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Interview With Miami, Florida, Police Chief Art Acevedo; Interview With U.S. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan. Aired 2-3p ET
Aired April 21, 2021 - 14:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST: Hello, everyone, and welcome to AMANPOUR.
You have just been watching President Biden talk about 200 million COVID vaccines in the United States, and how he's going to ensure that people can
take them by taking a paid day off.
Hello, everyone, and welcome to AMANPOUR. Here's what's coming up.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTER: George Floyd!
UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: George Floyd!
UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTER: George Floyd!
UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: George Floyd!
AMANPOUR (voice-over): Justice, accountability, relief, a big step forward for America, but not yet the giant leap.
I speak to Black Lives Matter co-founder Opal Tometi and the Miami police Chief Art Acevedo about what this moment means for America and the world.
JAKE SULLIVAN, U.S. NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: It's important for the United States to be able to show the world, as well as to be able to show
our own citizens, that the rule of law can prevail.
AMANPOUR: What the conviction of Derek Chauvin means for America's moral standing. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan joins me with this and
other foreign policy challenges.
DANIELLE ALLEN, HARVARD UNIVERSITY: Policing has always come down hardest on communities of color.
AMANPOUR: Harvard Professor Danielle Allen tells Walter Isaacson why this verdict must mark the beginning of the end of unaccountable policing.
AMANPOUR: Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Christiane Amanpour in London.
It is the verdict heard around the world, and it's a profound moment of history and hope for the United States, as justice is served for George
Floyd, and Derek Chauvin woke up in prison today, convicted on all three charges.
Some celebrated, while most expressed an overwhelming sense of relief.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: But, still, this is just one important step in the fight against systemic racism and for police accountability.
Will it actually lead to real and lasting change? The federal response has already started, with the attorney general, Merrick Garland, opening a
sweeping Justice Department investigation in Minnesota.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MERRICK GARLAND, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: The investigation I am announcing today will assess whether the Minneapolis Police Department engages in a
pattern or practice of using excessive force, including during protests.
The investigation will also assess whether the MPD engages in discriminatory conduct and whether its treatment of those with behavioral
and health disabilities is unlawful.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Floyd's murder last year was not just witnessed by the whole world. It also ignited a global movement for racial justice.
And now that, in this rare case, justice has been done, I have been speaking to National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan about the effect it
will have on America's influence in the world as it grapples with global challenges.
He joined me from the White House for this exclusive interview.
AMANPOUR: Jake Sullivan, welcome to the program.
Let me first start by asking you about this momentous verdict in the United States. And the president felt it necessary to come out and address the
American people and, frankly, the world about it.
How do you put it in context?
SULLIVAN: Well, Christiane, it's important for the United States to be able to show the world, as well as to be able to show our own citizens,
that the rule of law can prevail.
And we aren't going to be able to effectively promote and defend justice abroad if we can't deliver justice here at home for our own people. And
yesterday was a step forward in that regard, after a very painful and difficult period in the United States.
And the president also wanted to go out and rally the American people behind an idea that we are all in this together, that the motto of the
United States, e pluribus unum, out of many one, has to ultimately shine through.
And, as the national security adviser, from my perspective, having a president who is speaking to the American people in the way that Joe Biden
did, trying to build the kind of unified approach to take on the challenges we face here at home, that puts us in a better position to be able to have
honest, serious conversations with citizens around the world about promoting peace and justice everywhere.
AMANPOUR: So, I just wanted to play now something to that end that George Floyd's brother said after the verdict was delivered.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PHILONISE FLOYD, BROTHER OF GEORGE FLOYD: I get calls, I get D.M.s, people from Brazil, from Ghana, from Germany, everybody, London, Italy. They're
all saying the same thing: We won't be able to breathe until you're able to breathe.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's right.
P. FLOYD: Today, we are able to breathe again.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: That is a very powerful thing for the brother of George Floyd to have said.
He's building on what you're talking about, American values. These values have been under huge stress for the last four years, and many of your
biggest challenges, whether China, whether Russia, have looked to the degradation of American values to say, don't you talk to us about doing the
right thing with democracy, freedom and human rights.
SULLIVAN: Well, there's a couple of things here, Christiane, that are important to touch on.
The first is that one of the things that makes the United States an attractive country to many people around the world is not that we don't
screw up. Of course, we do, profoundly. It's that we're able to learn from our mistakes, that we're able to bounce back, that we're able to get up off
the mat, and do better the next time.
And I think what you saw yesterday, with the jury reaching a unanimous verdict, is an example of that. And the rest of the world will take notice.
And then, secondly, to listen to China and Russia try to compare what they are doing in their country to what is happening here in this country, this
is the kind of whataboutism that we heard from the Soviet Union throughout the Cold War.
And while that whataboutism doesn't erase the profound social and civil rights challenges we face in America, we should not let these autocracies
get away with trying to create a moral equivalence between, for example, what's happening in Xinjiang and what is happening in the United States.
AMANPOUR: OK, point taken. Of course, the United States is one of the most incarcerating countries in the world, if not the most.
