BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST: And, good evening once again. Day 1,226 of the Trump administration. 158 days out from our Presidential Election.
Tonight, Minneapolis is under curfew until 6:00 a.m. Central time on Saturday, but the protesters who have been on the streets for the past several hours, for that matter the past several nights, remain there. All of it stemming from the death of George Floyd.
Today the now former police officer who kneeled on Mr. Floyd`s neck has been charged in Mr. Floyd`s death, but the anger, the outrage have not gone away.
We want to start things off by going to Ali Velshi, who is still with us from the streets of Minneapolis. Ali, a couple of things. I know you have changed positions. Tell us the reason for that and confirm for us these reports we`ve been hearing that police have pulled back again and there are long stretches of the city with no police presence again tonight.
ALI VELSHI, MSNBC HOST: Yes. In fact, I would argue, Brian, that there are more stretches of the city without police presence than there were last night. It was a remarkable scene that started in the 9:00 p.m. Eastern hour right when that curfew began, about ten minutes before it. The police announced that you`ll be arrested if you don`t move. They started firing tear gas, and then something that nobody expected. The police and the National Guard -- these are state police, various other agencies. I didn`t see any Minneapolis police at all. And the National Guard all started moving backward. They walked backward for well over a mile or mile and a half as far as I can see. At one point, they stopped and sort of did running battle with the protesters with tear gas, and the protesters just did not pull back.
I had a mask, but the protesters didn`t have masks. They just stood there and stood there and kept on moving forward, and eventually the National Guard and the police have dissipated. They walked down major stretches of the city all the way to downtown, from south Minneapolis into downtown.
There are crowds of people assembled including just beyond this bridge where those lights are. Various parts of the city, there are groups that have assembled. But the idea of a curfew, I can guarantee you because we`ve been on the streets since the curfew began, is not in place.
For whatever reason, and we do not know whether, Brian, this was a strategic decision on the part of the National Guard and the police and the mayor, and the governor to say let`s dissipate the crowds by pulling them back on what became ultimately a march more than a protest or whether the protest overcame the resistance of authorities.
What we did not see very interestingly is we did not see interaction or much interplay between the police and the protesters except for the firing of canisters although Micah Grimes, one of our digital producers who is here, did get struck by a National Guardsman in his side with something. We have not been able to determine what the something was. It did not appear to be tear gas. We don`t know whether it was rubber bullets or whether it was something else. So that was unusual because we weren`t really in a position where the National Guard should be firing on us. But there was a great deal of confusion because the protesters walked into this mist of tear gas.
You can hear helicopters. These are now military National Guard helicopters above the city. I have not seen any media helicopters in the last little while. But there is a heavy police presence in the city today, Brian, that we didn`t see, but not police control. They are here, but they`re not controlling the streets, and they are not maintaining a curfew tonight, Brian.
WILLIAMS: And, Ali, as you know, the governor, with some ceremony and some emotion, said today that the state was going to act and the National Guard was being sent in because the city couldn`t handle it last night. And starting with those words, we sure thought today and tonight were going to be different.
VELSHI: And today was different. I will tell you that. What the police and the National Guard achieved was a perimeter around that area that you and I were talking from last night, around that intersection where the third precinct was.
Probably three blocks in every direction, the police had sealed it off with jersey barriers, concrete barriers so that cars couldn`t get through, not the metal barriers that could be moved. And there were no protesters in that area for the entire day. They were dissipated to separate sort of quadrants in small groups with police and National Guard`s presence in front of them. And then it all came apart at 8:00 local time, 9:00 p.m. Eastern. Announcements came out. We saw at about 10 minutes to 9:00, all the police and the National Guards people donning their gas masks.
Our team did the same thing because obviously something was coming. The tear gas was deployed, and then they backed out and they were gone. And I think there was some sense that with that much tear gas, the crowd would dissipate or would hold back, and it was incredible to see that did not happen.
So it is unclear whether -- same question we had last night -- whether this is strategic or not, whether the decision to not engage with protesters in anything that feels like combat or confrontation is part of the strategy or whether the plan to keep everybody at bay did not work because right now not just in this city, but as you`ve been reporting or you will be reporting, across the country these protests are overwhelming the ability for police forces to keep them in line. And that is what has happened here.
So the one interesting thing at this hour, the protest has dissipated. There are groups across the city. It is not a mass protest like it was last night, but it is not a curfew either.
