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U.S. Rescue Mission on Mt. Sinjar Unlikely; Violent Protests Rage in Missouri

Aired August 14, 2014 - 06:00   ET


KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning and welcome to NEW DAY. It's Thursday, August 14th, 6:00 in the east. John Berman is here with us. Chris is off today.

We are going to start this morning with the chaos on the streets of Ferguson, Missouri, another wild night of clashes in the wake of the police shooting death of an unarmed teenager.

Authorities say some protesters launched Molotov cocktails at police, forcing them to use tear gas and flash bang to try to break up the crowds. You can see really just the chaos right there in this video, from a local radio station.

Almost two dozen people were arrested as tensions escalated including two reporters sitting in a fast food restaurant while trying to do their work.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Missouri's governor headed to Ferguson again today. President Obama has also been briefed again, and CNN has obtained cell phone video showing the dramatic scene that unfolded after Michael Brown was shot by an officer who still has not been identified because police there say there are security concerns, safety concerns for his life.

We have a lot of coverage this morning. We want to begin with CNN's Ana Cabrera in Ferguson. Long night -- Ana.

ANA CABRERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It was a long night, but it is very quiet here this morning, almost eerily quiet especially when you look at those images we just showed you. That was all just a few hours ago, and this is where it all ended, after the flash banks, after the tear gas.

A small group protesters made their way here to the police station, in fact, and we know that they were greeted by a heavy police force, riot gear. They had their guns drawn. When people refused to leave here, more people were arrested.

Now this is the backdrop as the Missouri governor comes here for a second time and we head into another day of uncertainty.


CABRERA: Overnight, Ferguson erupted, perhaps the most chaotic protest the police response yet, angry crowds throwing bottles at law enforcement and police firing tear gas and flash bangs to disperse them.

A TV news crew on the scene runs for cover after a tear gas canister lands directly in front of them.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There it goes. They're firing on to the crowd. They are firing rubber bullets.

CABRERA: Dramatic video shot by a reporter on the ground captures utter chaos. Police advance on the protesters, sending them running in fear. As officers fire rubber bullets and smoke grenades in this residential neighborhood.

At least 18 arrested overnight including two journalists, detained while police attempted to clear out a local McDonald's. The altercation caught on camera.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let's go, let's go. We don't have time to ask questions.

CABRERA: This as new cell phone video from just after Brown was killed captures the heart breaking moment when a man, believed to be Brown's uncle, rushes to his lifeless body and is immediately pushed away by police.

The witness who captured this video says she also saw the shooting unfold telling CNN's Don Lemon exclusively the details of what she witnessed.

TIFFANY MITCHELL, EYEWITNESS TO MICHAEL BROWN SHOOTING: What I saw was when the cop and Michael were like wrestling through the window, it looked as if Michael was pushing off the and the cop was trying to pull him in. Then the cop shot -- fired through the window.

Michael breaks away and he starts running away from the officer. The officer gets out of his vehicle and pursues Michael as he is shooting his weapon. Michael jerks his body as if he was hit. Then he turns around, faces the officer, puts his hands up and the officer continues to shoot him until he goes down to the ground.

CABRERA: Another eyewitness describes how the officer repeatedly shot Brown who was unarmed.

MITCHELL: He was trying to get away from him. Why did he continue to shoot at him? I don't get that part at all. Why was he killed trying to get away from the officer?

PIAGET CRENSHAW, EYEWITNESS TO SHOOTING: Even when he turned around and put his arms in the air, he was killed, shot multiple times.

CABRERA: Multiple witnesses tell a similar story while police maintain Brown assaulted the officer in his car and tried to take his weapon.

UNIDENTIFIED CALLER: -- an officer involved shooting out of Ferguson, 2190 said they had some more shots fired in the area.

CABRERA: The police chief now says the officer suffered injuries to his face during the altercation and was taken to a local hospital.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He is very shaken about what happened that day and the after aftermath.