But I want to ask you this, because you face, exactly as you have just said, the idea of a prominent opposition leader who has presumably the
moral imperative to bring freedom and democracy to Russia, Alexei Navalny, who is in -- now moved to prison. He's being, I think, force-fed to try to
make sure that he doesn't die in prison.
And the Russians, essentially, they're really sort of cracking down on him.
In any event, you said that, if he dies under Putin's watch in prison, there will be serious consequences. You didn't enumerate. But when I spoke
to Navalny's chief of staff about your words, this is what he said:
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LEONID VOLKOV, CHIEF OF STAFF TO ALEXEI NAVALNY: With all due respect, it's strong, but it's not strong enough.
Something bad is happening to Navalny now.
He's being held in prison unlawfully. He's being tortured.
And I don't the wording we would hold Russia accountable if he dies.
I prefer that Russia be held -- that Putin -- it is not Russia. I prefers that Putin be held accountable -- accountable for what's happening now,
before Navalny dies. I don't want my friend and my colleague to die.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: So, Jake Sullivan, what is your reaction to that?
SULLIVAN: Well, first, I think it's important to remember, Christiane, that the United States rallied friends and partners in Europe and other
places to impose sanctions on Russia for what they have done to Alexei Navalny, for their use of a chemical weapon, a chemical agent against him.
Secondly, our view is that it will be most effective to drive home the point about the costs and the consequences of what would happen if Mr.
Navalny passed away through direct private communication to the Russian government.
I had the opportunity yesterday to speak to the Russian national security adviser. I'm not going to go into the details of that conversation. But
this subject was covered in some detail.
And so the United States will continue to stand up on this issue. President Biden spoke to it himself over the weekend. But our view is that intensive
diplomacy, in coordination with allies and partners, is the best way forward to both voice our concern and to drive home what kind of results
would unfold should the worst befall Mr. Navalny.
AMANPOUR: OK, and then there's a whole load of other issues that you have between yourself and Russia.
So I'm really interested that you say you spoke to their national security adviser. And I just want to know whether you discussed the summit. Will
there be a summit between President Biden and Vladimir Putin in a third country?
SULLIVAN: We're actively discussing a summit in a third country in Europe at some point in the coming months, but we have not fixed the date for it.
There is not yet agreement on the two sides on a location, a date or an agenda.
And that's something we will continue to work through, because we believe very strongly that having the two leaders sit down face to face and cover
the full range of issues facing this relationship is the best way to defend and advance American interests and the best way to develop a stable,
predictable basis upon which to pursue U.S.-Russia relations.
AMANPOUR: So, I'm really interested in the best way.
Look, you could say President Biden was, I don't know, forced into agreeing with a journalist's premise that Vladimir Putin was -- quote -- "a killer."
Biden didn't say the word. But he seemed to nod in agreement. That seems to have just sent the Russians off-the-scale angry.
They say they'd hoped that there'd be a different, more mature relationship after the Trump administration. Russian press is just all over the place
about this. And in his annual state of the nation address, Vladimir Putin said that -- and I will quote -- that he hopes no countries think about
crossing Russia's red lines. "We will define where this line is ourselves in every individual case."
But, of course, it's boosting its military capabilities. And it's doing all sorts of things that you disagree with right now and you want to counter,
along with your allies.
It reminds me a little bit of axis of evil, which was a kind of a throwaway line that went into President George Bush's speech and completely derailed
any attempt to get nuclear cooperation with Iran back in 2002. What do you have to say about that, about the relationship between leaders?
SULLIVAN: Well, President Putin and President Biden had a direct, candid, extended conversation about a week ago, where they discussed a wide range
In that conversation, President Biden indicated the United States would be taking direct and proportionate responses to specific harmful activities
that Russia had conducted against the United States. But he also conveyed that he wanted to find a way forward that was not escalatory, that did not
lead to a spiral of conflict and confrontation between the United States and Russia.
And President Putin indicated that he too wanted to find a stable basis upon which to proceed. And so I believe that there is scope for the United
States on the one hand to stand up squarely for our interests, our values, our friends, our people, and, on the other hand, to work with Russia where
it's in our interests to do so.
In fact, as we speak now, Christiane, U.S. and Russian negotiators are working together on the very issue you just described, on Iran.
AMANPOUR: So, talking about Iran, there's again been this public sort of who's on first, who goes first, where does the onus lie?
I mean, generally, around the world, it's believed that the onus lies on the United States, because it was the United States to pull out of an
agreement that was being adhered to by all other parties.
So, where is this now? We hear that there is some progress towards getting this nuclear deal back on track. Again, you were the very first to be in
the room to explore the possibility of getting that first deal done.
So, what is happening right now?
SULLIVAN: Negotiators have just concluded another round of negotiations in Vienna.
Now, these negotiations are taking place indirectly, which means the United States and Iran are not currently sitting across the table from one
another. What's happening is, our partners, the world powers, are sitting with the Iranians to talk to them about both the nuclear restrictions that
they will have to accept and the sanctions relief that would flow from that.
And then they're coming into the other room and talking to the American negotiator and going back and forth. We now have a moment to be able to
take stock of where we are in that process. We have made some progress. There's still distance to travel.