WILLIAMS: Ali, look behind you. I`m seeing what appears to be a new plume of something in the distance where you said the other police precinct was, and I`m wondering if enough people have now gathered together the interest of police because that looks new.
VELSHI: Yes, that`s brand-new what`s going there. It`s moving faster than the wind out here would suggest that it should be moving. It`s just on the other side of this bridge. I don`t smell any gas, and usually even if it`s at that distance, you can tell if it`s tear gas. We`re not seeing any running or movement. There is a large crowd of people there, and one thing we have seen, because we`ve been hearing a lot of noise all night, there are a lot of firecrackers and things like that going off. I`m wondering whether that`s what it is.
You see people walking through that plume toward us, so it`s not tear gas because they wouldn`t be walking that calmly if it were. But there is something going on there, you`re right. That has just developed.
There does not appear to be a police presence here. I will tell you, though, Brian, just on the other side of that bridge where you see those traffic lights that have turned green, that is the police station. That`s another police station. That`s the fifth precinct that there were some reports that there was some tension around. That is completely closed off with the jersey barriers and fencing and there are police on the roof of that building. So there`s a police presence right there, and there`s a protester presence on the right side of where those traffic lights are. But I`m not seeing interchange between them, so I`ll find out what that smoke was, but it does not appear to be something by police.
You can see the helicopter right up there. That`s a National Guard helicopter. Basically right on top of the police station, sort of surveying the situation below it. So a very, very tense situation here in Minneapolis. The curfew is not in place.
WILLIAMS: One precinct where the mayor may choose to make a stand. Ali Velshi, we`ll check back in with you. As always, same warning applies. Stay safe.
WILLIAMS: Before we go to Louisville where things got very sporty tonight - - and by the way, just to update everyone, we`ve had a lot of activity in the streets of Washington, Atlanta, San Jose, Los Angeles, Cincinnati. All across our country tonight. So much that it`s hard to keep up with. I want to show you a clip of a local reporter with our local station WAVE in Louisville, Kentucky, tonight as police were firing pepper bullets.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Got to go, and that`s fine with us.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We got plenty of time here.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are you OK?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I`m getting shot! I`m getting --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Katie, are you OK?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Rubber bullets. Rubber bullets. It`s OK. It`s those pepper bullets. It`s those pepper bullets --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Who are they aiming that at?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: At us. Like directly at us. Directly at us.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why are they doing that?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They`re shooting at our crew.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don`t know.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do they not know -- obviously they see the camera.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Right. They`re telling us to move now, I guess farther away.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: That`s one way to tell people to move back. And we would call such a thing accidental right up until the point where the police officer aims his weapon at the local news crew on the streets.
Our own Cal Perry is out and about on the streets of Louisville, Kentucky, where, Cal, I was watching your work earlier. A number of fires have been lit, which is something we`re seeing in cities all across the country. At least three cars have gone up right in the center of Atlanta tonight.
CAL PERRY, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: Yes, and police have lost control of this street. Mark, you can show fires on either end of this street. I finished with Lawrence O`Donnell coming around this corner, and somebody was handling a firearm and was trying to stop traffic with a gun they had pulled out. And that`s what has people here rattled.
Seven people were shot last night in a mass shooting in the middle of the protest. Mark, can you swing around and show the other end of that street? There`s another fire here. And as I said, Brian, police have lost control of this street. They may maintain control of the downtown area, where the courthouse is, where the sheriff`s offices. But all these side streets and protesters scattered on these side streets and that`s when we saw our first Molotov cocktail. And that`s when things got serious, that`s when police really started firing those little pepper rounds. And they bounce and they were ricocheting off everything. And that`s what has the crowd now sort of split up on both sides of the city.
You can see the new line of police is forming just past that fire at the end of the street. It is important to note that this city has a very difficult relationship with this police force as well. People have rallied around the killing of Breonna Taylor.
She died on March 13th when three police officers entered her apartment without knocking. They came in. There was a firefight with her boyfriend. She was shot eight times, and there`s been a lot of questions about why they didn`t knock, why it was one of those no-knock warrants. That`s now over according to the mayor. He made that announcement today. There is a federal investigation into what happened. But it`s finally -- if you talk to people here, it`s finally getting the attention that it deserves. So it`s not just what`s happening in Minneapolis. It`s also what`s happening in this city.
