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Live Coverage of George Floyd Memorial Service; Black Church Encompasses Tradition of Music and Celebration of Life at Homegoings; George Floyd Memorial Services to Follow in North Carolina and Houston. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired June 4, 2020 - 14:00   ET



MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: -- that anyone might need has popped up here in the last several hours, and there is a sense of community in this town. I don't know how much time you've spent in Minneapolis, it's a great city, I always love coming here to work.

But you really get a sense of a place in times like this. And to see white, African-Americans, Latino, everybody just show up to this, and the numbers that they are expecting. There are a couple of protest marches happening that will probably culminate here, and they will have a very -- I think a difficult time.

They've been -- there's -- that rush of anger was like adrenaline through the veins of this city, and now it feels like we are beyond that and Minnesotans and people from Minneapolis, they are trying to reconcile the past week with where we are today. And it's going to be a tough day. Back to you guys.

DON LEMON, CNN HOST: Miguel, you're right. Minneapolis, beautiful city. St. Paul as well, the Twin Cities are just amazing, the diversity there, and they are really the quintessential American cities, when you look at them.

And now, this is all happening in a quintessential American city, the quintessential American story, right? Of race at the heart of it, as we watch these pictures coming from the memorial service.

I want to get now to my colleague Sara Sidner, who is outside the store in Minneapolis where George Floyd was killed. Sara, this may be the memorial service where -- that the television cameras are trained on for the moment, but the original memorial, the makeshift, is where you are right now. And people have been coming by the hundreds if not thousands, all week, to pay tribute to George Floyd. What are you seeing here today?

SARA SIDNER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Don. I'd call this the people's memorial, the citizens' memorial, the neighborhood memorial. Because this is the site where George Floyd stopped breathing. And so it's been considered a sacred site, a site where people come to pray, to chant, to be with one another to help each other. And it really has turned into that. There is all sorts of gifts being given to people, whether it is a

gift of a conversation with someone who is of a different race or ethnicity or even from a different place. We have talked to Liberians, we have talked to Ethiopians, we have talked to Somalis, we have talked to white Americans, black Americans, Asian-Americans.

We have talked to people from all over, really, the world. Many of whom, by the way, came here to escape their own wars, to escape their own civil unrest, and to come here and be here and see this happening in this country.

We talked to one Liberian man who said, Look, I had no idea that this was a problem here in America. And it really shocked him, that there was this tension between black people and police, and that black men in particular were really feeling as targets of the police.

But what you're seeing here is really a sense of a wholeness. There is sort of a growth happening here that is remarkable. And I'm talking about at least 50 percent of the crowd are white folks, right? That are from here, from Minnesota.

And so there is a clear -- something different has happened here, Don. There is a clear mandate from this neighborhood that they are not going to let this destroy their community, and they haven't. This has been a place that -- I'm going to give you a look at the scene -- that just keeps growing and growing and growing and getting bigger and bigger and bigger. There are flowers, there are signs.

There's one that says, "2014, I can't breathe; 2020, I can't breathe. People are angry because waiting patiently for six years did not work." What are they referring to? Eric Garner. What are they referring to? Michael Brown. What are they referring to? Terence Crutcher. They're referring to all these other past incidents.

And you'll see people standing up and doing the power fist in front of George Floyd's mural that somebody beautifully put together. And this has really become the place where people pray, the place where people try and explain, even to themselves, what it is that happened, but also what they can do to make change.

And I can't tell you how many people have come up with tears in their eyes and said, I want to help. I want to do something. I want to make a difference, I want to make something happen differently in our country. We have to do something, we can't let this stand.

There are all the way around this building. Now, the Cut Foods is where this happened. Cut Foods is where George Floyd sat, begging for breath, form the police officer that has now been fired and charged, and now all four police officers have been fired and charged.

