There was an initial confrontation here as has been the flashpoint right outside of CNN center, a lot of tear gas as you talked me through that episode that I went through and then it has subsided for the moment but there is really a sense that this is just a calm before some kind of storm here that there is a lot of movement.

You can see National Guard troops continue. These are a new addition. I speak to the security measures that have been on the city streets but they're being repositioned and there's also armored vehicles that we have seen moving throughout the street. It's also clear that the protesters themselves have changed their tactics, not deciding to confront en masse in one place.

Apparently trying to throw off the coordination of law enforcement and instead moving in several different places but their tactics have been the same. Fireworks, water bottles, projectiles being thrown. We don't know about arrests that have been made but we do know of at least two police officers who were fired today and three others assigned to desk duty by the city of Atlanta due to what was termed excessive use of force last night during the protest, Don.

So adjustments being made on the part of protesters and law enforcement. Right now it is peaceful but tension and tear gas still linger here.

LEMON: Martin Savidge, live for us in Atlanta. Martin, thank you very much. Alex Marquardt now live for us in Washington. Alex, there's been a couple of skirmishes by very near you. What can you tell us about that? Where are you? ALEX MARQUADT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Yes Don,

You know it is peaceful just bouncing off of what Martin was saying but tension certainly is on the rise. I mean we are now under 2:00 hours from a curfew that has just been announced by the Mayor of DC, Muriel Bowser.

Of course, it remains to be seen whether people plan to go home at 11:00 at night. Don, we are as close to the White House as you can get. There is no mistake. It is no mistake that all these protesters have descended upon this area to shout, to chant their messages at the man who is leading this country.

I say this is as close as we can get to the White House because about 20 feet in front of me is a string of metal barricades that the protesters are pressed up against. Beyond that is a number of different law enforcement agencies. You have U.S. park police because this Lafayette square, this park is federal land.

You also have U.S. secret service which of course is tasked with protecting the White House. You have officers from the department of homeland security and now we've also learned that the DC Mayor as of yesterday has called out the National Guard.

So there's absolutely no shortage of manpower, of fire power beyond that front line. It is an evolving frontline, Don. At times it is quiet and there are people milling about. Other times the protesters were pressed forward and the police will then respond. We have to reiterate this has remained a largely peaceful protest.

In fact, there are some divisions among the protesters out here, some of whom have started throwing bottles of water at the police who then gets shut down by what seems to be a majority of the protesters who do want to keep this peaceful. There have been instances of the police firing pepper spray at protesters that's why we have these gas masks. We have seen it. We have heard it. We have smelled it.


But this has remained quite peaceful for the time being but there is a back and forth and of course as night falls, there's always the potential for things to get out of hand, for things to escalate. You can hear the songs. These voices. That seems contrary to what the vibe is out here right now.

But over the last two nights Don, we have seen some violence so we'll see what happens again as I said at the top, there is a curfew in place that goes into effect just under 2:00 hours from now at 11:00 PM. Don, there's one more thing, one more big piece of news that is worth mentioning.

When the protests really got under way here in DC, two nights ago, there was a similar scene with people here in Lafayette square outside the White House and the President was taken down to an underground bunker in the White House for just under an hour.

Clearly those around him, presumably the secret service felt that the security situation was such that the President had to be taken out of the main part of the residence of the White House and taken down to that bunker, that is according to our Kaitlan Collins and Noah Gray.

It is unclear whether his wife and son Barron were with him but clearly the protests that night they felt, they escalated enough to a point where they had to take the president down to that bunker. For now things are quite peaceful out here Don and of course many will hope it remains that way. Don.

LEMON: All right, thank you very much for that. I appreciate that Alex Marquardt in Washington very near the White House. Protests now in their 6th nights as a country reels over the police killing of Georgia Floyd.

Los Angeles now extending its curfew to the entire country affecting 10 million people. The Mayor of Washington also is showing a city wide curfew starting at 11:00 PM. Here to discuss now is Houston police chief Art Acevedo, the president of the major cities Chiefs Association.