Also worth noting, Brian, this is a generational thing. This is a younger group, and everybody is looking at what`s happening in Washington, what`s happening in Atlanta, what`s happening in Minneapolis, and I think they`re all feeding each other. The scenes are all the same. And people are sort of sharing this moment in history, Brian.
WILLIAMS: Cal Perry on the streets of Louisville, Kentucky. A wild night for that city.
Blayne Alexander is in Atlanta. And, Blayne, we`ve been watching your work tonight as well. We saw the mayor get very angry because among other things, protesters attacked CNN`s world headquarters, defaced the front of the building, defaced the CNN logo on the sidewalk, broke windows, broke windows in nearby restaurants. As I mentioned, two police cars or two cars were on fire. Last we checked in front of the Starbucks there. They torched a police car earlier tonight. Does that about encapsulate?
BLAYNE ALEXANDER, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: You know what, you nailed it all, Brian. But even since that reporting, there has been some more damage. I`m sorry to tell you, I kind of want to show you the scenario right now. We`re in the heart of Downtown Atlanta. This is -- Right there that green space you see is Centennial Olympic Park, you know it well, the home of the `96 Olympics. And lining the perimeter, we see officers and SWAT vehicles. We see a perimeter that has actually formed as they`re trying to get people out of the park.
I want to show you over this way, if you take a look, you talked about those smoldering cars. You see the fire trucks right there still trying to put them out.
On top of that damage we`ve seen, we can pan over here. There`s a Starbucks where the windows have been broken through. Part of the embassy suites, that hotel and the Omni Hotel nearby, both have had windows broken out. And then when you swing around here, we`ll show you this window. This is the college football hall of fame. This is a very popular attraction. All of the windows here in front completely broken out. You see just bare shelves, empty shelves. Clearly people have come in here and looted and taken a lot of things.
So it was a very striking split screen that you heard earlier tonight, Brian. You saw Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms with the Atlanta Police Chief Erika Shields along with some big Atlanta names, rapper T.I., Rapper Killer Mike, all basically pleading for people to salvage and save the City of Atlanta.
They say that this is our city. This is our home. If we lose Atlanta, what else do we have? But at the very same time, Brian, you saw kind of this escalation that was happening right before our eyes here in Downtown Atlanta. I`ve got to say that I`ve been out here since about 4:00 this afternoon. And we have seen a complete shift. It started off with several hundred people, more than 1,000 people gathering peacefully in the streets. They marched here about a mile away to the Georgia State Capital, chanted there for a while and came back here.
But it was as the sun started to set, as people started to return to this area that we really saw that flip. That`s when we saw people breaking the windows into the CNN Center. We were seeing videos on social media of a police line inside, people throwing lit fireworks inside to police officers inside the CNN Center.
And then one thing I`ve got to say, my crew and I have been kind of moving around to positions of safety throughout the night. But from one of those positions, we looked up. We saw a billowing cloud of smoke, and we realized that was a police car on fire. We later saw the flames shooting up.
So that`s when we saw police repeatedly through the night give a series of warnings, Brian. They were telling people to back up, to clear the streets, and it was after we started to see people go inside the CNN Center that that`s when we saw the gas canisters flying. That`s when we saw really people moving, and that`s when we saw police inching that perimeter forward.
So I`m going to take you back over here, show you some of the SWAT activity again behind us. But this is constantly what we`re seeing here, Brian. We`re seeing police making this kind of slow, painstaking effort to clear the streets here in Atlanta. But in the midst of all of this, we`re seeing really just a lot of damage, a lot of carnage, I think, would not be too dramatic of a word to say. We`re talking about hotels that have been damaged, cars that are still smoldering and police that are still quite frankly trying to clear the streets here in Atlanta, Brian.
WILLIAMS: And Blayne, one more question. How is it that police cleared where you are? You`re clearly in a safe zone behind their lines. Did they just kind of have to slow and steady move lines forward and exit people from that area?
ALEXANDER: We`ve seen a combination of it, Brian. So we were actually standing right on the other side, inside Centennial Olympic Park, when we started to see smoke fill the air. We were close enough to tell that that was tear gas. My crew, my producer, myself, we caught a whiff of it. We could tell immediately that we were impacted by it, so we started backing up. That`s when we saw a number of people who were filling that park backing up as well. At the same time, we saw police doing what you just said, slow and steady kind of moving in, blocking off areas, blocking off perimeters.
