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Protests Nationwide on Trayvon's Case; Judge Orders Detriot to Pull Bankruptcy Filing; Four Men Freed From Captivity in Houston

Aired July 20, 2013 - 09:00   ET


POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everyone. I'm Poppy Harlow.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Victor Blackwell. Now 9:00 here on the east coast and 6:00 out west. This is "New Day Saturday."

HARLOW: We begin this morning with demonstrators in more than 100 cities gearing up for what they are calling national justice for Trayvon day. Protesters want the Justice Department to bring federal civil rights charges against George Zimmerman, the man acquitted of the murder in the killing of Trayvon Martin.

We have our reporters on the ground in several cities across the country where protests are planned for today. We start with Nick Valencia who is in Miami for us this morning. Good morning to you, Nick. I know that Tracy Martin, Trayvon Martin's father, is going to be there in Miami today, right?

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Good morning, Poppy. He is the headliner. Already just beyond that plaza here behind me dozens and dozens of protesters are slowly starting to trickle throughout the morning. That rally is expected to get under way at about 10:00 a.m.. Just a short time ago, I spoke to one of the organizers who predicts that more than a thousand demonstrators will be out here in Miami today. Of course, those are loose predictions.

But this much is clear. They want a change to stand your ground here in Florida. They believe that law should be amended and nationally nationwide activists are looking for the Department of Justice to intervene in the George Zimmerman case. They want civil rights charges brought against George Zimmerman who one week ago today was found not guilty in the killing of Trayvon Martin.

But let's for now throw it to Alina Cho. She is in New York where there is another headliner from the Martin family. Alina, what do you have?

ALINA CHO, CNN, CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Nick. Good morning. You're right. The headliner at today's rally in New York City will be Sabrian Fulton, Trayvon Martin's mother, and her surviving son, Jahvaris Fulton. These rallies across the country are being organized by the National Action Network led by the Reverend Al Sharpton and is expected to lead today's rally here in New York City at One Police Plaza.

Due to start at about noon Eastern Time. Really no telling how big turnout will be here in New York City. But one bit of good news, it is, dare I say, a beautiful morning here in New York City. About 10 degrees cooler than yesterday. That is a big relief, but one caveat, is just an hour after the rally is due to start here in New York, the rain is expected to fall and that could affect turnout here in the city.

I turn now to Athena Jones in Washington, D.C.. Athena.

ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi there. The rally here in Washington outside the Federal Courthouse is set to get under way at about noon. They are setting up microphone speakers. We had a chance to speak to one of the rally organizers who said this is going to be a peaceful rally and not an angry protest. Folks here are disappointed in the Zimmerman verdict and want to see the federal government, the Justice Department bring civil right charges against George Zimmerman.

I should tell you that they've been handing out this flyer, distributing to people that they want to come out. It says bring your hoodies, your signs, iced tea and Skittles. The whole idea is to have a peaceful demonstration to show that public opinion and public pressure is on the Justice Department to act in this case. Of course, we know the civil rights charges are not a foregone conclusion and many legal experts say they may be unlikely. Poppy?

HARLOW: All right, Athena. Thank you. Appreciate it.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BLACKWELL: And this breaking news is out of the Middle East. Israel says that they will release a limited number of Palestinian prisoners. No hard number. They are just saying heavyweight prisoners and calls the move a goodwill gesture. It's aimed at getting long stalled Middle East peace talks back on track.

Secretary of state John Kerry has been crisscrossing the Middle East and says an agreement has been reached that could get Israelis and Palestinians back to the bargaining table. He has been working on this for months. A Palestinian news agency says talks could get under way in Washington in the next few days.

HARLOW: Also this morning a roller coaster at Six Flags over Texas in Arlington remains closed this morning after a woman was thrown from the coaster and died. Witnesses say the victim came out of her seat on a steep turn on the Texas giant. Earlier we spoke with a man who was next in line to get on that ride when he learned what happened. He saw the victim's son who had been on the coaster with his mother. Listen.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The man was sitting next to a woman and they were both saying, let me out, let me out! My mom fell off! My mom fell off! I need to go find her. The park workers were kind of taken back by it and didn't really know if he was being serious or not and once they realized that he was being serious, then they rushed to go assist her.