Chief Acevedo, thank you so much. We appreciate you joining us here on CNN for this special report that we have this evening. I have to ask you about something that you said today. You said that Houston police department wants to give George Floyd, a police escort when his body returns to his hometown to be buried.

How did you come to that decision?

CHIEF ART ACEVEDO, HOUSTON POLICE DEPARTMENT: Well, you know it's a - it's just going to be a big deal for our city to bring him back home. He's well-known, he's known by a lot of our officers. We want to make sure that we - that this family is safe, that the movement is safe and - and most importantly, we want to make sure that the family knows that we're here for them and to support them at this - at this time.

LEMON: Chief, you know we have been looking at all these volatile situations like that can quickly escalate during these protests like this in my PD vehicle driving into protesters. An official saying that protesters hurled a brick, water bottles and a flaming bag at the car. We can we put it up in moments if we can get it.

How do we stop things like this from getting out of control?

ACEVEDO: Well, you know, I'm hopeful that what'll happen is unfortunately most people that are protesting, especially in our city in Houston are trying to effect change in a peaceful manner but what happens is that it's not everyone in the crowd that is doing that and - and sadly, when they do that, they end up hijacking movement.

So the most important thing is that you give folks some space as long as nobody's getting hurt and we're not burning down buildings so on and so forth. That's probably the most important piece. Chief, a video is so key in these killings and often it is not made public for a very long time.

The Houston Chronicle was saying that Houston police have killed six men, five of whom were black or Hispanic in the past six weeks. The editorial board is calling on you to release any video from the recent shootings, including body cam footage. Can you give me your response to that please?

ACEVEDO: Yes, absolutely. You know our number one responsibility is to the families or the persons whose lives were taken and to ensure that we protect the investigation. Two things that we believe in doing here first under state law, we can share the video with the family and it doesn't not making a public record.

The one concern that I have. This is a melting pot of a city and a melting pot of a - of a county. Our jury pools are very much minority- majority, jury pools like a department is and the concern is if an officer gets charged - were to get charged and we've got so much pre- trial publicity because all these videos are out, then all of a sudden there's a motion to move the trial to a part of Texas that may not be as progressive where a jury pool is not - is not reflective of this melting pot and then all of a sudden, the officer gets acquitted and that in itself can create problems so it's the balance.


We've actually met with one family that already that already reviewed it, they had already called for me to release it and after the event, they've asked us not to release it at this time so that's what we're trying to work through but the most important thing is we communicate that with our activists and our communities to understand what the considerations that we're trying to keep in mind.

LEMON: You have been on - on the ground there with protesters and you and police chiefs across the country have come out to condemn what happened to George Floyd. There is - there is no blue wall of silence here. Is this a moment of opportunity? Is this moment an opportunity for change?

ACEVEDO: You know what Don, I think it's a watershed moment and I'm not saying that lightly. Police chiefs are part of the problem in this country when we don't hold that officers accountable. The second piece and the most important piece is that police union leaders have spoken out finally and I thank God for that.

I've never seen it. The FOP has spoken out. The National Association of Police Organizations have spoken out and so I'm just hopeful that we have reached a watershed moment here where we'll see some meaningful reform in terms of the way that we deal with bad police officers and the way that we deal with police officers involved in criminal conduct that completely undermines the good work for the vast majority of our police officers.

And I am prayerful that the labor movement in policing will be part of the solution in terms of legislation, what we need to do to keep honest cops supported by this community by holding back us accountable.

LEMON: Chief Acevedo, I've got - just if you could give me a quick very quick answer because I'm up against a time crunch here. ACEVEDO: No problem.

LEMON: When you - I'm not sure if you heard the interview with Minneapolis Police Chief and the Floyd family here on CNN. What was your reaction to how candid the Chief was and the respect that at least he conveyed in that interview for the family.

ACEVEDO: He's - he's a friend and colleague. I know his heart. And Chief Arradondo is truly a man of character who cares and what he's telling that family is from deep inside his soul and - and I join him in our deepest condolences for the Floyd family.