But, ultimately, the United States is committed to returning to the JCPOA, the Iran nuclear deal, on a compliance-for-compliance basis, as we have
said now from the start of this administration.
AMANPOUR: OK. What does that mean. Describe, paint compliance for compliance. Does it happen both at the same time? Are you still trying to
have them do something first? Or are they trying to have you to do something first? What does it mean?
SULLIVAN: Well, Christiane, there's really two issues here. One is the substance, which is which sanctions get lifted and which nuclear
restrictions does Iran embrace, particularly given how far out of compliance they are.
And the second is the sequence. Right now, we're focused on the substance. We will come to the sequence. And I'm not going to negotiate on television
that, other than to say the United States is not going to make any moves on this issue until we have clarity and confidence that Iran is prepared to
put its nuclear program back in the box it was in during the Iran nuclear deal.
AMANPOUR: OK, well, I'm reading a little nuance into what you're saying right now. So, that's interesting.
I want to ask you about Afghanistan, because, clearly, we have done all the reading. I have talked to officials who were familiar with the president's
thinking before he made the public address.
This is a non-conditions-based total withdrawal of all U.S. and NATO troops. There is a little bit of a setback today, because it's been
announced that the Afghan peace talks in Turkey, the Istanbul talks, which you were quite keen to have happen, are on hold until conditions are --
quote -- "more favorable for progress."
In other words, the very peace talks that you're trying to get the Taliban to agree with in order to be able to withdraw safely are not going
SULLIVAN: Well, it has been 20 years since the United States entered Afghanistan. Throughout those 20 years, it has been difficult to get
traction on diplomacy.
And so the idea that it might take a few more weeks before we really have the parties in a serious negotiation should come as a surprise to no one.
On the other hand, it is certainly the case that we see motivation among the regional powers, Afghanistan's neighbors, other key countries,
including Turkey and Qatar, to bring the parties together in a serious way to try to make progress.
But here's the key point, Christiane. What the president laid out in his speech was that, ultimately, we could not make the United States military,
U.S. troops bargaining chips in a negotiation among warring parties in another country.
And if, essentially, what we were saying was we can't withdraw our troops until there's some kind of diplomatic agreement between the Taliban and the
Afghan government, that would be a recipe in staying in Afghanistan at the mercy of other actors, rather than driving forward the national interests
of the United States.
And so, in fact, that is why the president announced what he did about setting a firm timetable for the remaining U.S. and coalition forces to
AMANPOUR: And, of course, by the 20th anniversary of 9/11.
But you have also heard sort of a steady, not overwhelming, but a drumbeat of negativity on this. Senator Mitt Romney has said, after attending the
administration's very intensive briefing and candid briefings, he said: "I'm convinced that the withdrawal of U.S. troops is an error that will
have serious consequences for our national security interests."
So, I just want to know, from your gut, are you prepared, maybe in a year, maybe in two years, to see Kabul fall? Are you prepared for the elected
government in Afghanistan to be overtaken by the current military success on the battlefield that the Taliban is having? And are you prepared to see
the rights of women again trampled on?
I mean, maybe you are. It's a legitimate question, though.
SULLIVAN: Well, Christiane, here's what I would say.
First, we have looked with clear eyes and a full accounting for all of the potential scenarios that could unfold in Afghanistan, given our departure.
We haven't whitewashed this process. We haven't ignored any of the possibilities or any of the potential harms that could befall the country.
But, at the end of the day, the United States needs to make its determinations based on a fundamental question: What is going to advance
the national security interests of the United States and the American people?
And President Biden judged that continued military presence in Afghanistan was going to create more costs and risks than it was going to produce
positive results. And so he determined that it made most sense for us to draw down.
Now, does this mean it was a straightforward or easy decision? Of course not. Either course of action has its set of costs and risks.
AMANPOUR: And, finally, I was speaking to Celeste Wallander. I'm sure she's well-known to you. She was the special assistant on Russia for the
Obama White House.
And she was saying that, obviously, your biggest or one of your biggest, you have identified it as such, challenges is China. And while you're
preoccupied with what's happening elsewhere, and the major irritations coming from Russia, China's going, oh, well, here's our chance to
We have seen what they have done in Hong Kong. They have practically eradicated democracy in Hong Kong. They're making threatening noises over
your friendship with Taiwan and et cetera.
Also, President Biden has not lifted the trade tariffs that President Trump put in place. How do you deal with China, which is so much more strong and
determined and capable than even Russia?
SULLIVAN: Well, we have said all along that we believe that we are going to face stiff competition from China, but we're not looking for conflict.
We're simply looking for China to take on the responsibilities of a global actor and to follow the international rules of the road.
And that means that we are prepared to push back when they violate those rules, whether it's freedom of navigation in the East or South China Seas,
whether it's the kinds of trade and technology abuses we have seen, or whether it's the kind of human rights violations that we have rallied our
allies to step up and push back on in Xinjiang. We have also spoken out about what the Chinese government has done in Hong Kong as well.
