Return to Transcripts main page


Some Countries See U.S. Differently After Ferguson; Unfair Treatment of Minorities by Police to Blame for Protests; Nasty Weather Could Interfere with Thanksgiving Travel Plans; Ferguson is Part of Bigger Problem on Race, Policing.

Aired November 26, 2014 - 13:30   ET



WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back to our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer, reporting from Washington.

It's the third day for protests in Ferguson, Missouri. Take a look at this. These are aerials from just moments ago of demonstrators. Last night, 2,200 National Guardsmen took to the streets of Ferguson. The protests remained largely calm compared to Monday night. But in one very tense moment, a police car was flipped over, set on fire in front of the Ferguson city hall. A total of 44 arrests were made last night. More than 170 protests took place across the United States. In Boston, the crowd swelled to around 1,000 people. Hundreds gathered in Los Angeles, Washington, D.C. and Atlanta. Protesters in New York City stopped traffic in Times Square and on major highways. Police monitored activity from a distance, stepping in only when demonstrators attempted to take over bridges and tunnels in New York.

Riots, teargas and burned buildings -- scenes from Ferguson, Missouri, that have shocked so many Americans. These same pictures are obviously being shown in every part of the world right now.

CNN's Max Foster is in London. He says some countries now see the United States in a different light.


MAX FOSTER, CNN LONDON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): So much of how America is portrayed abroad can be undermined by these pictures -- land of the free --


FOSTER -- we shall overcome, the American dream. The pictures have been carried worldwide, including here on the state-owned Russia Today.

UNIDENTIFIED RUSSIA TODAY ANCHOR: There's a strong sense here that the justice system has failed not just Michael Brown but it has failed the whole community.

FOSTER: France's leftist newspaper pointed out plainly that a predominantly white jury chooses not to pursue another white, accused of murdering a black in a predominantly black city.

But it wasn't just that an unarmed black teenager could be shot by a white police officer. It was how America erupted in response.


FOSTER: As protests spread, a schism appeared across society, exposing a divided America.


UNIDENTIFIED ANCHOR: Do you agree that this is an American problem? And how do we fix it?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I do agree it is an American problem. It's Ferguson and far beyond.

FOSTER (on camera): Even here in the U.K., the closest of American allies, people are asking if America is really the country they thought it was.

(voice-over): The president, whose election was meant to have ushered in a new period of racial harmony, the uncomfortable question for America is, how many other towns and cities have the same cocktail of problems that one spark could ignite just like has happened in Ferguson?

America is the most powerful nation on the planet. That puts it under closer scrutiny. And in this case, the world is taking note of what's being revealed.

Max Foster, CNN, London.


BLITZER: We know there's been huge interest around the world in what is the aftermath of that Ferguson decision.

Up next, some members of the U.S. Congress are railing against the grand jury decision in Ferguson, Missouri. We're going to speak with one New York congressman who calls it "a blatant miscarriage of justice."


BLITZER: We've seen the protests across the United States over the situation in Ferguson, peaceful demonstrations closing down highways, bridges. But it's not just about Ferguson. It's about the treatment by police that many communities believe is unfair when it comes to minorities.

Joining us now from New York is the New York Democratic Congressman Hakeem Jeffries, member of the House Jewish Committee and a member of the Congressional Black Caucus.

Congressman, thanks very much for joining us. REP. HAKEEM JEFFRIES, (D-NY), MEMBER, HOUSE JEWISH COMMITTEE & MEMBER,

CONGRESSIONAL BLACK CAUCUS: Thank you for having me on, Wolf.

BLITZER: I know you issued a statement saying the grand jury decision in Ferguson was a miscarriage of justice. Why do you say that?