(END VIDEO CLIP) HARLOW: That ride will remain closed pending an investigation. Our thoughts, of course, with that woman's family.

BLACKWELL: In Detroit just a day after the city declared bankruptcy on Thursday, a judge has ordered the city to withdraw its filing declaring it unconstitutional but Michigan's attorney general says he'll appeal that decision. The motor city has a total of 18 billion in debt and a major contributor to that number is the unfunded pensions for city workers.

Let's go to Houston now where police have freed four men who were held captive at a house maybe for years. The men may have been homeless and police say they were lured into that house with a promise of food and cigarettes. But then they were locked up. And only fed scraps. Police have a suspect now.

CNN's Ed Lavandera is in Houston. Ed, tell us what we have learned about what happened to these men and that home behind you.

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Victor. Well, you mentioned that suspect. We have just heard from Houston Police just a few seconds ago that there have been official charges that have now been filed in this case against a man by the name of, I'm told of, Walter Jones. He is the grandson of the woman who owns the house that you see behind me.

According to Houston Police, he has been charged with two felony counts of injury to the elderly by act and injured to the elderly by omission. This comes one day after a call brought Houston police here to this home and what they discovered inside was four men inside this converted garage area locked up and Houston police say those men said they had been held against their will for some time. They are still trying to figure out just how long they had been kept inside this house.

But investigators say that their investigators that look into group home and boarding home situations are a part of the team that is looking at the story right now. One of the allegations that these men made is that their government benefit checks, either social security checks or veteran checks had been taken by this suspect and had been cashed and investigators say they are still trying to figure out just how long that had been taking place and what was used or what was done with that money.

So investigators say those four men were taken to the hospital and three of them were being checked out. We are told that they are in stable condition. But neighbors tell us that when they saw the men come out of the house, they looked awful.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I was in my yard when I seen them coming out in the ambulance and they didn't look good at all. Man, they looked like they're malnutrition. I mean, oh, lord.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, my god. It just touched my heart. I mean, I feel for them. I don't know. It just really got me hurt.


LAVANDERA: A bizarre situation here to say the least here, Victor. And as you have heard from the investigators, they continue to try to piece together what was going on inside this house and more importantly for just how long it was going on. It's been very hard to figure out just how long these men had been kept in here.

Some neighbors had said that they had seen the men. Others had no idea. So investigators, at this point, are still trying to unravel all of that. But as we mentioned off the top one man by the name of Walter Jones has now been charged with two felony criminal counts. Victor, back to you.

BLACKWELL: Still so many questions. Ed Lavandera in Houston for us. Thank you.

HARLOW: Well, the president and race. The president gave a pretty remarkable talk yesterday. Our panel will weigh in on this new day.


BLACKWELL: It was truly a remarkable moment. The president of the United States describing the racism he experienced as a young man.

HARLOW: President Obama speaking about the Trayvon Martin case. But making his comments very, very personal. Here's a sample.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There are very few African-American men in this country who haven't had the experience of being followed when they are shopping in a department store. That includes me. In fact, there are very few African-American men who haven't had the experience of walking across the street and hearing the locks click on the doors of cars. That happens to me, at least before I was a senator.


BLACKWELL: We put together an amazing panel to talk about the president's remarks this morning.

HARLOW: We have Van Jones. He will be a new host on CNN of our upcoming program "Cross Fire" that starts this fall. He joins us from Los Angeles and thanks for getting up super early for us. Also, Dr. Cornel West, a professor of philosophy and Christian practice at Union Theological Seminary. He joins us from New York. And in Miami, we have Ana Navarro, a CNN contributor and Republican strategist. Thanks to you all for being here, appreciate it.

Let me start with this. I'll start with you, Dr. West. There was something that really stood out. A look stood out to me in the president's remarks but he referred back to comments of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. saying talking about judging people not by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. He obviously chose those words for specific reasons. What is your overall tag on the president's remarks?