At the end of the day, Christiane, a big part of our capacity to effectively compete with China comes down to investing in our sources of
strength, first at home in our infrastructure, in our innovation, in our workers, in our people, second, with our allies, third, with the United
States returning to a prominent position in international institutions, so that we're not leaving a vacuum for China, and then, fourth, reclaiming our
moral convictions on the world stage, which President Biden has done over the course of his first 100 days.
So, we actually feel like we are in a good position to deal with the challenge from China in a serious, credible, effective, and sustained way.
And we think we have put ourselves in a position of strength from which to conduct that competition.
AMANPOUR: Really interesting.
Thanks so much for spending this time and giving us your valuable perspective there from inside the White House. Jake Sullivan, national
security adviser, thank you for joining me.
SULLIVAN: Thanks for having me.
AMANPOUR: And another note on Russia: Today, protests broke out across the country in support of Alexei Navalny. More than 400 people were
detained while calling for his release.
Street protest has, of course, pushed the struggle for racial justice in America. And in the wake of Derek Chauvin's conviction, calls for police
reform are growing louder.
Art Acevedo is chief of the Miami Police Department. And before that, he was chief in Houston and Austin, Texas.
Welcome back to the program, Chief Acevedo. We spoke to you very early on in this crisis after George Floyd was murdered.
And I want to ask you now, given the verdict, what is your reaction, as a police chief, to the fact that a police officer, former, was convicted on
all three counts, two counts of murder and one of manslaughter?
ART ACEVEDO, MIAMI, FLORIDA, POLICE CHIEF: Well, I would say it's a great relief.
I have got a great sense of relief. So do my officers I have been talking to and most police chiefs and police executives across the country, as the
system work the way it's supposed to work. Accountability carried the day. And I think that we should all -- as sad as it is, the death of George
Floyd, a greater travesty would have been to not provide the family and the nation justice, because, without justice, you can't have no healing.
And I think this was a very important step in the right direction.
AMANPOUR: So, let's expand on that, because, honestly, it's quite something to hear a police chief say relief when a police officer has been
convicted of murder.
And it's not usual, as you know, in -- you say the system has worked. The system generally doesn't work in the United States, as you know better than
I do. Police are infinitesimally ever held accountable and ever convicted.
So talk a little bit more about what all your chiefs and colleagues and officers in all the thousands of police departments around the United
States will be taking from this for the future.
ACEVEDO: Well, I think that police officers that may not have their heart in the right place, that this is an alarm for them, that will hopefully
make them think twice about their conduct and make better decisions.
But we don't want to say our policing is broken. I think that especially Europeans don't realize we're the most -- one of the most violent nations
on Earth, more firearms, more murders, more people getting shot in our streets every day. And the majority are not by the police.
But what we do have is instances when bad policing happens. It disproportionately impacts communities of color, and we have to acknowledge
that fact, and then deal with taking steps to make that not be the reality that too many people face in this country.
AMANPOUR: So, you're absolutely right. People abroad, countries abroad -- and let's -- we will talk about democratic countries -- do look at the
United States, and they're shocked. They're just shocked by the number of guns, as you said, by the number of mass shootings and by the -- what
really does look like structural racism, which is the fact and the case, in which police shootings happen that are overwhelmingly generally white
against black and generally unarmed.
Today -- well, not today -- as the verdict was coming down, an Ohio police officers shot and killed a black teenage girl. She was holding a knife, and
there was bodycam video. And they said they were trying to protect somebody else.
But they shot a 15- or 16-year-old girl, and she's dead. And this just keeps going on. You say the system worked. And I want to have you react to
what a lot of black people are saying in America today, that, actually, it wasn't the system that worked; it was the people who've been on the
streets, Black Lives Matter, white allies, people who've been on the streets for the last year who forced the system to take a good look and to
work in this case.
ACEVEDO: You know, I think that people have short memories. People have taken to the streets over the years many, many times in our country after
Look at Rodney King. And people just forget that. The truth of the matter is that our criminal justice system needs a lot of work. It needs a lot of
work as it relates to the accountability of police. It also needs a lot of work as it relates to accountability of the people committing violence
every day across this nation.
It's taken three to five years just to get a murder suspect into court in our country. And then, on top of all that, we have to acknowledge that our
mental health system in this country has failed. Our public health system is failing in terms of treatment for the addicted and treatment for the
And so there's a lot of work to be done. And what we need is for President Biden to put together a blue-ribbon commission to look not just at law
enforcement, but the entire criminal justice system, and, ultimately, our public health system, our mental health system, and everything that's
interrelated, so we can have a comprehensive approach to making these systems work the way that the American people want them to work, the way we
in policing want them to work, and the way that everyone deserves, which is effective safe for everyone, regardless of where they live or what they
AMANPOUR: Chief, I want to ask you, because you just mentioned President Biden.
And, of course, you know the attorney general has launched an inquiry into the Minneapolis Police Department about, did it act unlawfully, et cetera?
You have heard all that and we have reported about it.
But, also, in Congress, there is the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act. Now, apparently, a sticking point between Republicans and Democrats is
about qualified immunity. The Democrats want to gut that for cops in civil courts, and the GOP is opposed.
Where do you stand on that?
