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Protests Continue in Ferguson Overnight; Interview with Bishop Edwin Bass; Eric Holder to Head to Ferguson, Missouri; What Role Should the Federal Government Take?
Aired August 19, 2014 - 07:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: There is breaking news out of Ferguson, Missouri once again. Now thankfully calm but just a few short hours ago peaceful protests abruptly ended, mayhem ensued. Let's take a look at how order and peace disintegrated once again into violence.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Police don't want people to congregate in any one spot. They've lifted the curfew and its still the afternoon.
DON LEMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I think we're about to be arrested because we're standing on the sidewalk and you said you wanted - -
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Move out of the way, sir. Move!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Several hundred people now marching through the streets.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everyone seems to be keeping the peace.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Any small thing can set the community off here.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: People who are standing around too long are basically being arrested for failure to disperse.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have seen several water bottles being thrown. Also, tactical units being moved in.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Here come the police.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They seemed to have perhaps angered some people. They started moving toward those police lines. It's kind of a standoff here.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You can see police have put on their gas mask. You can an officer with the scope rifle.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's a chaotic scene. They are aggressively dispersing the crowd. You see police officers with guns and batons and shields. I don't know why they're standing here ready for such armed confrontation. There is nothing going on on this street right now that merits this scene.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The attention is on the police side at this point.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When you look at the amount of law enforcement agents here, when you go up the street, there are tanks after tanks and tanks, and more people stationed on roofs.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There are people on the crowd. A minority, but they're there who are trying to instigate with the police.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK, some grenades that were thrown to break up some of the protesters. And now there is tear gas.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They're throwing more tear gas.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What is going on there?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is a photographer who got hit pretty badly by the tear gas. Somebody get a medic, OK.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is an extremely tense situation that has elevated to the level of what we saw last night with tear gas and smoke being blown. Moments ago we heard the sound a of gunshot.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I hit the floor. I couldn't breathe. It felt like I was underwater and I was drowning.
Everyone in our immediate vicinity is being overcome by tear gas. And the protesters are saying this is our house. We're not going anywhere. Police are moving in in force now. They are taken into custody one by one.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's been a gunshot victim. Please leave.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't want anybody to get hurt. I don't want an officer to get hurt. I don't want a citizen to get hurt. But we have to find a way to stop it.
CUOMO: And the answer to the problem is still being sought here. Just a few hours ago, that's what was happening in Ferguson, Missouri. Will tonight be better? That's the big question. Today community leaders will try to make that the reality, but we'll have to wait and see, Kate, and we'll take you through what happened last night.
KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Absolutely right. And we're also going to have more details starting, bring you more details that are just starting to emerge about the investigation. A supporter of Officer Darren Wilson calling the Missouri radio station to back up the officer's side of the story. We're going to have much more on that. But for now let's get back to the scene and Chris in Missouri for more on what turned into a wild night there, Chris.
CUOMO: That's very unfortunate, because it's not helping this community get what the presidents, which is looking for answers. Instead you had this group that was simply looking for trouble, and the officer's had to respond. Gunshots did come out. There was met by a return of force an arrest by the police. A question is, what set it off and who and why? Those are answers that often get lost in the fray. We have George Howell. He is outside the police station this morning. Obviously all of this started as a reaction to the shooting of Michael Brown. But now, George, it seems to be a dynamic on its own.
GEORGE HOWELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Chris, let's try to break that down, the nuances of it. So people should be able to protest, right. As long as people remain peaceful, you can get into a police officer's face. You can say what you need to say, but as long as it remains peaceful.
Media should be able to report the story. That should be able to happen. But here is the question. Is it the police, are police being too forceful with the protesters? Are they being too forceful with the media?
The other question is, is it the people inside the group of protesters, is there a small group who continue to provoke violence? It just seems to happen night after night after night. So that's what we're seeing now. And again, police tried a different tactic the other night. They lifted that curfew, and they seemed to get the same results. They seemed to get a number of people within the crowd who provoked violence and provoked the problem. We that at least know 31 people were arrested. We know two people were shot. We know there were at least two fires that happened.
Our crews were out there. You see video of what they had to endure. Again, it's a tense, difficult situation that maybe rooted to deeper- seated issues, frankly, that is all taking voice, Chris, within the case of Michael Brown. People want answers, and as long as those answers are slow to come, it seems people remain outraged.
CUOMO: George, you know, that seems to be exactly the situation. Not even 12 hours ago we were handling this story, this street here in Ferguson, Missouri, this was the focus of the newscast there. So everybody is watching and they can't like what they're seeing here right now. The question is, what makes it stop? I want to bring Ed Lavandera in, because, Ed, you were here. You watched it unfold last night. It's getting familiar. The question becomes, does more work have to be done by the community leadership and the police leadership during the day to identify this group of instigators if that's really going on before it becomes night?
ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I would imagine there's probably some sort of intelligence work being done probably throughout the day. I think what we're going to see today having talked to some of the people and the community leaders that were out there is spreading the message. Captain Johnson spoke in the overnight hours about wanting people to protest peacefully to get that into the daylight hours. And we'll see if the message gets spread. That was about 3:00 in the morning here when Captain Johnson said that. S you'll probably need clergy members and other people in the community to spread that word. We'll see if that trickles out. CUOMO: But at the same time, as George was saying and as you well
understand, there is the need to protest. There is the need to keep this alive in the hearts and minds of the community because they want answers. You have to expect they will be out. Maybe they will be asking for moratorium on the following events of the days. We know you'll be there tonight, Ed. Make sure you keep yourself safe.
All right, so one of the important things here to remember, obviously, as you get to see these pictures is that the community is coming together. That has been probably the best source of progress. Last night you saw local leaders and especially clergymen and women coming and literally addressing people to person, one on one, saying this is what needs to be done. Don't make the situation worse. Let's remember the message. One of them, Bishop Edwin Bass, founder and pastor of the Empowered Church in St. Louis, he spent most of the day with members of the community trying to do just that, trying to create a better dynamic here. Bishop, thank you very much for joining us.
BISHOP EDWIN BASS, FOUNDER AND PASTOR, THE EMPOWERED CHURCH: Thank you for having me.
CUOMO: The community, obviously Michael Brown being shot by a police officer was a flash point and also a metaphor for what the community believes their reality is when it comes to dealing with the police. How do you help this community deal with what matters without having it become violence?
BASS: Well, we continue to do the same thing. We have clergy out on the street, as you said, dealing with people on a one-on-one basis. Our goal is to have them focus on justice and on peace. We're doing everything we can to speak to people one on one. I think this is a great opportunity to speak to both law enforcement and the community and ask them to not be fooled into this by the acts of a few people and cause them to react and sometimes and overreact in a way that really is destructive and furthers that kind of behavior.
CUOMO: Do you believe there is an opportunist element that is finding the way into Ferguson and using this situation to push anarchic things, to push anarchy, to push violence, unfamiliar faces to you. Do you believe this?
BASS: I absolutely believe it. I've had some of the law enforcement people point out to me some of the people that they've identified as having come into the community for the purpose of promulgating anarchy. And they are really, in some cases, providing even the issue of Molotov cocktails. They've been seen handing it to people who were somewhat heated in their emotions at that point and compelling and encouraging them to throw them.
CUOMO: It easy to find angry people in the situation especially as it remains unresolved.
Let me ask you this, Bishop. If you do get the word from leadership, we want a moratorium on the protests to help us kind of put a pot on this, how do you handle the request? Because you don't know if the urgency goes away if the protests go away, but you don't want to keep a cycle of violence. What do you do with the request?
BASS: I think that's an excellent question. First of all, I would not be for having a moratorium. I think the peaceful element of the community still need the opportunity to exercise their constitutional rights to peaceful protests. However, having said that, if that becomes the decision, we'll certainly be out in the community again encouraging people to operate and restrain, to take the long view of this to allow justice take it due course.
CUOMO: Would you accept a moratorium or an adjustment that the protests are only during the day because the problems are obviously at night?
BASS: Personally, I would accept that. But I'm not sure that the community would accept that.
CUOMO: Are you hearing enough from leadership? You're filling the role, and obviously the religious always have a role in communities like this that have a strong faith base. But your governor, your council people, your local elected, do you believe they're out there front and center enough on this?
BASS: I think everybody is struggling, trying to make sense of a difficult situation. And the question is how much should you be throughout and how much should you not be out there? I think that's a struggle. So for me personally I think it's difficult to second-guess the governor or other people. I think they're earnestly trying to moderate this and do it in a way that will bring peace to the community.
CUOMO: Information trickling out about the investigation, people are saying this is part of a propaganda war that's going on by the police. They tried to conflate the robbery with the shooting. The information from the autopsy is now from police. That's from the private side. What do you think should be happening with this investigation and how much people are reading into it right now?
BASS: I think certainly the piecemeal release of information inflames emotions, causes people to draw conclusions at a particular time. So there's somewhat of a yo-yo effect going on here. I think to the extent we are able to deliver substantive information in a more complete, thorough way, I think that's going to help the situation in the community.
CUOMO: Final thought, bishop. Are you seeing any sign there's any progress at all made in terms of getting the community at peace with allowing the process?