JEFFRIES: The entire process, from beginning to end, was riddled with problems, unfair processes and inequalities. First, another young unarmed African-American man was gunned down by a police bullet. It happens far too often in America. It happened recently in the district I represent. That should disturb us all. And the initial reaction by the Ferguson Police Department, where they conducted themselves as if this was a military operation on American soil, could be disturbing and is something for us to look into and correct. Then the entire manner in which the county prosecutor conducted himself, whether that was incompetence or intentional indifference or whether there was manipulation of the grand jury, whatever the case was, the outcome was problematic and was brought about as a result of some of the ways in which the prosecutors conducted themselves before that grand jury.

Michael Brown was someone who was unarmed. He had just graduated from high school. He had no criminal record. He was on his way to college. He was shot dead in a manner that left questions to be asked about whether excessive force was used. He was left on the street for four and a half hours to bake in the hot August sun. The Ferguson Police Department overreacted in terms of their military-style conduct. And then you had a grand jury that made a mockery of the system in terms of how the prosecutors conducted themselves.

BLITZER: But what do you say -- I don't know if you saw it, but the police officer, Darren Wilson, he gave an interview to George Stephanopoulos on "ABC News" in which he said he felt threatened by Michael Brown, that in the end, Michael Brown was charging, running after him in effect. And he says he had no choice but to shoot and kill in order to save his own life.

JEFFRIES: This is why there was a breakdown of the grand jury process, which should have, in my view, returned at least an indictment based on probable cause that involuntary manslaughter existed, and then a trial court could have sorted this all out for the American people, most importantly, for the family of Michael Brown and for the Ferguson community. The shots that were fired that ultimately killed Michael Brown were fired from about 150 feet away. That is what the physical evidence establishes, even though the officer's testimony was very different in terms of what he presented. But the physical evidence suggests that he was 150 feet away. It doesn't seem reasonable to me, to people that I represent and to a lot of folks across America that his life was in jeopardy at that particular moment in time with such a distance.

BLITZER: He also argues that, additionally, when he told Michael Brown and his friend, who were jaywalking, to get on the sidewalk, Michael Brown, he alleges, went over to the car, punched him a few times in the face and tried to get his gun out of his holster. You heard that testimony? JEFFRIES: Yes. That's conflicting with witness testimony about that

encounter. Certainly, there was some sort of exchange over the car or in the car. And that should be sorted out in a trial.

Now, thankfully, Wolf, the state process is over, but there is still a federal process -- civil rights investigation by the Department of Justice that can now take center stage. It's an investigation that has a lot more credibility in my view and, hopefully, can restore some of the confidence that has been lost in the criminal justice system.

BLITZER: So you want the Justice Department to continue its two separate investigations right now? Are you're confident they'll come up with some charges or are you not so confident?

JEFFRIES: Well, I'm confident that the process will be fair, will result in a full and comprehensive investigation, different from what took place by the county prosecutor. So that should give us some measure of comfort as it relates to the process moving forward. But I think we're going to have to deal with systematic policy change in the way police departments interact with communities of color. It's a problem that has been in existence for decades and we continue our failure to confront this problem in a meaningful way. I don't want to find ourselves back having this conversation a month or two from now with a different tragedy in a different community but the same set of facts. That's why we have to confront it.

I support the president's initiative -- President Obama's initiative to bring folks together. But we really do need legislative action and change in order to turn the situation around.

BLITZER: Hakeem Jeffries, is a United States Congressman from Brooklyn and a little bit of Queens as well.

Congressman, thanks very much for joining us.

JEFFRIES: Thanks, Wolf. Have a wonderful Thanksgiving.

BLITZER: You, too.

Still ahead, the violence in Ferguson is part of a bigger problem here in the United States, race relations, policing. How does everyone go about solving it? We're going to ask the head of the National Urban League, Marc Morial, who's standing by live.


BLITZER: We'll get back to the Ferguson decision developments in a few moments.

But if you're traveling this Thanksgiving holiday, you definitely won't be alone. More people are expected to leave their homes here in the United States this year than any year since 2007. AAA says some 46 million people will travel more than 50 miles from home. That's about 90 percent of those people traveling by car. But nasty winter weather in the northeast and elsewhere around the country could ruin some travel plans. says airlines have already canceled more than 500 flights today alone. That number could dramatically increase.