But here, it really is thinking about him and his family, but also thinking about the community at large and how to move forward. And they are moving forward. They're doing it by coming together and giving people something, whether it's food, whether it's diapers, whether it's literally a cup of coffee -- there is someone here, making free lattes -- everything is free here. And people are coming up and donating their time and energy and money, and giving away to people, sustenance, whether it's something for their belly or something for their mind, and it has just been absolutely beautiful -- Don and Brooke.

LEMON: Well said. To -- on the right of your screen, North Central University in Minneapolis, where they're about to hold a memorial service. Our Sara Sidner, a moment ago, was on the left of your screen. But we're going to -- I'm going to go back to Sara now.

Sara's at the people's memorial, as she so aptly called it. Sara, I think that's apropos, that you called it the people's memorial. Here's my question to you. And the former president, Barack Obama, pointed it out yesterday and we have been noticing it all week.

It is different. You and I covered Ferguson together, we covered Baltimore, we covered a number of different rallies and protests and unrest. You mentioned that this one feels differently. It not only feels different, it looks different. There's more diversity than Ferguson, there's more diversity in Baltimore --


LEMON: -- and you get more of a sense, even though Ferguson now has its first African-American mayor, can you believe it? -- but you get the sense now that something positive will come out of all of this grief, pain, anger, sadness from Minneapolis.

SIDNER: I agree. And I'll tell you -- and this is just a personal, which I don't normally do on the air, but it's just the personal situation that happened. I had a text this morning from someone I have grown up with, have known since I was a child -- an adult, mind you, who helped sort of raise me -- never said anything about any of my coverage of anything else. Texted me this morning and said, I need you to contact me with the NAACP or activists in my community.

This is a person who is Caucasian, who has never sort of reached out on this issue -- it's a difficult issue for us to talk to -- and said I need you to help me help black people get out to vote. I'll do whatever. I'll canvass, I'll do whatever but I need you to help me, contact me with black folks so that I can do something.

This person is 70 years old, and they texted me today and said, I have to do something. We can't let this tear our country apart. And furthermore, we can't let people that have your skin color be treated differently any more. This has to stop.

And for me, it just said something about this whole situation. Because I've noticed it in the streets for sure. But to hear from someone who's 70 who, you know, hasn't reached out in the past, say that to me, it really made me think that, wow, for once, maybe this is the time. Maybe this is the difference. My God, we need it.

LEMON: Well said.

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: I believe -- yes. I think it's extraordinary and just, you know, watching from New York and, you know, following your absolutely beautiful coverage, Sara, you feel it. I think it's felt across the country.

You know, speaking of New York, thousands of people today are gathering to march in solidarity with George Floyd. His brother, Terrence Floyd, lives in New York. We heard from his reverend, from his Brooklyn church and New York police commissioner yesterday, just talking about things must change, things must be better.

Athena Jones is in New York. She is standing by, live. Athena, tell us what people are sharing with you.

ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Brooke. Well, as you said, we're on the edge of a crowd that is at least a few thousand here, at Cadman Plaza in downtown Brooklyn, for this memorial prayer service for George Floyd that is really just getting under way.

But we've been talking to the folks around here, people still streaming in, carrying Black Lives Matter signs, waving American flags. Three was a woman dressed as The Statue of Liberty with a black eye.

We've talked to -- we've seen a very diverse crowd. I spoke with a Franciscan friar who said that as a white member of the clergy, as a white faith leader, it is important for him to be an ally in this fight, an active ally in the fight for change.

And so we're just seeing this get under way. We know that several elected officials are expected to speak, in addition to George Floyd's brother, Terrence Floyd. And it's being led by a Civil Rights leader and pastor Reverend Kevin McCall.

We know elected leaders like the mayor, Mayor de Blasio, are here, New York Attorney General Letitia James is here, members of Congress, also invited: Hakeem Jeffries, Yvette Clarke. We may hear from them.