DR. CORNEL WEST, PROFESSOR, UNION THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY: I thought they were wonderful words as a tribute to sister Sabrina and brother, Tracy. I thought they were wonderful. I mean I lean on the same Jesus that they do. But it's going to be actions. That's going to be the crucial thing. When you talk about racial profiling and you acknowledge a (INAUDIBLE) or justice system that has nearly two generations of precious young black brothers, especially poor black brothers, we finally get a word.

Now it's been five years, first black president finally says a word about the Jim Crowe. I welcome it, sign of progress. Let's see what kind of action on the ground. When you talk about Raymond Kelly maybe the new head of Homeland Security he is the poster child of racial profiling. Many of us went to jail because (INAUDIBLE) so actions undermine words here, we're going to have to see.

HARLOW: We don't know who Ray Kelly if he is going the next head of Homeland Security. But I do want to get ahead -- we can talk about the action issue.

BLACKWELL: Yes, I want to talk about that with Van. Because Van, the president was very specific yesterday when he said he doesn't trust politicians to have this conversation. You have analyzed and I have covered as a reporter these round tables where people come and say a lot of things about the people that they have had as friends over the years and then go home and nothing changes. But specifically on action, should the president do something specific or is he right, politicians just stay out of it?

VAN JONES, CO-HOST, CNN'S "CROSSFIRE": Well, no, he should do something specific. And let me just say, first of all, I think it's good. The president of the United States is supposed to be the educator in chief on key issues facing the American people and he did that yesterday. Also political leaders always rely on their personal biography. They talk about how they grew up if they are Irish or they are Catholic.

There's no reason in the world an African-American president shouldn't be able to do the same thing so I applaud him for that. But we got to go beyond just talking about this now. The conversation has been joined but we had a criminal justice system in which black kids and white kids are doing illegal drugs at the same level but black kids are 10 times more likely to wind up in prison. That's a matter of law. That's not a matter of behavior of young people that the behavior of young people is consistent. It's the law that's not consistent. So there are things he can and should do.

HARLOW: I want to bring in Ana Navarro now, joining us from Miami. You know, the president said it's important for all of us to do some soul searching. First your take on his remarks. And then your response in terms of what action you think is appropriate from politicians right now. ANA NAVARRO, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: You know, Poppy, I'm going to be frank with you. When I first heard that he had weigh in on this, I didn't like it, because I think the last thing we need is for politics to be inserted in what is already a very divisive and very inflammatory, very emotional national debate. But when I read the transcript, when I saw the video of what he had said I didn't find anything in his words that was wrong. I thought it was conciliatory, it was respectful of the judicial and legal process and it was also a call to nonviolence. And it was a sharing by the president of the United States of his very personal perspective as an African-American man.

And let's face it, he is the first African-American president. He is a president for all but that also includes being a president for African-Americans and I thought what he was trying to do was tell all of us that we have to be understanding of each other. We have to be more listening. Listen to each other. Learn each other's stories and put that into the life experiences into the formula.

As far as action, I think I didn't hear anything yesterday about him talking about action, if anything. He had no reference to stand your ground. He had no reference to the process, the investigation going on at DOJ, at the Department of Justice. I think that is the way it's got to be. I think the only way we have a legal system that works and that all of us can respect is that we look at the cold hard facts and I hope that the Department of Justice does what it said that it is going to retain the evidence, has asked the state attorney in the state of Florida to keep the evidence and they are going to take a look at all of that and make a educated decision based on the facts on whether there is reason to proceed or not. That's how that decision needs to be made.

BLACKWELL:: This is good. I want to continue this conversation after the break. We got Van Jones, Dr. Cornel West, Ana Navarro. After the break I want to talk about the response to the president's comments. Some saying that they are poignant and they have been waiting for him to say this and some calling it race baiting. Stay with us, more on "New Day."


BLACKWELL: Let's continue our conversation on President Obama and his remarks on race yesterday.

HARLOW: We are joined by Van Jones, CNN "Crossfire" host, also Professor, Dr. Cornel West and CNN contributor and republican strategist, Ana Navarro. Thank you all for being with us this morning.

I want to talk quickly about stand your ground, because the president did address stand your ground and I want to go with you with this, Dr. West. He talked at length about it but I want to read you some. He said "If we are sending a message as a society in our communities that someone who is armed and potentially has the right to use those firearms even if there is a way for them to exit from a situation, is that really going to be contributing to the kind of peace and security and order we would like to see?" He got some backlash from some on that and others praising him.