Our team is hard at work to show us who will be most affected. Our meteorologist, Chad Myers, is in Atlanta. Our meteorologist, Jennifer Gray, is at New York's LaGuardia Airport, and Brian Todd is traveling up I-95, one of the nation's busiest corridors, from here in Washington, D.C., up to New York City. He's now on the New Jersey Turnpike.

Brian, let's start with you. How's the weather affecting traffic on I-95?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, on the turnpike, we cannot say it's too bad right now because it's -- there are no major back-ups here on the turnpike, despite some pretty nasty weather. This I-95, the turnpike, this is the demarcation line. Everything east of here is rain. West is snow. It's mostly rain on the turnpike. AAA says nearly 50 million Americans are going to travel more than 50 miles from home on this Thanksgiving holiday. 90 percent of them are going by car. We can see if we can show you out the front of our vehicle here and show you some of the rain we're up against. Again, the traffic is moving pretty well. We talked to state officials in New Jersey, Delaware and Maryland. They've told us they've been warning people for the past several days, leave for your destination early. And it looks like for the most part people have done that because the traffic patterns we've seen in Delaware, Maryland and New Jersey have not been too bad. We are about to head west into Pennsylvania a little bit where we know that there is some heavy snow starting to fall. And some of those traffic patterns are going to be very complicated as we get into the afternoon hours.

But this is a very high-impact storm either way. People on the roads are going to be up against this for the next several hours -- Wolf?

BLITZER: Be careful driving over there, Brian. Thanks very much.

Brian is not driving. He's doing the talking.

Let's go to Jennifer Gray right now over at LaGuardia Airport in New York City.

I take it there is a lot of delays and canceled flights, is that true?

JENNIFER GRAY, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes, absolutely, Wolf. In fact, this morning, it started out not so bad, but the problem is the flights coming into New York, because of the low clouds, and then it created a ripple effect. Looking at the board behind me, more than half of the flights canceled. We are seeing half of the delays. You just mentioned flightaware reporting 500 cancellations. And also reporting 2,000 delays across the country, and that number is expected to grow. Of course, with New York City, and Newark and Philly and D.C. and the biggest airports impeded by this because these flights have to go to system of the smaller cities. So even if the weather is nice where you are, you may be delayed, because the flights are caught up here in the northeast, and they can't get to you. And so right now, in New York, we are seeing the mix with snow earlier, and a little bit of the changeover. So it is back and forth, that the rain/snow line is right where the I-95 corridor is, and Chad will talk more about that. But as we get into the snowier conditions, it is only expected to get worse. They are prepared here at LaGuardia. They have cots and food in case people get caught here. Also, they are ready to go with people working the 12-hour shifts to make sure that the runways are clear for the holiday travelers.

BLITZER: And making sure they are safe, as well.

All right, Jennifer, thank you.

And Meteorologist Chad Myers over in the Weather Center in Atlanta.

And what are we expecting here in the holiday period, Chad?

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: I expect, Wolf, as soon as the sun sets at 4:00 or 5:00 or 6:00, all those roads, and even the one that Brian is on, are going to be icing up. I know it doesn't look like the sun is out but because it is the warmest part of the day, this is when the run/snow mix is going to be more rain. Later on, it will be more snow. Reesewood (ph), Pennsylvania, seven and a half. Bear Creek, Pennsylvania, about the same. You get to the east of there or the south of there, Baltimore, D.C. and Annapolis, it is a rain event. There's even been thundersnow reported today not far from Bergen, New Jersey or Baltimore, Maryland. It rumbles a lot because the sound is trapped. You would think it is quiet because of the snow, but the sound is trapped in an inversion. It means that the sound stays very close to the surface, so you will hear it for a long time and that thunder goes a long distance. It will change back over to snow tonight. In New York, we expect all of the airports to be a real problem.