But I asked Reverend McCall, does this mean that we're at a moment of healing? After these nine, 10 days of protests, expressing emotion and pain and anger in the streets, now we see that all four of the officers in Minneapolis are facing charges that could send them to prison for multiple decades. Does it mean that we're now at a moment of healing? Do these memorials today mean we're entering that phase of this?

And Referend McCall said to me that -- well, yes, sure, there is some healing. But the other part of the heart has to heal, and that is going to require justice actually being served. He said to me, Do you know how many times we've been down this road? He's talking about, fine, maybe you may get charges against police officers, but you very rarely see convictions.


And so his message, he told me today here, is going to be about how yes, it's important to continue protesting, keep the pressure on. But he's also going to be talking about next steps, ways to turn this anger and pain and emotion into action, whether it's by registering to vote or other means. So he says he plans to address that here because he realizes that while protests are necessary, it's also important to make sure that there is actual political action and other community action around these issues -- Brooke.

BALDWIN: Athena, thank you so much.

LEMON: I'll take it away. I'll --

BALDWIN: Yes, Don, go for it.

LEMON: Yes, absolutely. It's -- Brooke, it's amazing to watch all these pictures from different cities around the country, and we've been -- this is the 10th day now --


LEMON: -- that we have seen these crowds. They've died down a little bit in the last couple of days, but I think today may be a resurgence just because of -- I think people are feeling hope. And the type of protests that we're seeing now -- look at that -- peaceful protest, which is welcome in this country, which is welcome around the world.

We can't tell people how to --

BALDWIN: Quite a diverse crowd.

LEMON: -- yes. We can't tell people how to protest, but I think showing your love for each other, that you support one another and that you are angry and that you want change and that you're upset in ways that people are doing now, I think it is welcome, a welcome change in this country.

So with that said, joining me now, CNN political commentator Bakari Sellers and CNN senior legal analyst Laura Coates. Hello to both of you. Laura, I have to start with you. Hello, how are you?

LAURA COATES, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: I'm good. I'm watching this unfold, and my heart is full and my stomach is dropping. But I'm glad I'm here in this platform with you.

LEMON: I want to say that I appreciate our conversation yesterday. And I know that you are a Minnesota girl -- I don't mean that in a derogatory way, you're Minnesota proud, right? Minnesota lady, let's put it that way --


LEMON: -- when you're watching these pictures come in, and considering everything that has happened in your town over the last week or so, what's going through your mind?

COATES: You know, it's been disorienting, is the best way I can describe it. You know, we know that inequality exists. We certainly have seen what has happened. This is past is prologue, and we know that it's not me or maybe you or any of us that are having epiphanies right now about this being the state of America.

But it has been so trying, to see it so close to home, to see this unfold the way it is, and reverberate throughout the world. And I keep going back in my mind, Don, hearing about growing up in Minnesota, and being in elementary school and junior high and high school. And the way we would teach Civil Rights across the country would be to explain Rosa Parks as almost the catalyst of the Civil Rights movement, that one day on one occasion, someone felt too exhausted to give up her seat.

And you look at what's happening. First, we know the full context, of course, of the full, you know, the virtue and the role of people like Rosa Parks and others. What we're looking at right now, that this is as symbolic and illustrative of a greater issue. And George Floyd is, in many ways, the person who refuses now to give up the seat.

And I hope that people are looking at this moment in time, and seeing the symbolism. There's a reason 50 states and other countries are looking. There's a reason there is both equal parts exhaustion and energy. Because we heard President Obama say yesterday, it's a marathon, not a sprint. And I'm wondering, are we at mile one or are we looking like more at mile 25 or even 26, almost to 26.2?

And the reason it feels different, I think, is because people feel like we're closer to that part where that arc of the moral universe is bending, and it might actually be here.

LEMON: Laura, stand by. I want to bring in Bakari. Bakari, good to see you and good to talk to you. I appreciated our conversation yesterday as well.