CABRERA: Earlier Wednesday, police had asked that all protests be held during the daytime. Thursday night's protests continued as scheduled. Police responded with force.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There it goes. They're firing on to the crowd.


CABRERA: And now as the dynamics here continue to be so heated, there's been this trickledown effect. In fact, the school year has been delayed. The start of school was supposed to happen today. Now classes will start on Monday, in the hopes that the situation will stabilize.

But many fear that things could still escalate. The group, Anonymous, which has, of course, been very active on social media, has called for today to be a national day of rage, urging people to protest around the country in solidarity with the people of Ferguson -- Kate, John.

BOLDUAN: It seems to be getting more and more out of control rather than getting under control at this point. Ana, stay with us.

Let's bring in Ray Downs, he is a staff writer with the Saint Louis newspaper, "The Riverfront Times." He was also covering last night's protest live, tweeting the dramatic moments as they unfolded.

Ray, thanks so much for jumping on with us. How would you describe what happened last night? We've heard a lot of people saying chaos, unrest. If you look at this video and you look at some of the pictures you were tweeting, how would you describe it?

RAY DOWNS, STAFF WRITER, "RIVERFRONT TIMES": Well, the first thing that started -- these protesters have been angry. They haven't been violent, but people are angry. They use strong language because they are very angry with police. They are not protests that are a lot of kumbayas. They have a lot of problems with police.

It's a very deep problem in Ferguson. Once police started with the tear gas, things did get chaotic. That's the perfect word for it. It was chaos. It was intense. It was dramatic. People shouting, crying, scared, and angry. All that mixed in one. It was a pretty crazy scene.

BOLDUAN: What did you hear from protesters on the ground? You were there along with them covering this whole scene, what did you hear from the protesters?

DOWNS: While the tear gassing was happening or before that?

BOLDUAN: Throughout. Throughout all of it.

DOWNS: Throughout?


DOWNS: Throughout, the root of it is people's problems with the police. They have deep grievances with the police and they want things to change. They want harassment to stop.

They want racial profiling to stop. They want police officers who know the area, who know the people and the community in that area so there's a better connection between people and officers.

There's a feeling that the police are not one with the people there in Ferguson. And that causes a lot of problems. A lot of that is -- the root is probably race, but a lot of it is also just that disconnect. That's what people tell me.

BOLDUAN: A lot of distrust going on.


BOLDUAN: When you're watching this escalate throughout the evening, police saying there are reports of Molotov cocktails being thrown at them, then the tear gas began, when you're watching all of this play out, did the police response seem reasonable? That's the question a lot of people are raising this morning. Did the police go above and beyond? Was it excessive?

DOWNS: It was extremely excessive. I mean, yes, a Molotov cocktail was thrown. I saw what looked like a Molotov cocktail a few feet away from me. And other people saw it, too. To kind of reiterate how, you know, different that one or two or three people in the crowd, whatever it was, out of hundreds is -- I mean people were saying, no, no, doubt.

And then someone running, obviously, because they knew what was going to happen, tear gas, armored trucks rolling through the streets, tear gas being thrown on people's lawns. Yes, it's excessive. To see it, it's striking. It looks like an invasion, basically.

BOLDUAN: Ana, what are police saying about their response? What's the police side of this?

CABRERA: The police are saying that they want to make sure that this situation doesn't get more out of control than what we've already seen. We saw looting that happened on Sunday. And that's really what they want to avoid. Another situation like that in which there's property where people could potentially be injured.

At this point, we're not hearing any serious injuries from the incident last night. We'll continue to ask those questions, though, about exactly what happened and whether or not this response was justified.

BOLDUAN: Absolutely. And, Ray, one final question to you. After a very long night, after everything that you saw and nearly two dozen arrests, what are you expecting to happen today?

DOWNS: I don't know. We'll have to find out. Hopefully, it won't be worse. But I talked to quite a few people and a lot of them feel that it will get worse before it gets better. Hopefully, that's not true.