LEMON: Chief Acevedo, thank you so much. I appreciate your time. Stay safe.

ACEVEDO: Thank you. You too.

LEMON: Protests spreading from coast to coast as curfews are being imposed in cities around the country. I'm going to talk to Spike Lee about the anger brewing in America. That's coming up.




LEMON: In the middle of this CNN special report, we're covering breaking news on CNN. Curfews in place in cities across the country tonight as protests over the death of George Floyd escalate. The video of a Minneapolis police officer with his knee on Floyd's neck has shocked the country but George Floyd is one of so many black people to die at the hands of police.

I urge you to sit down and watch the entire segment that is about to play out in front of your eyes. CNN's Ryan Young has many of their stories and I have to warn you that we are about to see is graphic and it may be difficult to watch.


RYAN YOUNG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Black America knows the pain well and the pain runs deep as cameras capture viral moments that raised questions about policing and raise the deaths of black people. The price for justice. The names that sparked movements.

In 2012, 17 year old Trayvon Martin walks into a 7/11 in Sanford, Florida. He grabs a bag of Skittles and a can of Arizona ice tea wearing a dark gray hoodie that would become a symbol to many. As Martin walks home, he encounters George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer who has already called 911 to report Martin's movements even though the team had done nothing wrong.

GEORGE ZIMMERMAN: Something's wrong with him. Yep, he's coming to check me out. He's got something in his hands.

YOUNG: Minutes later after a fight between the two, George Zimmerman shoots and kills Trayvon Martin.

Zimmerman charged with murder but a jury finds him not guilty.

CROWDS (chanting): Justice now. Justice now.

YOUNG: His death and acquittals sparked national outrage and a movement is born.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Trayvon is a people's person. He didn't deserve to die and I pledge I will not let my son die in vain.

YOUNG: July 2014, 43-year Eric Garner, a father of six is allegedly loose cigarettes illegally on Staten Island in New York. Officers surround him to make an arrest.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm minding my business. Please just leave me alone.

YOUNG: Officer Daniel Pantaleo seen wrapping an arm around Garner's neck before pulling him down to the ground. As Pantaleo forces Garner's head into the sidewalk, Garner is saying.

ERIC GARNER: I can't breathe.

YOUNG: He dies shortly afterward.


Five years Pantaleo is fired after it is determined he used a chokehold banned by the NYPD but long before that day, Garner's last words become a national cry for help and social justice.

CROWDS (chanting): I can't breathe.

YOUNG: August 2014, 18-year old Michael Brown is shot by a police officer. His death sparks days of protests and riots in the city of Ferguson, Missouri. While the city burns, two narratives emerge, one that Brown was unarmed and surrendering when he was shot. The other story from officer Darren Wilson is that Brown was told to get out the street and during a confrontation the teen tried taking his gun.

The officer says he feared for his life when he shot and killed Brown. This time the cry is the chant, 'Hands up, don't shoot' as thousands poured to the streets to demand justice, the officer is not charged.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have had enough of all of this and this change must come.

YOUNG: In October 2014, Laquan McDonald, a black teenager is killed by police in Chicago is shot 16 times by an officer who arrived at the scene seconds before. Though the officer claims self defense since McDonald had a knife, an autopsy shows some of the shots entered McDonald's back while he was turned away.

The incident sparks protests in Chicago when police dashcam video is released more than a year later. The officer Jason Van Dyke is found guilty of murder. November 2014, 12-year old Tamir Rice is playing with a toy gun and a park in Cleveland, Ohio and officers are called.

An officer shoots Rice seconds after arriving. A grand jury declines to indict the officer. The prosecutors saying the evidence did not indicate criminal misconduct by police. In April of 2015, North Charleston, South Carolina, Walter Scott was pulled over for a broken brake light. An eye witness captured the tragic outcome. Walter Scott was shot and killed by officer Michael Slager who was later convicted and sentenced to 20 years for murder.

Later in April 2015, the city of Baltimore is rocked when Freddie Gray dies in police custody. The 25 year old black man's arrest is caught on video. The Baltimore police department charges Gray for possessing a knife.

