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March on Washington Today, 57 Years after Martin Luther King Jr.; Interview with Police Brutality Survivor Leon Ford; Interview with Jacob Blake Sr.. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired August 28, 2020 - 14:00   ET



ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, we don't know. But certainly if she had any role in what happened with the -- announcing the emergency use authorization for convalescent plasma, you know, that may be the issue. That did not go so well. Her boss, the head of the FDA, a medical doctor, one of the highest ranking physicians in this country, got up and made a huge mistake.

It wasn't murky, it wasn't gray, it was black and white. He goofed. He gave a statistic that made it sound like convalescent plasma was way more effective than the data really shows. So perhaps she played a role in that and that's what's going on. We just don't know.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: You know, I want to talk about the crowds that we're seeing today in Washington. Obviously, we saw a large crowd at the White House last night, hardly anyone wearing masks at the White House.

It seems like from the images we've seen -- people on the platform and in the crowd seem to be wearing masks. And we heard Al Sharpton from the podium, saying people, you know, kind of spread out a little bit more. Social distancing, clearly they're not -- people are not social distancing at this -- at this demonstration. This has got to make public health experts nervous.

COHEN: Oh, for sure. I mean, any time you see a crowd and they are not social distancing and you don't see uniform mask use, that is very worrisome. Is it better that they're outside than inside? Yes it is. However, it is problematic when you see people grouped together like that. It's -- you know, obviously in a large demonstration, the likelihood of social distancing is very small. But certainly uniform mask use.

COOPER: Elizabeth Cohen, thanks very much.

It's just past the top of the hour, I'm Anderson Cooper. We have been watching the march on Washington, thousands take part in a new march for justice, for change, a march this day to be heard.

Today's march, coming 57 years after Martin Luther King Jr., John Lewis, James Farmer, Whitney Young and others brought a similar message. Reverend King talked then about the plight of black Americans, quote, "crippled by the chains of discrimination." That was a call for civil rights. Today, the struggle continues.


YOLANDA RENEE KING, GRANDDAUGHTER OF MARTIN LUTHER KING JR.: Less than a year before he was assassinated, my grandfather predicted this very moment. He said that we were moving into a new phase of the struggle. The first phase was the civil rights, and the new phase is genuine equality.

BRIDGETT FLOYD, SISTER OF GEORGE FLOYD: Martin Luther King stood here 57 years ago. And he told the world his dream. But I don't think you all know that we're here, right now, and have the power to make it happen.


COOPER: That was the sister of George Floyd.

Nearly six decades later, black Americans are still searching for equal justice. The march, coming at the end of a tumultuous week where we saw Jacob Blake, a black man, shot seven times in the back at point-blank range by a white police officer, adding his name to the growing list of black men who have been killed at the hands of police.

George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, some of the others whose names have been spoken by speakers and demonstrators today.

Our Boris Sanchez is there among the marchers. Boris, what is the feeling there?

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, there's a tremendous amount of pain, of frustration and hope in the form of a call to action. And that call to action is for people to take to the ballot box in whatever forum they have to in November to vote.

Just behind me, the march from the Lincoln Memorial is set to get under way in just moments. They're going to be heading over to the MLK monument, just down the mall.

All morning, we've been hearing very painful stories, you noted some of the speakers that we had. The family of Jacob Blake is here, of Eric Garner as well as Breonna Taylor. We've also heard from prominent lawmakers, people like Congresswoman Ayanna Presley, Congresswoman Ilhan Omar also here, and Congressman Al Green. And on top of that, we heard from Martin Luther King III, his speech, essentially the culmination of this event.

You noted also in an interview you did earlier, concerns about coronavirus. You know, we had to have our temperature taken to get into this part of the mall, it's why we're wearing this green band. They also made sure that we were wearing masks. But of course, the concern is that with so many people in such an enclosed space, it may be impossible to avoid this virus.