BOLDUAN: Ray Downs of the "Riverfront Times" in St. Louis, thanks so much. Ray, thanks for joining us. Ana, thanks for your great reporting as always. We'll check back with you throughout the show. A lot to discuss today as it seems that that St. Louis suburb is outraged right now.

BERMAN: The idea that it could get worse is chilling at this point.

BOLDUAN: Absolutely. Absolutely. We'll have lots more on the violence gripping Ferguson, Missouri coming up.

But first, a team of U.S. Special Forces assessing the crisis on a mountain in Northern Iraq. Why the military may not get more involved after all. We'll go live to the Pentagon to discuss.


BERMAN: Welcome back, everyone. Major news to report from Iraq. Large scale U.S. operation to rescue people marooned on a mountain in Northern Iraq now appears unlikely. The U.S. military assessment team found far fewer refugees hiding from extremist militants than they expected. Officials say that air strikes on the ISIS positions have allowed thousands to escape on their own.

CNN's Barbara Starr is live at the Pentagon. Barbara, we were speaking all yesterday morning. This is not the situation I think that many people expected to find when U.S. Special Forces finally stepped foot on that mountain.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: I think it was very unexpected, John. I was talking to a senior U.S. official a short time ago. As he said, if you're going to be wrong about the intelligence, at least this time it was good to be wrong.


STARR (voice-over): This morning, over a dozen U.S. air strikes, protecting Yazidi civilians fleeing a murderous rampage by ISIS proving effective. On Wednesday, U.S. Special Forces were deployed atop Mt. Sinjar to assess the severity of the situation facing the religious minority.

CNN knew about this special operation on Tuesday, but agreed to withhold the information until the troops left the mountain, as officials feared for their safety.

In less than 24 hours, the group discovered most of the Yazidis were able to evacuate. American air strikes destroying key ISIS checkpoints, opening up an escape corridor, according to U.S. officials. BRETT MCCURK, DEPUTY ASST. SECRETARY OF STATE FOR IRAQ AND IRAN: The

president said, when he spoke to the American people, we're going to break the siege of this mountain and we broke the siege of the mountain. In the meantime, we kept people alive with humanitarian air drops.

STARR: The few thousand Yazidis left, receiving an airdrop overnight, the total it delivered now topping 114,000 meals and 35,000 gallons of water. U.S. officials say a major mission to evacuate the remaining people is far less likely, as they believe Peshmerga forces supported by U.S. air strikes can help the people escape.

But the brutal campaign by ISIS is far from over. The United Nations announced its highest level of emergency for humanitarian crisis Wednesday, estimating more than 400,000 people have now fled their homes in fear of the tyrannical militant group.


STARR: But is the siege of Mt. Sinjar by ISIS really over as the State Department suggests? A U.S. official told me a short time ago that air strikes will continue and they will continue to keep is at bay if they see ISIS on the move again -- John.

BERMAN: So, those strikes will continue. Important information.

Barbara Starr at the Pentagon, thank you very much.

I want to bring in CNN military analyst, Lieutenant Colonel Rick Francona.

Rick, thanks so much for being with us. I appreciate it.

Look, what happened, what we learned on Mt. Sinjar, the refugees not as numerous as we thought. Many were allowed to escape much quicker than we thought. The air strikes and air lifts may have worked better than we thought.

How do you think they were they able to make this assessment so quickly on this mountain with a handful of U.S. forces? And why do you think what the U.S. and the Kurds and others were doing were effectively so quickly?

LT. COL. RICK FRANCONA (RET), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Yes, it was -- this was surprising. But this Special Forces teams are trained to do this. They have a mission called foreign internal defense, where they used to going out, working with locals and assessing situations very quickly. They were able to get up there.

And, you know, as we always say there's nothing like American eyeballs on the target. You got American military people judging what the American military will have to face. And, you know, professionals looking at the situation.

So, I think this is good news. We actually had an American team up there, providing a good assessment. BERMAN: What you're looking at right here, these are some of the

airlifts, bringing in aid and bringing out some Kurds. I don't think this is what got most of the numbers out. Most probably fled on foot, maybe even through Syria and back into Iraq.