After being transported in a police van, Gray falls into a coma and is taken to the hospital where he dies later of a spinal injury. Over the next few days the city is brought to its knees with residents demanding to know what happened to Gray. None of the officers involved in Gray's arrest were convicted.

In 2015, Sandra Bland is pulled over for a minor traffic violation by state trooper Brian Encinia.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you mind putting out your cigarette please?

SANDRA BLAND: I'm in my car. Why do I have to put out y cigarette?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, you can step on out now.

YOUNG: Their exchange escalates resulting in Bland's arrest. The video shows how quickly the interaction turns.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Get out of the car. I will light you up.

YOUNG: Bland is found dead in her cell days later. Her death ruled a suicide.

OFFICER YANEZ: I told him not to reach for it. I told him to get his hands off it.

YOUNG: In July of 2016, Philando Castille gets pulled over. His girlfriend Diamond Reynolds and her 4-year old daughter in the car when she starts using her phone to live stream the interaction. Officer Jeronimo Yanez opened fire killing Philando.

DIAMOND REYNOLDS, PHILANDO'S GIRLFRIEND: Oh my God. Please don't tell me he's dead.

YOUNG: The community rallies behind the Castille family. The love school cafeteria supervisor. The officer is charge but later found, not guilty.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He was no criminal. My baby was a good man. Good, hard working man.

YOUNG: Then another tragedy in September 2018 unfolds in Dallas. CROWDS (chanting): No justice no peace. No justice no peace.

YOUNG: 26-year old Botham Jean is shot and killed by Dallas police officer Amber Guyger while sitting in his own home.

BOTHAM JEAN'S MOTHER: So I'm calling on the Dallas officials please, come clean. Give me justice for my son.

YOUNG: A jury later found Guyger guilty and she was sentenced to 10 years for murder. In March of 2020, Breonna Taylor, an EMT and her boyfriend Kenneth Walker are in her apartment in Louisville, Kentucky when just before 1:00 A.M., three plainclothes officers arrived to execute a search warrant in a drug case.


Taylor and her boyfriend think someone is breaking in when police kick down the door. Kenneth Walker grabs his legal firearms and starts shooting, hitting one officer in the lay.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Officers encountered rifle fire. YOUNG: Officers returned more than 20 rounds killing Breonna Taylor.

Incident after incident, year after year, tearing at the hearts of black people as they look for a balance from the justice system. The stories, the names, well known. The pain runs deep. Ryan Young, CNN Chicago.


LEMON: Heavy. I want to bring in now filmmaker Spike Lee. Good evening Spike. Thank you for joining us. How you doing?

SPIKE LEE, FILMMAKER: Good. That was - that was a great piece by Ryan so you guys, who produced, whoever did that, that to see all those things together because you know, it's here and here and here but you see it put together. It has a great impact and - and to me, why - how can people don't understand why people reacting the way they are.

We've seen, this is - this is history again and again and again. This is not new. We saw it arise in the sixties with the assassination of Dr. King. I mean every time something jumps off and we don't get our justice, people are reacting the way they feel they have to, to be heard.

This is not - what we seen today is not new. This is not new. We've seen this again and again and again and people ask the same questions like why are people rioting? Why are people doing this, doing that? Because people are fed up and people, a tie of (inaudible) the killing of black folks. That's what this country is built upon.

That's why I'm wearing the shirt. 1619, we are brought here to this country from other Africa to Virginia. And it's been the same thing and now we have cameras. But the attack on black bodies has been here from the get go. I'd also like to see the foundation of United States of America is built upon the stealing of the land from the native people and genocide, coupled with slavery. That is the foundation of the United States of America. George

Washington, first president owned 123 slaves. So this stuff is not new. And people - look, I'm not condoning all this other stuff but I understand why people are doing what they doing. And - and I would like to say this. I would just like to say this.

This stuff is diverse. I'm seeing a whole lot of white young people out there who joined in with us you know, in the show of displeasure with this country.