And what I've heard from speaking to demonstrators is that essentially the message of social justice outweighs any of the risks from this pandemic. It's that important to them, and so they're looking to send a message as they get this march under way to the MLK monument, specifically across the street at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, where President Trump accepted the nomination from the Republican Party last night in (ph) running his re-election -- Anderson.

COOPER: Yes, and we're seeing some people not wearing masks, some people wearing masks. And obviously, social distancing not really happening here. Boris Sanchez, thank you very much.


The 17-year-old suspect in the fatal shooting of two people in Kenosha, Wisconsin is now scheduled to appear in court next month for an extradition hearing. He's facing multiple charges, accused of opening fire on protestors during a night of unrest after the police shooting of Jacob Blake. Shimon Prokupecz joins us now with details.

So we're learning more about those final moments, Shimon, leading up to the deadly confrontation, then what happened after. What have you learned?

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Actually, in a court filing, which is the criminal complaint that was filed by the district attorney's office in Kenosha County, they list a lot of details about how they came about bringing charges, gathering some of the evidence. And really, a lot of it relied on a lot of what we have seen: the video that was posted on social media and how they pieced it all together. And what they were -- they were able to track his movement.

And what they write in this criminal complaint is how a lot of the victims were trying to protect themselves in some ways, because they were concerned about the 17-year-old and the way that he was handling this long gun. One of the witnesses said that it seemed as though the 17-year-old, Kyle Rittenhouse, didn't know what he was doing. And then the other victims talked about how they were just trying to get the gun, this large gun away from Kyle Rittenhouse.

The other thing the D.A.'s office says is that they spoke to a friend of Kyle Rittenhouse who said he called him in the moments after the shooting and said, and admitted to him that he had killed someone. They also describe how Rittenhouse was seated on the ground, firing as people -- someone was approaching him, and one of those victims getting shot. So they list a lot of details about how they brought the case against Kyle Rittenhouse.

The other thing, Anderson -- and I think there's more to come on this -- is that they charged him with possessing a dangerous weapon as a minor, because he's 17. In order to own this type of weapon, you have to be 18. So there are some questions about how he came into possession of this weapon -- Anderson.

COOPER: It would see that, assuming this gets to a trial, that he will say -- or his attorneys would argue that he was just trying to defend himself. I think one of the people he shot, it looked in the video like there was a skateboard that he was maybe trying to hit him with a skateboard --


COOPER: -- this is after he'd already shot one other person. Another -- I think a person who was shot and wounded seemed to have a pistol in his hand.

So it seems like there will be --


COOPER: -- an effort to make it look as if he is simply defending himself.

PROKUPECZ: Yes, absolutely. It will -- they've already made that clear. One of his attorneys, a man by the name of John Pierce, conservative attorney, well known in the conservative arena, has already came out and said that, that they intend to fight this and they intend to say that this was self-defense.

There's a lot that you can argue in court about the idea that this 17- year-old had this kind of a weapon, it just should not have happened. And he, if you read the complaint, there could be an argument from prosecutors that he was the aggressor and that the other people were trying to defend themselves.

You're right, there was one of the victims who was using a skateboard to try and defend himself, that person died. And yes, in the complaint they also talk about another person, another victim who had a weapon. He had a gun, a pistol in his hand. But what they say is that this person raised his hands with the gun in his right hand, and he was raising his hands. And that Rittenhouse still shot him.

So yes, there's a lot there. And obviously, this is something that is, as you say, Anderson, likely probably will go to trial and it'll be for a jury to decide.

COOPER: Yes. Shimon Prokupecz, appreciate it. Thank you.

After being shot in the back seven times by police, Jacob Blake's family is obviously praying for his recovery. His life will never be the same. Blake's family says that Jacob Blake is paralyzed, currently shackled to his hospital bed, according to his father. His family continues to pray.

One man is offering his advice. In November of 2012, Leon Ford was pulled over by Pittsburgh police who mistook him for a suspect with a similar name. The stop resulted in Ford being shot by police officers five times. He survived, one of the bullets pierced his spine. Leon Ford has been working ever since, helping victims of police violence and their families. He joins me now.