We've all been talking -- and I have to say, we've all been talking and sharing stories similar to what Sara said on the scene in Minneapolis there. Friends who -- some of them whom we haven't heard from in years have been reaching out to us, saying, What do I do in this moment? How should I act? What can I do differently? How can we make this one count? And that's important, we welcome those conversations.

BAKARI SELLERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: We do. I mean, they're somewhat exhausting, Don, because as you and I both know, that the ill of this country that we're facing is not on black people to cure, but it's been refreshing to get these phone calls.

I actually want everyone to pull up a chair because black folk do homegoing services better than anybody in the world. I want people to (INAUDIBLE) this and homegoing, you know, it's a celebration. Because today, we're not -- we're at the point where we are celebrating the life of George Floyd.


And you know, if they play that Marvin Sapp, "I Never Would Have Made It," or they start playing "Going Up Yonder," the church will boom (ph). And so I'm here, just rocking, listening to the music in the background, letting the spirit of George Floyd go through me. You know, I was with (INAUDIBLE). And you remember, when the president

hit "Amazing Grace," and the world paused for a minute. And that's that type of impact that this service is going to have.

But I have to ask you the question, and ask the millions of people around the world a question that is the central question today. How many caskets (ph) are we going to have to walk behind before we actually have change in this country? How many bodies are going to be buried, how many daughters won't have their fathers (INAUDIBLE) Father's Day before we actually give people the benefit of their humanity?

And so while I am rocking and swaying and celebrating the life of George Floyd, I'm also deeply concerned and frustrated that we may have more after this. Because this has been a cycle for black folk, Don. You and I talk about this all the time. We -- you and me make TV over the blood of dead black people in this country.

And we want that (ph) to stop. We want people to be (INAUDIBLE) graduate, to live full lives, to get married, to have great jobs, to be there for their daughters, be there for their sons. And George Floyd will not be able to do those things.

So today, let's celebrate his life. And then tomorrow, let's get to work.

LEMON: We don't want to have to do those -- we would rather not have to do this again, right?

And you didn't say, when we were standing there, I mean, just -- a moment just to you know, bring the tension down a little bit -- because this is so -- this is really heavy. But again, this is a joyful moment. This is a homegoing celebration, that's what we call it.

But when the former president was there and he started singing "Amazing Grace," we talked about how quickly the choir and the folks in the background jumped in.



SELLERS: You know, his place -- you know, my daddy, in Church, Don, my daddy -- you know, he thinks that he's Philip Bailey from "Earth, Wind and Fire." So he sings with this, like, (INAUDIBLE). And you know, the president, he paused, then he hit this note. And it wasn't the right note, but the words lifted (ph) it up.

So I think that people, all those white folk who called us, asking for advice on what to do, all those people who wanted to -- want to give life to George Floyd, pull up for the next two hours and let's together celebrate his life over some good, nourishing gospel music and over the Word. I mean, that's all we can do at this moment.

LEMON: I know Brooke wants to jump in, and I'll let her -- I don't want to hog this segment, Brooke -- but I just wanted to -- I think you're right, Bakari, because just when I came here, there was someone -- and I won't give a name -- someone who is very high, not a player actually, very high up in the NFL, right?

Called me and said, I saw your segment last night. And you know, I had the two former NFL players on. And said, I need to start talking with you more, I need to have a relationship with you more because now is the time for someone like me to listen, because what I've learned over the last couple of days is that I really don't know.

SELLERS: Amen, amen.


BALDWIN: I'm just --


SELLERS: That's what we're talking about. And I'm sorry, I just -- let me just finish this thought real quick, Brooke, I'm sorry. My boss in my law firm, Pete Strom and I always talk about these issues. He's somebody that has a great deal of empathy. And we were just talking about how all of his friends -- he's a white guy -- all of his friends are coming together, and he's sparking those conversations.

And it's amazing, to see how we're having conversations with white folk that are then going out and having conversations with other white folk, talking about their privilege, talking about issues of race, talking about the way that we can fundamentally change this country. Because I'll tell you this, the difference between this moment and all the other moments, was minute two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight --

LEMON: Eight. Almost nine --

SELLERS: -- that that cop's knee --

LEMON: Almost nine.