LEMON: Yes. I know exactly what you're saying and - and the criticism comes when you say I understand why these people are doing and you say but I don't condone it but I understand it. The criticisms that Spike and Don, they are encouraging people to go out and be violent. No, I understand why.

LEE: You and I have nothing to do. The reason why people are out is because people, black people are getting killed left and right.


LEE: It has nothing to do, you and I - Don, people said that my film 'Do the right thing' caused riots.

LEMON: That's what I want to get to but that's the - but this is my argument. When people were protesting on state houses with carrying their assault rifles and people say, well, I don't understand why - I don't understand why they're carrying assault rifles but I respect it's their right under the constitution.

This is the same thing. I understand their anger.

LEE: They're sticking flags too.

LEMON: Right but I understand their anger but I don't condone what they're doing. It's the same thing. I don't - no one should be destructing property and that sort of thing but I understand the anger and you mentioned, do the right thing and you mentioned that this is not new and you put this together. This short film for us.


And I appreciate it. It is premiering tonight on this program and its titled 3 brothers - Radio Raheem, Eric Garner and George Floyd. For those who need just a reminder, Radio Raheem is this fictional character in Spike Lee's iconic, this is 1989, 31 years ago. His iconic film do the right thing and I have to warn the audience. This video is disturbing and you have to watch it. It contains some raw language, all right but I think it's important not to sanitize this. Here it is.


GARNER: I'm minding my business officer. I'm minding my business. Please just leave me alone. I told you the last time. Please just leave me alone. Don't touch me. [BLEEP] I can't breathe. I can't breathe.

FLOYD: I can't breathe. Mama. Mama.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All he did was break up a fight.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Stop it. He's breathing right bro?

FLOYD: I can't breathe.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, he's not even moving. Leave bro.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No bro look at him.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You can at least lift him up off the ground bro. What are you going to achieve bro? You just killed that nigger bro.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He just really killed that man.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You just really just killed that man, bro.


LEMON: Spike Lee, 'Do the right thing' 30 years ago, still relevant today.

LEE: Well, Don, here's the thing. Radio Raheem, a fictional character is based upon Michael Stewart in 1983. He was doing graffiti in New York City subway station and he was killed by the New York City transit cops. That's where I got that deal for Radio Raheem.

That was back in 1983. Do the right thing came in 1989 and so when I see the take with Eric Garner, I'm like, oh my God. That's the same thing. And then with George so it's - it's a devaluation and dehumanation of black lives.

And this guy within the White House, he isn't helping.

LEMON: Basketball hall of Famer, Michael Jordan, I want to get your response to this, released a statement tonight. It says in part. "I see and feel everyone's pain, outrage and frustration. I stand with those who are calling out the ingrained racism and violence toward people of color in our country. We have had enough."

He is speaking out and that's extremely rare and something that he is taking a lot of criticism. Are you glad to hear that?

LEE: Yes, I mean I'm glad my brother M. J, I love you. Thank you for coming out. And I appreciate - we all appreciate it. And I think that those - these horrible images of black bodies is getting everybody. And I hope after - with this pandemic, we cannot go back to the same old stuff.

We got to move forward. And this pandemic has really demonstrated to a lot who didn't know, the gaps between the haves and have nots. We cannot go back to the same old stuff. We can't do it. We can't do it. We can't do it. LEMON: Spike, thank you. Thank you for having the courage and the

voice to step up and to put yourself out there and I just - can I just read something from someone who I highly respect.


And watching our conversation about condoning violence and they said, the answer to aren't you condoning violence is no but I don't know what is a proportional response to mass murder. Spike Lee.

LEE: 400 years. We've been killed. 400 years.

LEMON: Thank you Sir. Be well.

LEE: Thank you.

LEMON: Thank you. Jane Fonda has a long history of speaking out for her beliefs with protests spreading across the country tonight. I'm going to talk to her about George Floyd's death, next.