ACEVEDO: Well, I have had a lot of conversations with both Republican leadership and Democrats.
I can tell you that it's not quite as Republican and Democrat. There's a lot of elected officials both on both sides of the aisle that recognizing
just eliminating qualified immunity may create a law enforcement profession, with all the violence in this country, that officers may be
risk-averse, and maybe police.
We need to look at qualified immunity. We need to look at what qualified immunity should look like in the 21st century. But to simply eliminate it,
I don't think you're going to find -- if that's the position, I think it's going to lead to no passage of the act.
And so I'm hopeful that we can come together and look at where we can adjust qualified immunity where it makes sense. But I can tell you that I
know this -- I know my people. I know my country. I know the elected officials between what they say publicly, the things they say privately,
and eliminating it is really not going to work for a wide swathe of people both in elected office and even in the community.
So we have got to address it, but we have to be thoughtful, and it shouldn't be throwing out the baby with the bathwater. And I think we can
get there if we just move forward together.
AMANPOUR: Again, Chief, it is just so incredible how many people are being shot by police, and a whole lot were during the very trial itself.
And I want to ask you, because Mayor Bill de Blasio, up for reelection in New York, he has just called. And he believes that every police officer in
America should be retrained to de-escalate conflict, to use minimum force.
Do you agree? I mean, and what do you think needs to happen to recruiting?
ACEVEDO: Well, first of all, it's interesting to me that the politicians think they know what it's like to be a police officer.
Look, we have got to always do a better job of training. But it's also about accountability. All the training in the world is not going to
guarantee that, at 3:00 in the morning, a police officer is going to do the right things, the way they're trained.
What we need to do have is have systems of accountability, systems that have -- require specific, specified training, specified policies. And we
need to look at, what are we responding to in the first place? Who's doing what? What should policing look like? What should criminal justice look
And that cannot happen with just an act by the Congress. We have got to put together a blue-ribbon commission at the national level. Only the president
can get that done. He promised it. And we need him to get to work, get us all to work, get people a lot smarter than me to work, so we can look at,
what will this country look like in terms of policing and criminal justice, mental health and public health in the next 200 years?
Because, if we don't do that, we will be having this conversation next year, the year after, and in many years to come.
AMANPOUR: You're absolutely right. And that is absolutely the point.
Chief Acevedo, thank you so much, indeed, for joining us.
Now, the power of people and the power of protest have driven this movement for racial justice, at the forefront, of course, Black Lives Matter.
And I'm joined now by its co-founder, Opal Tometi.
Opal Tometi, welcome to the program.
As we're asking everybody today, what was your immediate sense when you heard that verdict handed down?
OPAL TOMETI, CO-FOUNDER, BLACK LIVES MATTER: Well, thanks for having me. You know, my immediate feeling when I heard the verdict was one of relief.
I didn't expect to feel so emotional. To be quite honest, I had actually tuned out to a certain degree because of the emotional kind of toll, all of
these cases and acts of violence and the shootings we have been hearing about, in addition to watching the trial.
And so, I kind of -- I allowed myself to take a step back and to not be tied to the TV every single day. And so, by time I finally went to listen
to the verdict, I was completely overwhelmed. I was moved to tears. I couldn't help but think about George Floyd, his loved ones, his gorgeous
daughter, his family and the millions of people around the world who demanded that we see that his murder be brought to some sort of "justice or
accountability" in this case. And so, I was relieved to be quite honest.
AMANPOUR: I'm going to ask you about your "justice" because I think that's exactly what people are asking about in terms of what it means for the
future. But first, I want to ask you, how do you feel personally? You're one of three co-founders of Black Lives Matter movement. You know, people
stayed on the streets. You know, protests and activism happened all this year, mostly black people but many, many millions of white people joining
as well, and as you said, around the world.
How do you feel about your -- I would say your transformative impact on what we've seen transpire in the courtroom?
TOMETI: You know, this is a real testament to the power of the people. The power of people who are moved so deeply from a sense of their own, you
know, righteousness and connection to humanity and move from their own, you know, moral conviction to say, hey, we're going to the streets in the
middle of a pandemic. We can't sit idly by while our neighbors are being, you know, gunned down and -- or left to be choked to death in broad
daylight. I think people were ultimately fed up.
And so, last year we saw historic uprisings. And, you know, I think that New York Times had -- it was largest movement in history, around the world
and it's incredibly -- you know, from the perspective where I sit, it's humbling to see. But honestly, it's really about everyday people taking
ownership of their lives, taking ownership of their destiny and becoming the type of, you know, citizenry that we deserve so that we can transform
our society and have a world where black people are finally treated with dignity and respect that we deserve.
And so, to me this really a testament of the people, every day people taking to the streets and saying, you know what, enough is enough. We have
known for far too long that this kind of violence and killing of unarmed black people continues to plague this country and we're tired of it. And
despite their being, you know, the COVID-19 pandemic, we know that we can't let this go on and we have to let go of the apathy. We have to do
something. We have to sacrifice a bit and we're going to have to take things -- you know, matters into our own hands and be in the streets.
So, I'm moved by every single person who took their feet to the street, who joined in with their neighbors, their loved ones, they brought their kids.