SELLERS: -- almost nine. That is where the consciousness of the country was awakened.

And so I'm today going to keep -- you know, I'm a crier, but I'm not going to cry today. I'm going to keep a smile on my face because today is, again, a homegoing celebration for George Floyd, knowing how much work we have to do. And I swear to my children, I want this to be the last coffin that we have to carry.


BALDWIN: Listen, I'm just listening to all you all. And I'm very aware that -- very aware of my skin color, of my privilege, of what I have taken for granted, my 40 years, my friends who don't look like me. I have been in touch with them, I have gone through all kinds of emotions and at the end of the day, you know, to Bakari's point about having these conversations -- and Laura, just to you -- it does feel different, even just from my perspective.

And to see the crowds gathering across the country and around the globe, I, in my 20 years of journalism, have never seen anything like this. And I'm just curious from, you know, a personal standpoint, what -- bring us into the conversations you've been having with your friends, the past 10 days.

COATES: Well, you know, when you were talking, I'm thinking about this famous quote from Einstein that says, "Any fool can know, the point is to understand." And I think for a long time, I've had conversations with people who know, they absolutely know the numbers, they know the statistics.

They don't understand it's not an anomaly, they don't understand it's not anecdotal, they don't understand that it just can be reduced -- or can't be reduced to a phrase of bad apples. And the conversations I'm having is showing that transformative period, when people are going from what they know to now asking and understanding. And the conversations I have have been circled around that.

And, you know, when I think about it, the more we talk now about cell phone footage, this is the first time people are able to see, over the course of recent modern American history, the question being asked. That if we had not seen the cell phone footage, would this be taking place?

And I go back in my mind -- I was a Civil Rights attorney for the Department of Justice -- and I am coming from a family who has always been very passionate about Civil Rights in this world.

And I think back to Emmett Till's mother, who in many ways was prescient, of saying, "Open his casket, I want the world to see what they did to my boy." It was a way of showing what now cell phone footage is now exposing.

It's the very reason, in many respects, that people are coming from New York and New England, why there was such an alliance between different diverse groups of people in the world about Civil Rights issues. Because the media, because images, because things like this were showing people what is happening.

And so when I look at the memorial today for George Floyd, I think about memorializing what is happening now as a real --


COATES: -- catapult for people, trying to go from knowing to understanding something.

BALDWIN: Yes. Amen to that --


LEMON: That was Roxie Washington who just walked in, who was --

BALDWIN: -- that was the family, right? LEMON: -- the mother of -- no, that was Roxie Washington, the mother of George Floyd's daughter, 6-year-old Gianna, just walked in with Benjamin Crump.

BALDWIN: And I believe several other members. Let's go -- Omar Jimenez is just outside, I think he saw some of the members of the family walk by -- Omar.

OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Brooke and Don. They just walked in a few moments ago. You're right, Roxie Washington was in there, the mother of George Floyd's 6-year-old daughter Gianna. I actually spoke with Roxie and their friend, Stephen Jackson, alongside their daughter Gianna.

And one of the main questions is -- because let's remember, is why this story has expanded. This is still at its core a family that is grieving like any other family would, losing a brother, losing a loved one or losing a father.

And I asked Roxie Washington how she even began to try and explain what had happened to George Floyd to their 6-year-old daughter. And she said at first, she couldn't. She tried to hold it off as long as she possibly could.

But then there came a point when she couldn't hold it back any more. Because what did the daughter do? Gianna had seen her father's name being said on the television. She went to her mother, Roxie, and said, Why are they saying my dad's name on TV? And all she could tell that 6-year-old Gianna in that moment, was that he couldn't breathe.