I do have to say one thing that I really think is important to add to the context of Atlanta. You know that the civil rights, the National Center for Civil and Human Rights is literally a few blocks away. This is the city that birthed Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The birth place of the civil right movement.
Atlanta really prides itself on being a place where people can come and protest peacefully, where non-violence kind of prevails. So in the past few years whenever we see protests of this magnitude or others, police activity really coming in and having those more confrontational approaches is going to be a last resort for Atlanta. In fact, we saw the police chief standing in the midst of protesters earlier saying she understands the frustration, she understand the anger, and she wants people to protest peacefully. Brian?
WILLIAMS: Indeed. They like to be known as the jewel of the south, and a lot of the cities that consider themselves jewels tonight have some smoldering ruins. Blayne Alexander, thank you for your comprehensive reporting from Atlanta tonight.
We are joined by the former commissioner of the NYPD, Bill Bratton. And Bill, you and I had our last discussion on live television this afternoon. And forgive me for any repetition, but there`s really important questions for a guy of your experience.
Let`s go to the death of George Floyd, the reason we`re all here, the reason the streets of these mighty cities in our country are full of people tonight. The knee-hold, putting a knee on the neck of a suspect, as you confirmed to me, it`s not taught in any police academy in this country, yet it is employed by police officers. We`ve seen it many times, usually when no one`s looking. How do you police something like that?
BILL BRATTON, MSNBC SENIOR LAW ENFORCER ANALYST: You police it through leadership. You police it through training. You police it through discipline when it`s used and abused. And one of the reasons it`s no longer taught, it`s no longer authorized, no longer allowed, if were used a force against the neck area, we`ve come to recognize that that oftentimes can and does lead to death. So the banning of the choke hold, the use certainly of a knee against the neck, all of that is to experience over time, tragedies over time.
And so this case, however, I think for all of us who have been around a long time -- I`ve been in this business 50 years, I`ve never seen such a callous abuse of authority and power as was exhibited by that officer over the course of 10, 12 minutes. And effectively as I understand it now, maybe for almost three minutes after effectively he had passed out, he had gone unconscious. Just incredibly egregious.
WILLIAMS: It`s also -- it`s harder to describe, but there is something, Commissioner, about the officer`s -- the former officer`s demeanor in that video, the way he -- the casual set of his hands and arms, the way he almost repositions his body weight to maximize the pressure, very casually, on the neck of a human being where we are about to watch life drain from that man on the street.
BRATTON: Well, as we have subsequently found out through some of the additional video -- and there`s more video to come because we have not yet seen the video on the four officers if, in fact, those body cameras were working. But the video that shows three officers on that individual and then the fourth officer just kind of wandering around, that, again, you can`t explain it. How can you effectively participate in what has now been charged, the murder of this individual? You`re not seeing anybody in law enforcement defending that. The chief in the adjacent city to Minneapolis, St. Paul, showed this video to his officers and indicated to them, if any of you feel that what happens is displaced here was appropriate, you`re in the wrong business. You shouldn`t be wearing a badge. And I think for the vast, vast, vast majority of American police, nobody can explain that. Nobody can justify it. And nobody is going to seek to defend it.
WILLIAMS: What do you say to Americans? This is a tough time to be a police officer for all the reasons we see in the video. What do you say to Americans about the good cops, the well-intentioned police officers who are right now working 4:00 to 12:00 and after that will work a 12:00 to 8:00?
BRATTON: Well, tonight many of those officers are under attack. You have been showing video from around the country. I`ve been watching the news here in New York City. The precinct in New York City attacked by many of the demonstrators, police vehicles burned, officers assaulted. They are under incredible stress. America is under incredible stress unlike anything it has seen in the past.
You and I go back to the `60s and `70s in terms of the anti-war demonstrations. I was a young police officer on those in the desegregation efforts in Boston. And over this 50 year time like this time, million people unemployed. We`re dealing still with the opioid crisis. Interestingly enough, you`ve heard nothing about that`s still taking thousands of lives. We`re dealing with the race issue, the original sin, the scab that never heals. And we`re dealing with an incredible discontent, political anger in this country is unlike anything I`ve seen in my lifetime.
And unfortunately the police find themselves and looks like we`re going to be for a number of nights, and it doesn`t going forward. Where it ends, we don`t quite know at this juncture. But I`m very concerned. I am very, very concerned for this country and what is happening at this time in this country.