You know, people of all ages were out last year. And so, this is really a big kudos to everybody who was moved and who got into the streets.
But I will also say that it's sad that it would take that type of global uprising to see this type of verdict come out, right?
AMANPOUR: And so --
TOMETI: We know that this (INAUDIBLE).
AMANPOUR: Well, yes. And I wanted to ask you about, you know, the future. Because, look, many are saying, OK, we want to celebrate but we can't
really celebrate. What is going to happen in the future? Even George Floyd's brother says, I think today has been an occasion where people can
celebrate but tomorrow it's back to business. For all African-Americans, for all black people in the United States and around the world, what do you
-- where does this conviction stand? Do you think it's transformative? What -- do you have to keep people on the street and keep up the struggle?
TOMETI: To be quite honest, this verdict is not transformative. This is one incident where we see that there is accountability for a murder that
was caught on camera in broad daylight in which millions of people around the world witnessed by virtue of seeing the video footage and said, you
know, enough is enough. Something has to be done about this.
However, I think this one verdict cannot be seen as what is going to now become the status quo unless we see the lost change, unless we see the
types of investments in our communities and, you know, the reallocation of policing dollars toward other solutions that keep everyday people safe. And
that's ultimately what I believe that we need.
If we're going to have conversations about public safety, they have to look at solutions that really reflect the best of us and that respect black
life. And that ultimately looks at, you know, where are our dollars going? What are we doing with the resources? What can we do instead? What kinds of
decisions can we make that looks at people with dignity as opposed to being a problem or seeing us as a criminal, you know, right off the bat just
because of the color of our skin?
AMANPOUR: Yes. And we will be following this and so will the world. Opal Tometi, thank you so much. Great to have you on today.
Now, to understand this profound moment, we need to look back over 2,000 years, all the way back to Ancient Greece. Here is Harvard professor,
Daniel Allan, talking with Walter Isaacson about the Chauvin's verdict's potential impact on police reform.
WALTER ISAACSON, CNNI HOST: Thank you, Christiane. And, Professor Danielle Allen, welcome to the show.
DANIELLE ALLEN, JAMES BRYANT CONANT UNIVERSITY PROFESSOR, HARVARD UNIVERSITY: Thanks, Walter. Good to be here.
ISAACSON: Can you help put into historical context this verdict in the Derek Chauvin case that happened this week?
ALLEN: You have to recognize that this effort to hold police officer accountable for a killing has been years in the making. We have to go back
to 2014 when Michael Brown was shot in the streets of Ferguson, Missouri to understand this moment. People have watched police officers get away with
really quite dramatic examples of excessive violence for a long-time and have been working hard to change dynamic. And yesterday we got, I hope, the
beginning of the end of an accountable policing.
ISAACSON: And you use the word hope. What -- unpack that word for me. What are you hoping?
ALLEN: We have watched over the last 50 years as our country has built a much more intense, much more punitive version of our criminal justice
system, and that is true about sentencing but it's also true about how policing operates. We have watched the increasing militarization of the
police. They are arming with much higher levels of weaponry and military style tactics and the like. As it happens, it's also the case that policing
has always come down hardest on communities of color in this country.
And so, when you put those two things together, the historical patterns of racial disparity in policing with the real intensification of police force
and police violence over the last 50 years, you get a really extraordinary form of destruction of communities of color. It's been really bad. And so,
the hope is that this is the beginning of turning that around. You can't turn that around unless you can hold people who use excessive force
accountable and there's been a real struggle to hold police officers who use excessive force accountable.
ISAACSON: Let's go a little bit deeper. Put it in the context of the struggle for civil rights and for the institutions that define public
safety over the past 50, 60, 70 years.
ALLEN: Well, it does seem as if our country just has a continuous fight around civil rights, racial justice. Every generation seems to reach a
point, a deep point of tragic confrontation with this issue and then needs to move forward from it.
So, from my generation, it was 1992 and the Rodney King events when Rodney King was so badly beaten by police officers was caught on video. That was a
transformative moment. And then from my parent's generation, it was the '50s and the '60s. My father remembers the lynching of Emmett Till and the
open casket at the funeral and then the incredible movement towards civil rights efforts that that event brought.
So, that civil rights moment was one where, again, African-Americans stood up and said, enough is enough. There is too much violence against us in
this country. We need fundamental change. And then, that civil rights moment, the fundamental change that was achieved was the Voting Rights Act,
the Civil Rights Act, the end of legal segregation across different domains of the public sector.
Now, we have a new problem, which, again, is this remarkable excessive approach to policing and excessively penal system.
ISAACSON: Your father, whom you just mentioned, was -- this is a distinguished writer. Tell me what he bequeathed to you in the sense of the
history that he and now you are a part of?
ALLEN: Well, my father always had a twinned recognition of the problems of racial injustice in this country and an appreciation for the promise of
emancipation that the founding ideals of the constitution of declaration articulate. We often think of the Declaration of Independence, for example,
as a document that was written by, say, Thomas Jefferson. Somebody who help slaves. Maybe we should just reject it out of hand.