LEMON: I want to talk to you about the protests spreading all across America's night with Jane Fonda. Jane, thank you so much for joining us. I appreciate it. You are - you are no stranger to protesting as someone who is not afraid to make your voice heard. How do you feel about these protests erupting all across the country following George Floyd's death?

JANE FONDA, ACTRESS AND ACTIVIST: Well, I'm in Los Angeles. There have been several articles talking about how in Los Angeles this is taking people back to 92 - 1992 or 1993 when there were - there was rioting after film of police beating Rodney King became public and then the officers were never held accountable and this is different.

And I think it's important for us to recognize that the media cameras may be focused on the breaking of windows and the burnings and the fires but the vast majority of people at least in the cities where I've talked to people and from what I've seen on TV is non-violent. These are people who are - they're white, they're LatinX, they're old, they're young, they're in wheelchairs, they have children with them , they have dogs with them and it's organized.

Black lives matter. Color of change. They don't want violence. I don't know who the people are that are doing the violence. But I think what matters is that more and more people, white people are getting it. When Donald Trump was elected and the bandaid was torn off and people could see very blatantly, the racism in this country that's always been there.

But it was revealed in a new and more or robust way to us and then encouraged by this administration. I think a lot of white people got it. And maybe like me, I realized - I didn't understand enough about the history of racism, about slavery and reconstruction and Jim Crow and the new Jim Crow.

And so for the last three years, I've very intentionally been studying. I've been reading all kinds of books to help me understand and. I know that there's been - I mean, you've laid out very clearly what the problem is, what people are seeing, the history of racism and non-violence against black people.

Spike did a beautiful job talking about it. I I'd like to talk for a minute about what I think needs - needs to happen. I don't mean just because of Minneapolis. But it's - there's a kind of two tracks to the process towards solution. First of all, we have to get rid of this administration because this country should not be burdened with somebody like that and the people that are all around him and enabling him.

And so we're - we're in a very important moment. We have an election coming. We have a pandemic crisis. We have a climate crisis. We have a race crisis and - and we have a choice to make. We can keep seeing all these happen or we can do something about it and that's - and there's two tracks to it, I think.

One is we have got to -

LEMON: Jane, listen, I've got to - I hate to cut you off because we have some breaking news that's important happening but if - I don't want to be rude so I want to get a final thought from you if you can which I think is important and I appreciate you joining here.

But I just want to say on your website and I have your - your article here and it's on your website and it's George Floyd: A centuries old history. And you talk about how it's important -

FONDA: We have to change the policies.

LEMON: How white people - you want white people to understand the benefit of white privilege. Talk to me about that quickly if you can.

FONDA: Well, because we're white, we have - we have had privilege, even the poorest of us have had privilege and - and we need to recognize that and we have to understand what it is that keeps racism in place, the policies, redlining, banking policies, mortgage policies.

All of the things that are really making it very, very difficult for black people to lift themselves up. The policies have to be changed and then white people have to understand the history that has led to this and we have to try to change it within ourselves and we have to get to know black people.


And they have to become our friends and we have to understand the reality that they live in and we have to do it now.

LEMON: I love your tenacity I love your candor. I love how bold you are and I appreciate you coming on and continue to fight. You're a fighter and then on her website, Jane Fonda, George Floyd: A centuries old history. I encourage everyone want to read it and I thank you. Jane Fonda, appreciate it. You be safe, OK? Thank you.

Thousands of protesters marching through New York City right now. Shimon Prokupecz live on the scene. Let's get to the breaking news. Shimon, what do you have.

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes Don, so you know it's been mostly a peaceful day. I just want to sell you behind me here. For the first time, we're actually seeing police officers with shields, these plastic shields and helmets and what's happening here Don, is there is a crowd.

My understanding is thousands of people heading this way. You see this officer running here and here we go. This is some of what - similar to what we were seeing last night where police start to move in and the protesters start to run. There was this crowd came from Brooklyn, Don and police were trying to stop them around so.

And they are now making their way to Union Square and police are just standing here behind them and as you can see, there are people running. And police here are setting up a line to try and prevent them and now they're walking towards them here, Don.