Leon, thanks very much for being with us. I can't imagine what it must be like to suddenly learn about Jacob Blake's situation, so similar in some ways to yours in the end result. What -- when you first saw it, what went through your mind? LEON FORD, SURVIVOR OF POLICE BRUTALITY: When I first saw it, it

really triggered me. And it reminded me of my experience. And so even Jacob's, you know, paralysis, is very similar to what I went through. His experience in the hospital -- when I woke up in the hospital, I was shackled to the bed. My family didn't even know what hospital I was at. They had to hire an attorney to file a motion to figure out where is Leon and how can we get this family to see him?


My mom could not see me, my attorney had filed a motion to get my mom access to the hospital. And I vividly remember my mom trying to kiss me, and the officer screamed at her and said, don't touch him. My mom wasn't even allowed to touch me when, you know, my lawyer filed that court order to get her access to see me.

COOPER: You were shacked in the hospital bed?

FORD: Yes. I was shackled to the hospital bed, and I was under 24- hour security.

COOPER: And I know you tweeted that when you get shot by a police officer and die, your family suffers. But when you get shot and survive with paralysis, you suffer. What advice do you have for Mr. Blake, for his family?

FORD: I would say, you know, I would encourage the family to focus on healing. I know that you know, there's this immediate responsibility to speak out and lead a movement. But we have to focus on Jacob's physical rehabilitation. I know his attorneys are going to focus on the legal aspect of things, but this family really needs to heal. Their world has been altered.

You know, I want to encourage Jacob that he is not a burden to his family or friends, to embrace the love, to embrace the support. And just take his time, you know? It's going to be a rollercoaster.

For anybody, you know, who has an altered (ph) life shift with paralysis, you really -- you know, you're trying to find your new normal. It takes about three to four years to really figure and master how you're going to live your life. And during that three to four years, I mean, I had moments where I didn't want to live, you know? I had moments where I had to question, you know, am I a good father because I can't run with my son, I couldn't hold my son, you know? In the beginning.

And so it was -- it's going to be a tough process, it's going to be a hard journey for him and his family because, you know, he has to adapt to a new normal, and his family does as well.

COOPER: The night your son was being born, you were in the same hospital, I understand, recovering from being shot. I mean, that's -- I can't imagine -- I mean, as you said, to not be able to hold your son.

FORD: Yes. It was so traumatic, you know? And it's interesting because I've been going to therapy for about a year now. And that has really helped me become a better father. I realized that I couldn't even be fully present as a father, you know, up until this year because I was dealing with so much trauma as a result of me being shot by this police officer.

And so a lot of times, people think about, you know, me going through therapy and having this platform, smiling all the time. But they didn't, you know, fully understand the scope of my adversity, the scope of the trauma that I experienced from that night, and what I still experience today.

I always tell people, I go to therapy because I need maintenance, you know? I need maintenance to help me cope with my lived experience as well as the continuation of me being exposed to other police shootings. It's extremely traumatic for me and you know, it's traumatic for our country.

And so I encourage, you know, everyone to be mindful of self-care and healing because what we're seeing, it's not normal but it is our reality.

COOPER: Yes. It's -- I really appreciate you speaking with us today and speaking about therapy and speaking about the continued road that you're on. And thank you for all the work you're doing.

FORD: Thank you. I appreciate you.

COOPER: Leon Ford.

Coming up next, we're going to hear from Jacob Blake's father, who says, as we just heard, his son is handcuffed to the bed, asking why police shot him so many times.

Plus, some of the Kenosha sheriff's past remarks about black people are now under scrutiny as we continue to monitor developments in Kenosha. We'll be right back.


Also, another sobering projection about how many Americans will lose their lives to coronavirus by the end of this year. This is (INAUDIBLE) special live coverage.


COOPER: One of today's marchers is Jacob Blake Sr., he's the father of the man who was shot seven times by a Kenosha, Wisconsin police officer on Sunday in front of his three kids.

Earlier today, Blake gave an emotional interview to CNN's Alisyn Camerota. He talked about finally getting to see his son in the hospital, and realizing that his now-paralyzed son was handcuffed to his hospital bed.


ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR, NEW DAY: How's your son doing, Mr. Blake?

JACOB BLAKE SR., FATHER OF JACOB BLAKE JR.: For the situation, he's doing -- he's -- let's make it very clear. My son is fighting for his life. He's holding on, he's holding on. He's medicated pretty much all the time.


CAMEROTA: So he's sedated and medicated because, as we understand, he's in so much pain. Have you been able to speak to him?

BLAKE: Yes, I got -- two days ago, I got to speak to him.

CAMEROTA: And can you tell us about that conversation and what he said?

BLAKE: He -- first, his eyes were squinted when I walked into the room, and I thought they were squinted because he was in pain. But when I got to his side, he grabbed my hands and began to weep. And he told me he thought he was hallucinating. And then he said, I love you, Daddy. Daddy, I love you.

CAMEROTA: Yes, it must be so hard to see him in this condition.

BLAKE: Yes. Then his next question was, why did they shoot me so many times? And I said, Baby, they weren't supposed to shoot you at all.

The thing that bothered me the most is that my child is -- look, there's so many things that bother me. But when I walked into that room, you know, he's paralyzed from the waist down. Why do they have that cold steel on my son's ankle? He can't get up, he couldn't get up if he wanted to. So what was -- that's a little overkill, to have him shackled to the bed, I -- that just makes no sense to me.

So, you know, he was so -- it was the oldest in the car was eight, and the youngest in the car was three.

CAMEROTA: And have you talked to them?

BLAKE: Oh, they with me every day.

CAMEROTA: What do they say? How are they coping with this this morning?

BLAKE: The oldest, every day, his question is, Daddy, why did the police -- they call me "Papa." And all my grandkids call me "Papa" or "Papaw." So they -- he said, Papa, why did they shoot my daddy in the back? Where's daddy?

They want their father. Because he was a part of their life every day. He's a person, he's a human being, he's not an animal, he's a human. But my son has not been afforded the rights of a human, he's not been treated like a human. He's a father, he's not a deadbeat dad. He's a father that's with his children every day.

(END VIDEO CLIP) COOPER: Blake also talked about coping with unequal justice, comparing how his son was treated to how Kyle Rittenhouse was treated -- he's the 17-year-old white teen now charged in the deaths of two protestors Tuesday night.

We're monitoring a news conference by police in Kenosha right now. We'll dip in when they start answering questions about the shooting.


Plus, just in, the ratings for the final night of the Republican Convention are in. What the numbers tell us about how many people watched the president versus Joe Biden.


COOPER: President Trump's been accused of ignoring the racial reckoning happening across the country right now. And while he hammered home a message of law and order during last night's acceptance speech, he failed to address issues of systemic racism that have sparked nationwide unrest.

Jacob Blake's father told CNN that protestors are not to blame for what's happening.


BLAKE: It was the over-aggressiveness of a Caucasian police officer, with seven shots out of his weapon, that has caused this whole incident. We are against the violence and burning and looting, but it was started by seven shots.


BLAKE: We didn't breathe life into the violence. We didn't cause the violence. So for it to seem like it's our community and all we do is violence? Well, you have to go back to the car.


COOPER: I'm joined by Sophia Nelson, former House GOP investigative counsel and adjunct professor at Christopher Newport University and a senior columnist at "The Daily Beast."

Thanks so much for being with us. The president briefly mentioned Kenosha, but only in the context of it being one of several -- what he said, called "Democrat-run cities under mob rule." What's the message you think he's sending by doing this?

SOPHIA NELSON, FORMER HOUSE GOP INVESTIGATIVE COMMITTEE COUNSEL: You know, Anderson, if you watched both the conventions over the last two weeks, you walk away understanding that we are living in two very different Americas.

[14:29:55] The president's speech last night? I have no problem with politics. You can talk to your base, you can talk about what your party believes in. But I have a big problem with a sitting president who's sitting on his watch and has this type of racial and civil unrest.