In fact, that's not the way of thing about that document. Jefferson was one among many people who contributed to it. He was the lead draftsman on a
committee. But the intellectual architects included people like John Adams who were against enslavement. And in fact, the tax was then next used by
abolitionists starting from 1777. And moving forward, it really is an abolition document. It supported the cause against enslavements.
And I'm not the only person who sees that prospect for emancipation of that document. Benjamin Crump is the lawyer who has really architected this
effort against policing and excessive police violence in the present. He was the lawyer for the Trayvon Martin family, for Michael Brown's family.
Also, now, for George Floyd and his family.
And he has published a book a couple of years ago that concludes with the discussion of the Declaration of Independence and the way its articulation
of grievances and complaints against excessive police force directly pertain to our contemporary circumstances.
ISAACSON: I'm going to take you then even further back in history because your main training early on in your academic career was as a classicist
with Ancient Greece and Rome. You write about Prometheus and the question of punishment and you, of course, write about Plato.
I was wondering, there's an old classical phrase, it's quis custodiet ipsos custodes, which means, who's going to guard the guard. Who's going to watch
over the watchmen.
ISAACSON: Tell us about that concept and how, from ancient times, the question is going to look out over the police and who is going to police
the police has become part of our notion of justice.
ALLEN: Well, that is the ancient question. You know, Plato and his republic ask that question. He recognizes that in order to have a healthy
society that could be safe from adversaries, whether external or internal, you would need, as you call them, Guardians. And then the question was,
well, once you equip Guardians with power, power of military force or power of armed force, who guards the Guardians, who keeps them on the track for
It's interesting that in contemporary policing there is a lot of conversation about the need to shift from a warrior mentality to a guardian
mentality. I think that's exactly right. But I think there's more that could be said. Actually, I think, we need a broader cultural shift. One of
the distinctive features of punishments in antiquity was that a routine punishment was exile.
Now, exile, that sounds very, obviously, foreign to us. We don't have it anymore. It's not been a part of punishment since the middle of the 19th
century. And this is a really important thing because what exile was actually was a second chance. It meant that people could go establish
themselves in a new community and try again.
And what has really disappeared from our whole approach to punishment is the capacity to support second chances for people. That takes me back to
the point I was making about the excessive punitiveness, excessive penalty of our current approach to justice. We really need to rebuild a culture
that supports redemption, a culture that supports second chances, a culture that supports cultivating healthy relationships within communities. And
those healthy relationships within communities require a very different approach to policing than what we've seen for the last few decades.
ISAACSON: And so, how do you tie the drive for police reform with the drive for justice and second chances for people who have been arrested?
ALLEN: So, for starters, one of the things we need to do is actually just take policing out of context where it doesn't really belong. So, I think if
you even talk to members of the police, you'll find that they'll say, there a whole lot of things they get called for that they wish they didn't have
to do. Lots of those calls for mental health situations, for example, or calls that are about unhoused people. There's all kinds of service calls
police get that they shouldn't get. They bring guns into them.
And so, then a situation that might have been handled from a health perspective or from a social services perspective can easily escalate into
something far more dangerous and deadly. So, in first instance, I think what we really need to do is actually take another look at all of the
mandates, legislative mandates often around the country that require police to respond to situations that they are not the right first responders to.
We also really have to look at our 911 system. That practice of always calling 911 is part of what brings the police into all kinds of situations
again that they shouldn't be in. We really need to be able to dispatch other kinds of providers to situations where policing is not necessary.
There are some municipalities that have experimented with this and the remarkable thing is it does reduce incidences of violence that emerged from
these encounters, it also actually reduces the cost of policing, its cost saving from municipalities to make these kinds of changes.
ISAACSON: You've brought the historical studies that we're talking about now all the way back to Plato. One of the things in the republic is the
Ring of Gyges where you put it on and people can't see what you're doing. And of course, he discusses, would you be well-behaved if you were
anonymous, if you couldn't be seen.
This trial showed us the power of a 17-year-old with a cell phone and that notion that all of us can now watch each other and do cellphones. How is
that loss of anonymity, this ability for people to videotape each other and then use social media? How is that changing the concept of justice?
ALLEN: The Ring of Gyges is this mythical idea, as you said, of having this ring that makes you invisible so that you can get away with anything
and Plato is asking the question of, given that the Guardians in effect are in a role where they kind of have the Ring of Gyges, how do we keep them
just? And we have to cultivate ethical commitments in their spirit to keep them just.
Well, I think, what we have found consistently over time is that power corrupts. There's really powerful movie called "Training Day" that stars
Denzel Washington which really probes this question of how power corrupts and what it does mean to think you have the cloak of invisibility. Well, do
you think that body cameras and the video, the phones used to film events have really gotten rid of the Ring of Gyges for policing. This is a good
thing. So, now we can see what's going on and now we can really begin to hold people accountable.
There are other features of that cloak of invisibility that still require attention. There's the problem of qualified immunity, for example, which is
our modern Ring of Gyges. It means police can operate with an effective cloak of invisibility.