LEMON: So you say thousands of people that they are expecting, that you're seeing here and this is in Times Square. Where are you exactly?

PROKUPECZ: This is in Union Square.

LEMON: Union Square, sorry.

PROKUPECZ: It's been relatively quiet here. The police are starting to back up here behind me just show the police. They are now back here lined up but this crowd is - I mean, we were with the peaceful protesters earlier that when I was on with you earlier, that you saw.

This is a much different crowd from what we saw earlier, just probably at the start of your show, this is a much different crowd. They've been throwing things. Police have been trying to corner them off. They made a couple of arrests in the Soho area and now they're continuing to march. The police are standing back about a block away. There's a police helicopter over them. And now, it just seems like they're trying to figure out which way to go and they're just staying in the street.

But this is a much different crowd from what we saw earlier and here we go and they start to run as the police approach, they start to run.

LEMON: You know, it's interesting Shimon. It's pretty fascinating considering we both live in New York city and New York City has just been virtually empty, a ghost town for months because of the coronavirus and all 3of a sudden all of these people showing up on the street.

We haven't seen crowds like these in New York city since March. PROKUPECZ: That's right and you know what, if there wasn't a pandemic,

we would see cars everywhere. I mean this is Union Square. People would be out where there are a lot of bars and restaurants, stores and everything that is closed and as a result there really aren't that many people on the street.

So here again, Don, we're in the middle of the crowd and they're all trying to figure out. They're trying to avoid the police is what they're doing. They see the police ahead and what they are doing is, they're trying to head in a direction where they can try and avoid the police.

LEMON: If we could see which way they're going. Where are they going Shimon? I think they're - They're going down 15 Street. Where is it to the left on 15 Street -

PROKUPECZ: This is 12 so we're now on 12 street and Broadway. So this is all the Union Square area. And so now they're heading - so here you see them walking now, they're walking east and they're splitting up. Some of them are heading west, some are heading east but the police are not surrounding them you know.

Yesterday we saw the police surround them, try to get them out of the street. Here are the police now Don. They're moving in and what you'll see here -


LEMON: Well, this looks - this looks largely peaceful to me and what appears to me, Shimon is that the protesters are walking through the streets in what appears to be a peaceful manner, walking back and forth, trying to go down the streets and avenues where police aren't so they walk down a street.

Correct me, if I'm wrong that is police free and then when the police show up, they go back the other way. Am I wrong.

PROKUPECZ: That's right. Yes so now you see the crowd. Let me move here. And their hands up and they're saying don't shoot. So and the police are lining up here. And you see some officers pushing some of the protesters now and like you said, Don, you're right. I mean for the - for the most part of the day, they have been a while to march in the streets, protest and it's been peaceful.

And it is when the police approach, a confrontation starts but this is a very different posture from police that even we saw yesterday. We didn't see these shields out like the way they are here tonight.

The police clearly concerned for their safety after what happened last night to their vehicles being burned, attacked, surrounded. I think what's changed with this crowd, they were getting reports, the police that they were throwing things.

I saw them carrying street cones so that could be what the police are concerned about. Usually when the police are wearing these helmets it is because they are concerned that they're going to get hit obviously with debris and we have seen protesters throw bottles at police.

And so now something is on fire behind me. There is now a fire here, Don. Something is burning. So there something is on fire.

LEMON: So Shimon, do we know what this is? Is this a car? Is it a trash can? Is it debris? Do we know what's on fire?

PROKUPECZ: We don't know what's on fire here Don but now the crowd here is trying to leave so we're moving back as well. So this is - I don't know what they're running from. It could be the police. Do you know what's on fire. So it's a car fire. Do we - so yes, clearly things here much different from what we've seen all day here.

LEMON: Is there anyone there who seems to be a reasonable person who you can talk to, to find out what is burning and what they may be running from.

PROKUPECZ: You know what's burning there? No, she doesn't know. Yes. So now we hear fire department.

LEMON: Is there any way to get closer, back closer to 12 Street Shimon?