The question now for the U.S. military, you heard Barbara Starr say they will continue the air strikes. Do you think that is all they will do? Do you think they will provide more direct aid to the Kurds, to the Peshmerga, the Kurdish militias now in direct conflict with ISIS?

FRANCONA: I do. Well, we can't rely on the Iraqi army. They've proven themselves to be ineffective.

The Kurds, on the other hand, have proven themselves to be willing to engage if they had the weaponry. They're getting the weaponry. It's flowing. I talked to a friend of mine in Irbil. They're seeing it already and they're grateful for it.

BERMAN: Just weaponry? Are we just giving them weapons? I know a lot of people ask me do we have U.S. Special Forces now on the ground in direct conflict with ISIS and we're just not seeing it or hearing about it?

FRANCONA: I would hope so. I also know our intelligence operatives are on the ground up there working. They don't count as troops. They don't count as boots on the ground.

So, we may be providing that direct support, much like we did in Afghanistan. The Afghanistan model worked for us. You put Special Forces and CIA officers on the ground. They can direct those air strikes and make them much more effective.

BERMAN: They're there even if we're not hearing about it.

One of the new crises seems to be these Yazidis women and children taken allegedly by ISIS right now, maybe even brought to Mosul right now, which is an ISIS stronghold. Is there anything that can be done to get these women and children out of the grips of these militants?

FRANCONA: Short of going into Mosul, you know, full-scale attack, not really. The problem is these women have no special status. They're not considered people of the book of the three older religions. They're considered.

So, therefore, they have no status. They're not even considered to be people. They can be handled as possessions, sold into slavery and do whatever.

What can we do about it? Short of liberating Mosul, not really much.

BERMAN: That doesn't seem likely at this point?

FRANCONA: We're nowhere near that.

BERMAN: Airstrikes, Barbara Starr said air strikes will continue. We're looking at this broader map here.

What can the airstrikes do in terms of keeping is movements to a minimum right now? Right now, they're not in Baghdad. They tried to move there before. Down here, there may be a little bit up here and they're up here. Can the air strikes hold them in place?

FRANCONA: Well, they can. The focus of the air strike sincere very limited. We're keeping this corridor open around Mt. Sinjar. That's allowing them to get into Syria, work with the Kurds in Syria, and bring them back into camp in the far north.

We're also using the air strikes to protect Irbil, as ISIS gets closer to Irbil, they're hit on the front lines and held at bay.

The problem is that we're not going against ISIS anywhere else. And that's the problem.

BERMAN: Like, say, Syria?

FRANCONA: Well, Syria, but also down here north of Baghdad, they're being stop bid ground forces down there. At some point, if we're going to take on is and treat the disease, not just the symptoms, we're going to have to go after ISIS wherever they are. That's the whole western part of Iraq and the eastern part of Syria.

BERMAN: You may be able to stem the tide temporarily, but to turn it will take a much greater effort.

Rick Francona, great to have you here with us.


MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Thanks so much, John.

Let's give you a lot more of your headlines now.

Pope Francis is in South Korea this morning, the first trip there by a pontiff in some 25 years. But his first visit was preceded by rocket launches from the North. South Korea's defense ministry says North Korea fired at least three short-range rockets off its east coast this morning. The last one fired about half an hour before the pope's arrival in Seoul.

To the Mideast, a new five-day cease fire seems to be holding in Gaza despite a brief round of air strikes. Israel responded to rocket fire moments after a truce was announced. Earlier, the spokesman for the Israeli government, Mark Regev, spoke to CNNI this morning about the new agreement.


MARK REGEVE, SPOKESMAN FOR ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: We have accepted these Egyptian proposals. The truth is there is nothing new there. Israel has consistently agreed to an unconditional extension of the cease fire. Our problem has been that Hamas either rejects or violates these cease fires. (END VIDEO CLIP)

PEREIRA: It's unclear who is responsible for the rocket fire that triggered that latest round of Israeli airstrikes. Hamas claims they are not responsible.