BASS: I think yesterday during the day, if you had been there for prior days, as I'm sure you have been, the atmosphere was different than in previous days. I believe that incrementally things are getting a little better every day. The problem is if we can find a way to stop the violence at the end of the day, we'll start the day with a fresh start and we'll be able to continue to improve. Unfortunately the setback at the end of the day every day causes us to take some steps backward and start again. But having said that, incrementally I think there is an improvement in the climate of the community.
CUOMO: And it is complicated. Although it's a small area, we don't want the armored vehicles, we don't want the national guard. That's what you see. But you do have these instigators here and they are using things like Molotov cocktails, you have to be ready to protect the community. So it's complicated. Bishop thank you for your efforts. We'll be out there with you tonight so we keep eyes on the situation.
BASS: Thank you.
CUOMO: All right, be safe.
Michaela, back to you in New York.
MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: It's great to see the bishop and the other clergy and other leaders in that community stepping up and speaking out, Chris. Thank you for your reporting on the ground.
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BOLDUAN: Yes. All right, coming up next on NEW DAY, Attorney General Eric Holder is heading to Ferguson, Missouri, after President Obama calls for calm. Is the administration doing enough to help ease the tension? We're going to discuss.
PEREIRA: Also, a family requested autopsy revealed yesterday showed that Michael Brown was shot six times. We're going to speak with the forensic pathologist, the man right there on your screen. He helped conduct his autopsy. We'll have his perspective ahead.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: To a community in Ferguson that is rightly hurting and looking for answers, let me call, once again, for us to seek some understanding rather than simply holler at each other. Let's seek to heal rather than to wound each other.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BOLDUAN: Let's seek to heal rather than to wound each other. Welcome back to NEW DAY, everyone. President Obama there calling for calm in Ferguson, but his plea seem to have gone unheard last night after peaceful protest turned into violence overnight over the Michael Brown shooting.
Now Attorney General Eric Holder is preparing to head to Ferguson tomorrow to speak with investigators as well as community leaders. Will it help calm the community? What is the role of the president and the administration in this conversation?
Joining us to discuss is Jim Acosta, our senior White House correspondent, as well as Charles Blow, a CNN political commentator and opinion columnist for "The New York Times". Good morning to both of you.
So you heard -- let me start with you, Jim. You heard from the president right there. He really did hit on that theme: let's work to heal each other, not wound each other. You heard that over and over in his comments yesterday. What do you expect, though, to see more from the president? The Attorney General is going to Ferguson. But what do you think? Should the president go? Will he go?
JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Right. Well, you heard Ann Compton ask that question at the end of that statement yesterday here at the White House and the president did not answer the question. And I've been told by officials here at the White House, Kate, that the president has not taken such a trip off the table. So that could still happen. I don't think it's going to happen this week. I think the president is going to, as planned, go to Martha's Vineyard later on today and wrap up the rest of his vacation.
Eric Holder heading out, the Attorney General heading out to Ferguson I think is a very interesting development. Clearly, the Obama administration wants to see a greater federal role in this investigation. As you heard from the president say yesterday, he doesn't want to tip the scales of justice, put his thumbs on the scales of justice one way or the other. That's why the president is not going right away.
But Eric Holder making it very clear in a statement yesterday that he is troubled by some of the things that have developed over the last several days. The police putting out that information about Michael Brown being involved in some sort of theft at that convenience store, and how that really didn't really anything to do with the police stop that led to his killing. The Obama administration is clearly troubled by the events that are taking place in Ferguson. And I think you're going to see the beginning of the administration dealing with that when Eric Holder gets on the ground tomorrow.
BOLDUAN: But, Charles, what is -- what do you think is the right role for the president and the Attorney General to have in this? I mean, with the Attorney General, there's more of a role, civil rights violations potentially they're looking into. But when it comes to the president, we heard calls for the president to be more involved, to do more when the situation with Trayvon Martin happened. What is the appropriate role?
CHARLES BLOW, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, it's one of the things where you almost can't win. I mean, there's always going to be someone asking for you to do more or less.
I do think that the president said something that was very important, which is that he, you know, that's a big thumb when you're the president. If you put that thumb on the scales, you really do tip it. We have to remember that we only know what we know in the public. So people who are asking for more or less only know what they have seen, as much as they have kept up.
BOLDUAN: I mean, he has to be careful.
BLOW: There's a whole investigation that is happening. This happened in the middle of a residential neighborhood. We have heard from four or five witnesses. There may be dozens of other witnesses who may have completely different accounts of things. They have -- I'm sure that the Justice Department and the local authorities have completed much of their forensic investigations. And they have information that we simply are not privy to.