ISAACSON: You've talked about putting this in historical context and gone all the way back to the classical times. But I want you want you to put it
in the current context, the broader context of our common purpose as citizens. What is it mean -- you're on the -- I think, on the commission
for the practice of democratic citizenship and you gave a set of recommendations about how we can restore commonality in our citizenry?
ALLEN: You know, there's really basic idea about what the purpose of politics is, that goes back to Cicero and that is still in state mottos of
several of the states in the United States. That fundamental basic idea is in Latin, salus populi suprema lex esto. That the health and wellbeing of
the people be the supreme law. In other words, we know what the purposes of politics are by asking the question of whether or not we're securing the
health and wellbeing of the people. That idea of salus populi, the health and wellbeing of the people, was rendered in the Declaration of
Independence in the phrase the safety and happiness of the people. That's what the job of our political institutions is, is to secure our safety and
The same idea was rendered by the phrase, the general welfare in the constitution. And as I mentioned that Latin phrase it's still in the motto
of several states in this country. So, at the end of the day, our common purpose in a constitution of democracy is to deliver the health and safety
of the people, the safety and happiness of the people, the general welfare of the people. It's as simple as that.
And so, when you have a large group of people in your country, in this case, citizens of color very often, standing up and saying, we are not
safe, then you have to recognize we have failed in our common purpose. We have reached a point where we have a fundamental responsibility to re-
envision our institutions of public safety, to deliver that safety and happiness for everyone.
ISAACSON: And you've been involved in the -- I think it's called the Democratic Knowledge Project. Tell us what you're attempting to achieve
with that and how it ties in to the events of this week and the events we have just been talking about.
ALLEN: The Democratic Knowledge Project is an education provider. We provide curricular resources that have the job of helping young people come
to understand the knowledge and the skills and the dispositions, values that support constitutional democracy.
So, 8th graders, for example, they know what's happening with George Floyd. They knew last year when George Floyd died. That was a really devastating
moment in our classrooms as young people were trying to process this even. So, one of the things that we have really worked hard to do is to give
teachers the tools they need to help young people process, to diagnose, to have some standards of the first instance. What is a constitutional
democracy? What should it deliver for its citizenry? How do we tell when it's working or when it's not working? And if we think it's not working,
what do we do about it? What are our avenues of change and transformation?
One of the really important parts of that work is a really simple idea, it comes from a scholar named Glen Singleton. He's has developed something he
calls his compass for courageous conversations, and it really is a little instrument that reminds you that for every hard event we have to co-process
a really hard event like the death of George Floyd, like this verdict, we'll have why questions. Our minds will get engaged. We'll have heart
questions. How do we feel about it? We will have moral questions. What's our moral evaluation of what happened? And we'll have social questions.
Well, I don't know what we can do. What's our role and relationship to this?
And so, a good teaching of hard histories, of hard presence is about engaging students in all four parts of this compass, head, heart, moral
evaluation, social role. And that's the tough thing, is to really help teachers be equipped, for whichever point of the compass their students are
entering the conversation from.
ISAACSON: As we watched the trial of Derek Chauvin for the murder of George Floyd, what do you see as the needs that come out of this case for
police reform and changing the system?
ALLEN: This is a moment where a police officer was held accountable for excessive use of force. He was held accountable for murder. It's important
that we name the moment as murder. To do that is to say, this is not what policing is or should be. The culture and practices and policies that led
to this moment are not what policing should be. In that regard, we now have a bright line and then we can start to walk from there to the question of
what should policing be. What is the place of force in our system of justice? Can we shrink the footprint for the use of force? Can we change
problems around police accountability such as qualified immunity? Can we change the mandates that put police in context and encounters where they
shouldn't be, where we need health services or mental health services or support for unhoused people?
So, there's a lot of work to do to build institutions of public safety that truly deliver safety and happiness to everyone.
ISAACSON: A generation from now, how do you think that the trial of Derek Chauvin, his conviction for murder of George Floyd, will be part of our
curriculum, part of what students are taught and how will it help them to understand the evolution of our democracy?
ALLEN: The question of how it will be taught a generation from now depends entirely on what we do with this moment. My hope is that this moment will
be the beginning of a transformation to justice systems of public safety, to justice in our institutions of policing and in our legal system. And if
we do that work, if with achieve that transformation, I think this conviction of Derek Chauvin for murder will be identified as a turning
I sure hope that history does not run the other way. We desperately need to the make that climb together now.
ISAACSON: Professor Danielle Allen, thank you so much for being with us.
ALLEN: Thank you, Walter. Really good to be with you.
AMANPOUR: And finally on this story, her impulse to pull out her cell phone and press record came to shape the Chauvin trial when prosecutors
implored jurors to believe what you see. Darnella Frazier was just 17 when she captured George Floyd's horrifying last moments on camera and recorded
his words that came to define an entire movement against racism and police brutality, I can't breathe. After the verdict for murder, Darnella
expressed her emotion in a Facebook post saying she's cried so hard and she added, justice has been served.
George Floyd's family has called Darnella a hero. And of course, it's a reminder that justice is in all of our hands, that one single act of
bravery can change everything.
And that is it for now. You can catch us online, on our podcast and across social media. Thank you for watching and good-bye from London.