WILLIAMS: Bill Bratton, we have counted on your expertise in times of police success and in times of police failure, and I`m sorry that what we`re seeing play out across the country is because of the latter in Minneapolis. Bill Bratton, thank you. Try to have a good weekend. Thanks for making time for us tonight.
Let`s bring in another friend of ours, Maya Wiley, Former Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, a veteran importantly of the New York City mayor`s office who is now with the new school in New York.
And, Maya, again at the risk of repetition because you and I last spoke between 3:00 and 4:00 Eastern this afternoon, so many people have legal questions today. The family of George Floyd is out for murder one, murder in the first degree. The charge is murder three and manslaughter. But in order to prove murder one -- and a good many prosecutions have failed because of it -- it`s viewed through 2020 hindsight as having overshot. What has to be present for murder in the first degree?
MAYA WILEY, FORMER ASSISTANT U.S. ATTORNEY SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK: Well, Brian, first let me say I`m surprised you`re still speaking to me after all these hours. And I`m grateful to be with you again. First-degree murder is something that we have to think of as, I want you dead, and so therefore I`m planning to kill you, and then I accomplish it. That`s what first-degree murder is.
And one of the reasons that`s a challenge in this case, and I say this was a complete sense of distraught for the pain of Mr. Floyd`s family and what their experiencing and the trauma we all suffer from seeing that horrendous video and the experiences that unfortunately Mr. Floyd experienced, that we don`t see so far and have not heard evidence that this officer or any of the four officers said to themselves, I want him dead. And in order to make out that case, they essentially have to make out that plan, that identified conscious decision to say, I want you dead, and I`m planning for it.
WILLIAMS: On the other hand, the wording we associate with third-degree murder and/or manslaughter depending on the jurisdiction, depraved indifference. As you and I discussed earlier today, what a particular turn of phrase. And to a lot of us people, all of us civilians in the cheap seats, depraved indifference is what we see -- just making an observation, what we see in that cop`s eyes.
WILEY: Yes, I think "depraved" is a very accurate word. I mean it`s the complete lack of recognition of humanity that sees George Floyd as a human being in distress, that understands and takes seriously the role and responsibility of protecting his life. No law enforcement officer has to take a human life unless he or she is either fearful for their own or they are fearful for the lives of others in the general public. And that is not something that we`re seeing any evidence of on this videotape. So to do what we saw on that tape is simply -- it is depraved.
I think the complexity for people who are trying to understand how the law works here is the differences between second-degree murder and third-degree murder because it does get very, very convoluted in a way. Because second- degree murder means, I intended to kill you. I just didn`t plan it, meaning at some point in the line of something bad that was happening between us, you did die, and I intended for you to die or I can legally be assigned intent. And that`s always a difficult standard for prosecutors, and to your point in this context of depraved indifference, it`s -- I really should have known that something bad might have happened to you, and I ended up killing you, and it was so gross, so depraved, so atrocious that I should bear the legal responsibility for the fact that I killed you as a form of murder.
What I think and what I find challenging sometimes is that you`ll see cases in which prosecutors -- and I used this example earlier this evening -- is there`s a black man in the Minneapolis area who was charged with second- degree murder for child abuse, and the child abuse resulted in the death of the child. Is that second-degree murder, or is it third-degree murder? And I think here, you know, part of what mayor -- Governor Walz said so importantly this morning is it is about regaining trust in the system. And prosecutors have a very, very fine line to walk between making sure as aggressive a case as the facts and circumstances require. Fair case to what they`re seeing in those facts and circumstances. And we need to hear and see more in order to understand whether or not that`s happening here but re-establishing that trust from the public that in fact justice is blind and that it`s colorblind. And that`s what we`re looking for here.
WILLIAMS: We take every opportunity around here to talk to Maya Wiley for good reason. Thank you very much for a day of service to us. We appreciate it.
To our viewers you`ve been watching pictures of the freeway in Los Angeles. We don`t know that was any more than a broken-down car, but clearly protesters have now stopped traffic. Helicopters are above. We`ve seen pictures while, Maya and I were having conversation from Cincinnati. We have seen picture in Brooklyn New York. It got violent outside the home of the New York Nets, the Barclays Center. There was Billy Club swinging. A police sergeant in New York tonight was hit with brass knuckles by a protester.
A New York City police van was set a flame in Brooklyn. This is Denver, KCRA TV, just one of the places where protesters have gathered. There are protests in too many municipalities and for us to show you on live cameras, putting it Dallas, Texas right before we came on the air took a violent turn in the center of the city.