And that was the beginning of what has been a very long grieving process for this family, that has been a very emotional time, as we have been speaking to family members over the course of this past week. It helped some that they have gotten support from the outside world and support from the community, with a mission driving them that this could lead to wider change throughout this country.

But again, at its core, this is a family that is still dealing with tremendous loss that does not get easier by the day. This is the first of what will be a series of goodbyes that we will see in places across the country, for George Floyd.


This is the Minneapolis sendoff of sorts. Then this Saturday, we'll see a memorial service in North Carolina, where George Floyd was born. And then all of this will culminate in his hometown of Houston, where we will see the official funeral service on Tuesday as well -- Don, Brooke.

BALDWIN: Omar, I'll take it. Omar, thank you very much.

And just -- I just want to sit on that point. And, Bakari, I'll put this to you, the fact that this 6-year-old little girl, who we saw on Stephen Jackson's shoulders, saying, "My daddy's changed the world," you know, is asking her mom why are people talking about my dad on TV. She's six.

And I just -- you have kids. And I am thinking about my friends, again, who have children. And my friends who have grown up in fear of many, many things that I have never had to. And just your thoughts on conversations with children right now, in the midst of all of this?

SELLERS: Those are the toughest conversations we have to have. But I mean, I think -- I hope -- I know that she knows today, we're celebrating her father, as you hear "Total Praise" in the background, which is one of the greatest gospel songs to ever come. It talks about the source of your strength. And you can just hear the crescendo pick up.

But having these conversations with little black boys and girls, and telling them that it's OK to be unapologetically black, that that is your strength, that that is your pride, that that is the crown above your head, for you to grow into, that you too can be a king or queen.

I was watching a video on Twitter -- Bernice King posted it -- it was a young girl, she was chanting in the streets: "No justice, no peace," with her fists balled up. And it's just, that is where we are in this country, where even young people are becoming very cognizant of the issues of race that we have. And if we want to do anything for my children or any children in this country, we deserve to give them a better America than the one that we have today.

And yes, George Floyd is changing the world. I think that that little girl should know that her father will always be remembered. But even with all of that, I guarantee you, she wishes that her father was still here today.

And so as we go through the day, as we have this celebration, as we have this homegoing service, as we listen to this nourishing gospel music, as we pray to whomever we pray to, let us also pray that we don't have to have another young lady who walks around with that hurt in her heart.

You know, let's make sure that we have this last funeral. Let's make sure that we bury this last soul, let's make sure that we make it our aim to make sure this never happens again in the United States of America.

And so I just look at my kids, every single day, and I know that I have to have conversations with them that, Brooke, you don't have to have children that you'll have. And I just -- I want one day for my kids to be free. I want for them to be free to attain all of the promises and all of the trappings of the American dream. And I don't want my life to be cut short, in going out, trying to do that.

LEMON: There is Roxie Washington --


BALDWIN: Thanks, don.

LEMON: -- along with the Reverend Al Sharpton, who's going to give the eulogy.

And as we continue on here, Laura, let's talk about -- let's pick up where Bakari left off, talking about young people. And last night, I interviewed Laura King, Rodney King's daughter. And she talked about having to watch that video, over and over, on every anniversary, how she lives this. She relives what happened to her father.

And she says her biggest fear is that Gianna, George Floyd's daughter, is going to have to relive this and watch this video of her father's death on television for the rest of her life. That is a heavy burden to carry, starting at six years old.

COATES: You know, my own daughter is six years old, my beautiful Sydney. And my son is seven years old. And I've had to have the difficult -- and for black Americans, inevitable -- conversation about race in America.

And what I am hoping is that although the conversation is inevitable, there oppression is not. And that there needs to be more done. And I understand and am just gutted by the realization that what Rodney King's daughter said will be true, unfortunately.


Not just for young Gianna, not just for the family of Walter Scott or Philando Castile or Tamir Rice or Trayvon Martin or Sandra Bland or -- the list goes on and -- Ahmaud Arbery -- the list goes on. We could take the length of a week to even name --