And you really have to be careful, because, you know, as tragic as the losing of Mike Brown was, there's another life also that hangs in the balance. And there are the police officers who are still at work. And so you really want to be fair to everyone at that point. And so I think it's important for him to weigh that. It sound like he is weighing that.
BOLDUAN: And you heard that, also, Jim, in the statement coming from the Attorney General that he released. I mean, he said, "I realize there is a tremendous interest in the facts of the incident that led to Michael Brown's death, but I ask for the public's patience as we conduct the investigation."
It does raise the question -- and Charles said it. You're kind of dammed if you do, dammed if you don't. Because many people want you to do more, many people want you to do less. With the Attorney General going down there, what does it get the community? Is it a PR move to say we're here and we're listening? Or is the Attorney General going there to show something more?
ACOSTA: I would be glad to hear Charles' take on this. I mean, I think it's no small thing that the Attorney General of the United States is going to Ferguson, Missouri. I mean, how often do we see the Attorney General go right into the middle of a very big, festering --
BOLDUAN: Good point.
ACOSTA: -- emotional drama that is unfolding on the national stage in the midst of a criminal investigation that hasn't been sorted out. You know, nothing has been done in terms of bringing this police officer to justice in any sense.
And to have the Attorney General go in there, you know, to some extent that does put a thumb on the scales of justice and the Obama administration will have to deal with that. But at the same time, sending the president to Ferguson, Missouri, right now, whether he's on vacation or not on vacation, that would be a risky step. What if the president goes on the ground, starts to meet with people, and then later that night there's more violence? Then critics could say the president really didn't solve the problem and perhaps he made it worse.
So I think the White House is being cautious about this, because there is a big potential for a downside here. You heard the president say yesterday that he's not exactly thrilled with the idea -- or at least that was my sense of it -- of the National Guard going in there. And the National Guard sort of had a small footprint, it sounded like, last night.
But as things develop down in Ferguson, and if it continues like this day after day after day, you really have to start asking the question what more can the federal government do to get a handle on the unrest in that community? Because it obviously can't be allowed to continue.
BOLDUAN: Well, and, Charles, I want to get your take on this as well, but also in the broader context, we were talking about this just a moment before we came to air. This seems to have touched much something larger than Ferguson, much larger than Missouri. The president almost alluded to that in his remarks yesterday. I want to play one more sound bite and I want to get your take.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: You have young men of color in many communities who are more likely to end up in jail or ni the criminal justice system than they are in a good job or in college. And part of my job that I can do, I think, without any potential conflicts, is to get at those root causes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BOLDUAN: The president is talking about a lot -- a little bit here My Brother's Keeper. This is an initiative that he has -- he cares a lot about. It doesn't gate lot of media attention because it might not so be so classy to be talking about all the time, but does -- what does this touch on, this larger conversation that needs to happen?
BLOW: Well, it touches on mutual suspicion, right? Which is that there are biases embedded in our society. We -- people often ask a question that's basically useless, which is "Is somebody racist or are they not racist?" That question only works in the most extreme cases.
In most cases, it's not about that. It's biases that we kind of absorb sometimes subconsciously and we reflect them back subconsciously very often, and those things show up when you look at data about how kids are treated from the very earliest ages all the way up through high school, college, employment, criminal justice system.
And what you're -- what the president is getting at is how do we deal with the fact that we do have these inequities showing up when we do look across at the data? And how do we have these kids have better outcomes by trying to counteract what's happening and what's showing up in those data? And I think that this, what ends up showing up on the streets of Ferguson, is that people understand, they feel, even if they don't know the data, they feel it on a very personal level there is an inequity and they're showing up and saying we really -- we can't stand the weight of this. We don't like that this is happening to us and to our children. I hate having to have a conversation with my kid about how to talk to a police officer if they encounter that police officer.
So that can get out in front of the facts. I mean, we don't -- they don't know exactly what they want, answers. They don't know all answers. But they come to it with a suspicion that something could have gone here, and a kid is dead. And I think that that is what you're seeing show up on the streets.
BOLDUAN: And separate of the investigation, and you're doing a -- I think you're making a really important point. Separate of the investigation, it's important to have the conversation and important that that actually continues. Because you can see it. You can see it on the ground. We're here but you can almost feel that frustration, if you will.
BLOW: Yes, it's a visceral thing.
BOLDUAN: A visceral reaction that they're having.
Charles Blow, Jim Acosta, it's great to have you guys. An important conversation, never enough time to be discussing it Thank you so much. Coming up next on NEW DAY, we're going to have much more on the unrest
in Ferguson. Is there a deeper issue at play that we're talking about here beyond Michael Brown's death? We're going to talk with someone who knows the community well about what is going on there on the ground.