To the latest on the Ebola outbreak, a vaccine that could help protect medical workers in West Africa, that could take almost a month to be available. This according to "Reuters". The Canadian government donated 1,000 doses of it to the World Health Organization. However, the vaccine coming in too late for a second top doctor in Sierra Leone who die from the virus. Health officials say he was apparently infected while treating a patient who later tested positive for Ebola.

Robin Williams will be honored at the Emmy Awards later this month. Producers of the award show are planning tributes to the beloved comedian for the August 25th broadcast. Williams was nominated for an Emmy eight times and he won twice.

Meanwhile, Williams' daughter, Zelda, says she is quitting social media because of what she has called cruel and unnecessary responses to her father's death. I think most of us would agree. She is taking a break from Twitter and Instagram after doctored photos of her father were posted to her account. A very, very cruel and unfeeling thing to do to somebody who has just lost a loved one.

BERMAN: A lot of people would like to send her warm messages, though, I'm sure.

BOLDUAN: Absolutely.

Thanks, Michaela.

Let's take a break. Coming up next on NEW DAY, another night of violent protests in Ferguson, Missouri. Racial tensions are still very, very high as new details about the police shooting of an unarmed teenager.

Was the police response too much? We're talking about just overnight. We're going to take a closer look.

BERMAN: Plus, a Russian convoy, supposedly carrying aid, is headed to Ukraine right now. Ukraine doesn't want it to come in. It's a tense standoff with many fearing it could ignite something much larger.


PEREIRA: Another night of violent protests, raging out of control in the streets of Ferguson, Missouri.

Police using tear gas on the crowd of angry people over the shooting death of unarmed teenager Michael Brown. Missouri Governor Jay Nixon will be back in Ferguson today. President Obama has been briefed on the situation on the ground in Ferguson.

And almost a week after the shooting, there's still no idea of the officer who opened fire.

I want to bring in Mo Ivory, an attorney and radio personality, very familiar to our show.

Hi, Mo.


PEREIRA: As well as Steve Kardian, who's a retired police detective from West Chester County and former member of the New York City Department of Investigation.

Steve, thanks so much for joining us. I think it's an important aspect to have you part of this conversation.

We're looking at the images. Look at the sight of your screen. You see tear gas. You see this violent reaction from both sides. We just spoke with a local newspaper writer, Ray Downs, from "The Riverfront Times", who quoted our scene to our Kate Bolduan as a majorly excessive reaction from police.

Steve, what can be done here?

STEVE KARDIAN, RETIRED POLICE DETECTIVE: They're dealing with the masses here. And we already know that a lot of damage has been done. There's been Molotov cocktails thrown at the police officers. There's been a lot of damage. They want to go home at the end of their shift. And they're going to respond with as much mass of force, if you will, as they need to not only protect the citizens and the property, but also to protect themselves.

PEREIRA: But is it excessive, Steve? It seems to me that kind of response is aggressive and over the amount that would be needed to disperse this crowd.

KARDIAN: No, I don't think so. They have the masses. They're lining up in the cover of darkness. So, it's a very dangerous situation.

They don't know where the negative things that are going to come at them, the Molotov cocktails, rocks being thrown, guns being fired off within the crowd.

So, they don't know who is there, attacking them. They're in uniform. The people that are there know who they are. They don't know those that wish them harm. They can't identify them.

PEREIRA: But we know, Mo, that -- this reporter who spoke to us said there were one or two or three bad apples, if you will, in the bunch, where a lot of people were there, protesting, using their words to describe their frustration. He said there was an angry crowd but only one or two were violent.


PEREIRA: Go ahead. I know you want to chime in. IVORY: Michaela, I take complete exception with what he just said, that they are so concerned about the rage of the masses. First of all, it's not masses that are even out there. There's hundreds of people, which cannot be considered masses in a town like that.

And you are absolutely correct.