Dr. West, what is your reaction to him bringing that into this conversation, this talk on race?

WEST: I was glad to see him bring it in. He said we must never rationalize killing innocent people in the name of self-defense. Then I thought about our drone policy and makes us the George Zimmerman of the world in killing innocent folk in the same of self-defense. But he is absolutely right, self-defense must never be used as a way of downplaying the precious lives of innocent people, but it was only at the state level.

I was very dissatisfied because he didn't talk about the federal level. I support the rallies around the country. It must be at the federal level. He gave the impression that he is pulling back even as he gave his very -- very powerful personal story. The personal will not be enough. We need policy and we need some serious truth telling about a racist criminal justice system. If you're going to be a father, you don't respond to the death of your son in a murder walking away by talking about the nation of laws and talking about the jury is right. It's a racist verdict.

Where is the moral indignation? I don't want just political calculation. It's a combination of both, I think, at this moment. I applaud his words -- but I am still waiting for action. We've been suffering for a long time, a long time.

BLACKWELL: Ana, right after the president's comments and actually during his comments, the response I saw on Twitter was quick, it was emotional, it was very -- there were some people who said this was race baiting. You're a Republican strategist, if you were to advise a candidate or a politician on how to respond to this what would your advice be?

NAVARRO: I would say, you know, don't respond and I would say you got to read the transcript and listen to his words before responding. I think a lot of people may have had a knee-jerk reaction to the fact he was weighing in and whenever a president of the United States weighs in on something, it immediately becomes political.

But I think he parsed his words very carefully. I thought it was measured and tried not to insert politics. He did not refer to stand your ground as the term. He referred to what you said. He also said it is going to be the legal heads and the talking heads that work this out. There is going to be legal issues that come out of this. I'm not going to weigh in on this. He called for nonviolence and I think -- let me tell you this. Anybody who has ever, any family that ever has to bury a child knows what a difficult experience this is. I thought he was very human in expressing his condolences and sympathy to the Martin family.

I think we all need to let tempers tamp down a little bit and take a good, hard look at some of these laws, at some of the context of it. And let it be on logic, not emotion which I know is not an easy thing to do in light of all the circumstances. BLACKWELL: Van, I want you to put this into historical context for us. The president of the United States standing in the briefing room talking at length on race. Is this something that we will remember a generation from now? Is this Kennedy on Catholicism? Is this Johnson on civil rights. IS this even Obama during the campaign in that formal speech he gave. Is this something that we will talk about for a week or a generation?

JONES: I think we are going to talk about this for a very long time. And I think when you look at this past spring the Supreme Court coming forward, essentially eviscerating voting rights, essentially eviscerating affirmative action to try to help kids get into school. You have the Trayvon Martin situation. You have this new movie that opened up, the fruit bell station movie about another death of an innocent black kid.

I think we have hit a tipping point now. For a long time, post-Obama you couldn't talk about race. You got a black president, you're supposed to be quiet. I think the pain point has been hit and this conversation has now been joined. I think conservatives and liberals are very concerned about the level of pain and among these young black kids, the violence of deprivation of opportunity. I think we can come together now. I think on another Republican could say, listen, you guys want to have a conversation about opportunity? We want to be a part of that conversation. I think this could bring liberals and conservatives together but I don't think there's any way going back now. I think we've had a tipping point on this conversation about race (INAUDIBLE) that come forward from both parties if we take it seriously.

HARLOW:: Yes, coming together. That is a good thing to see. we will see how this plays about. Really appreciate the commentary from all of you this morning. Thank you.

NAVARRO: Thank you.

BLACKWELL: Van Jones, Cornell West and Ana Navarro, we can stop talking past one another.

HARLOW: Just talk to one another.

BLACKWELL: All right. Thanks for watching today. I'll see you back here at the top of the hour.

HARLOW: But don't go away. Some say there is racial inequality in America's economy but why? Reverend Jesse Jackson joins our Christine Romans for a special edition of "Your Money." Fascinating show coming up right after the break.