Right now, we're seeing about 12 percent to 13 percent of the flights are canceled at the major airports. And, Wolf, there are 13 percent of the empty seats on the next plane, and so once you are stuck, once your plane is canceled, you may be there for quite some time.

BLITZER: And we have viewers around the world, they are wondering if the planes are coming in internationally into New York or Boston or Washington, D.C., and will they have problems if they are coming in from London or Paris or any place else?

MYERS: Not so far. There has been a big problem in London City Airport that has nothing to do with the American airports, but JFK is acting very, very well. Only 2 percent of the flights there at JFK have gone down today. So the major international airports, at least so far, are doing OK, and those international flights are not delayed.

BLITZER: We hope it stays that way.

Chad, thanks very much.

We'll get back to the Ferguson decision, the fallout, what is going on right now, right after this.



BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The frustrations that we have seen are not just about a particular incident. They have deep roots in many communities of color who have a sense that our laws are not always being enforced uniformly or fairly.


BLITZER: The president of the United States talking about race relations in the United States that are deeply concerning to a lot of people right now.

Joining us, the president and the CEO of the National Urban League, the former New Orleans mayor, Marc Morial.

And thank you for joining us.


BLITZER: Happy Thanksgiving to you as well.

And are things getting better in the United States or worse?

MORIAL: I think that we are in one of the periods where some of the progress that we have made is being challenged. I think that we are seeing things that may have been below the surface for many Americans, and this tension between police and communities and the lack of economic opportunity by the fact that the recession is creating jobs for some, but leave manage behind, and the wages are leaving many behind, so it is a fact that economics are challenging this country as well as race. And let me say that it is good that the president is challenging the country, but let me issue a challenge to the mayors and other locally elected officials, because what we see in Ferguson is a set of circumstances that exists in a very challenging way in Ferguson and not only in Ferguson, but in the situation in Ferguson, certainly has sparked in Ferguson, a new awareness.

BLITZER: And for six years, we have had an African-American president in the United States, and African-American attorney general and African-American secretary of homeland security, and this is not supposed to be going on like this right now, was it?

MORIAL: Well, it is interesting, Wolf, because the progress, and those steps, the Americans continue to celebrate, but with respect to the president, and I have said it before, I have been in some ways surprised at the intensity of the opposition in some of the dislike that people expressed toward President Obama. And some of it seems to go beyond simple politic, and they tread into the tricky waters of race, and that has to be said. So the nation, and the president, I think, still enjoys broad multi-racial support in the nation. But I think there is an element in the nation that seems to be obstinate when it comes to the kind of progress that we need make. So there's tremendous work to do but it's more than a conversation. I think it requires dealing with thse deep challenges in policy community relations and confronting the fact that economic opportunity, particularly for young people, especially for you men of color, is one of the most important challenges we confront as a nation today.

BLITZER: And employment for African-Americans in this country is way, way higher than it is for anybody else in the country. And who is to blame for that?

MORIAL: Well, I think you can go back to talk about the efforts in the recovery and the fact that -- and not beat an old horse, but it is my view that the stimulus needed to be larger and there needed to be more targeted features to it. I think it is easy to have the discussion, Wolf about blame, but let's have a joint conversation about the responsibility to make it better for all. So that's not only inside of the Beltway. As tax extenders and the fiscal plans are discussed, can we discuss an investment plan to create jobs for those in inner city, urban communities? Can we confront the fact we have a crisis that, for us, there is an Ebola crisis, and some thinks that there is a border and immigration crisis, so I think that the responsibility to confront it is across the board.

BLITZER: Marc Morial, we've got to leave it right there. Happy Thanksgiving to you.

MORIAL: Thank you, Wolf. Thank you.

BLITZER: Thanks very much.

Thanks very much for joining us.

I'll be back 5:00 p.m. Eastern in "THE SITUATION ROOM."

For our international viewers, "AMANPOUR" is next. For our viewers in North America, "NEWSROOM" with Brooke Baldwin starts right now.