PROKUPECZ: No, so now it's all blocked off by protesters. The protesters have blocked. The police are blocking the area and now the police - the fire engine here, Don and there are more police officers coming in now.

LEMON: So you're watching scenes from New York city which is Union Square which is sort of downtown, just below midtown. 12 street and you said 12 street and what? This is Broadway? 12, Broadway and there's a car on fire and you can see the fire department and you're seeing there and obviously the police -

PROKUPECZ: Don, you can hear the police.

LEMON: Here's the police. Shimon, stand by.

PROKUPECZ: Move back. They're telling people to move back.

LEMON: Shimon, let's listen for a second OK? I just want to hear some of this. Shimon, I want you to stand by. I want to bring in now, the daughter of Dr. Martin Luther King Junior, Bernice king and she joins us as we go through these scenes that are playing out in America.



LEMON: I want to bring in now the daughter of Dr. Martin Luther King Junior Bernice King. And she joins us as we go through these scenes that are playing out in America. And there is Bernice King.

Bernice, thank you so much for joining us. I really appreciate this. When you look at what's happening here--


DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: --and all of this happening. I know your father was about peaceful nonviolence. What do you think of this?

KING: You know I really hear his words tonight in his book, Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community? We have some hard choices to make and some quick choices. Time is not our ally right now. And I am with the family that there needs to be arrest made and the charges really need to be first degree. Until we have justice in that sense, we're going to have this unrest unfortunately.

And so, America's choice is that we can keep focusing on these reactions or we can change the conditions that have led to these kind of actions. Black America's choice tonight is that we can focus on those things that can help us right now be more constructive and build the community that we want to see.

The fact of the matter is what we are witnessing tonight, it's been said over and over again. The seeds of violence that this nation has sown over and over again, the harvest is what we are witnessing the night.

And yet my father spoke to us back in the 50s and 60s about having a revolution of values and focusing more on people rather than things. He talked about that we had to change our alliances to be more ecumenical. He talked about wiping out poverty, systemic racism and militarism and we ignored the process. And unfortunately his words are coming to pass on tonight.

My hope and prayer is that somebody will pick up a phone who has influence in this situation, who can turn it another way. White people, I say to you, it's time for you to speak up. It's time for you to confront your brothers and sisters.

Don, the thing that disturbed me when I saw him take his last breaths, white officers standing by and not doing a darn thing. That went to the depths of my soul. And so I'm saying to my white brothers sisters, especially those in the faith community, because there's a woman of God too many of them have been in the comfort, confines of their privilege in their pulpits. It's time for them to come forward. It's time for them to stand on the side of justice.

And we've got to deconstruct this country that has been built on violence. We've got to deconstruct our policing in this country, and we got to reconstruct it. We need to be looking at the Eric Garner Excessive Use Of Force Prevention Act. We need to change the way these law enforcement officers are hired. We know what it is. We were on a track with the 21st century task force reform on policing and we're now totally off track.

So I would just say right now - this - I think about George's six- year-old daughter. I was five years old when my father was killed senseless by law enforcement. And I keep thinking about her tonight, because I know that pain, I know that void. I know the journey of anger. I know what people are feeling tonight. I feel it. I've been to some places in my mind. Fortunately, I grew up in a household of nonviolence and I still subscribe to it as the ultimate solution to the way forward. We can't do it any other way.

But people have to hear these cries tonight. We need America to answer the cry that is coming to us from the streets and we can no longer go back to business as usual. Everybody says we will get to a worse place than we are now. If we go back to business as usual.

LEMON: Bernice, I didn't ask you a single follow up question, because what you said was so eloquent. And I think that is a good place for us to end with your very strong and very eloquent words. And I thank you so much for joining us. And you please be safe - you and your entire family.

KING: Thank you.

LEMON: It's good to see you today.

KING: Thank you for everything. Good to see you. Thanks for what you're doing.

LEMON: Thank you. And thank you for watching everyone. This special, "I Can't Breathe: Black Men Living and Dying in America." Our live coverage continues now with my colleague Chris Cuomo.