Here again, one of the police lines in Los Angeles where things have been sporty for the past couple of nights, and CHP had a cruiser banged up, and they also banged up a protester who chose incorrectly, it turns out, to hop on a cruiser as it was moving.
Morgan Chesky is our other correspondent out and about in Minneapolis tonight. Morgan, I`ve been watching your work tonight in disbelief at your reporting that around you, you saw again tonight no police or National Guard presence. Is that still the case?
MORGAN CHESKY, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: Brian, that`s very much still the case. No sign of National Guard no, sign and state police and because of that, people are free to play their music as they wish in this area. I`m standing in front of the third precinct. We`ll show that in just a second. But I want to show behind you, where a new fire has been set by this point in time are free to roam around this area and do as they wish, which is what we`ve seen the past two nights, and that`s an unfortunate reality that we are witnessing tonight.
I`m going to go ahead and turn the camera around this way if we can. This is what is left of the third precinct of the Minneapolis police station, and you`re looking at what is left of the entrance. And people have been going in and out of that entrance all night, taking whatever they can, Brian.
And I saw one woman walk out with a can of Lysol wipes. I saw others walk out carrying police ledger books inside. And this is just one building in about a ten-block radius area that has been laid waste the past two nights, and now we`re approaching a third night.
And as of this point in time, it looks to be very much the same situation. No law enforcement. We do know that there were several made their way from this area at 8:00 when that curfew went into effect. And this is just one of the hundreds of gas and smoke canisters that were put out into the streets by members of law enforcement to try to disperse that crowd.
However, upon being deployed, the law enforcement continued on down the road, and so did that crowd. We have confirmed reports, Brian, that the fifth precinct, which is about three miles from where I`m standing, is being swarmed in that area by a large crowd that we believe started from here.
We also know that earlier today, part of I-35, the interstate was cut off by another protest. And so here we are going now four days since the death of George Floyd, and there`s still so much pain and anger in this community, Brian. We were actually going to give you a look at what the fifth precinct looked like. However, it was deemed too dangerous to approach right now. So all of this while we watch and wait for any sign of law enforcement and have yet to see it. Brian?
WILLIAMS: Yes. Morgan, because you were moving when Ali Velshi was moving, I should tell you we`ve talked to him since you`ve reached your location. He`s at the other side of a bridge abutment. He`s about two intersections away from the fifth.
As we talked to him, a state police helicopter was above. We saw a fresh plume, what looked more like smoke than tear gas, but it looks like a crowd has gathered down there at the fifth precinct. The big question coming off last night is will the MPD, will the mayor choose to make a stand to defend that precinct? And, Morgan, I`ve got Minneapolis fire radio on here where I`m broadcasting from. No apparatus on route to that fire behind you. They`re insisting that it be secure. That was the story of the night last night.
CHESKY: It absolutely was, Brian. And we saw it time and time again those fires popping up and no response coming to this area. And that was such a sharp contrast to what we witnessed earlier in this week when in front of this very building that we`re standing on, we had police officers lining the roof, looking down onto the crowds below, and that certainly changed so quickly yesterday when this crowd swelled to the point where they were able to overtake this building, and we saw those police cruisers leave this area and not return until early this morning when state police formed a very firm perimeter around this area, that they held staunchly, Brian, until 8:00 p.m. when that curfew went into effect, that tear gas was deployed and they left.
And as you can see, that fire continuing to burn. At this point in time we don`t have the crowds that we`ve seen because people are just choosing at will the places they want to go to. It`s frustrating. It`s painful, and for the people who live in this area, when I ask how it felt to walk out and have this so close to home, they were still wrapping their head around it, Brian, because no one expected the first night. No one expected the second night. Here we are going into night three of this kind of situation of lawlessness, at least in this part of the city, and it`s tough. Brian?
WILLIAMS: Yes, it is painful. It`s painful to watch. That fire behind you as absolutely the power to take down a city block if it`s left to just get on a run unabated. Morgan, one more question, and I will let you go because the governor made such a big deal today of saying, we are in the game. The state is in this game because the city couldn`t handle it last night. I don`t see the state in the game tonight.
CHESKY: Brian, if they are, we certainly do not know where they are or what their plan of action is at this point in time. We did see a Blackhawk helicopter fly over this area earlier this evening. However, that was a onetime thing, and as of that, we have yet to see any of the presence of the national guard come through after rolling through in humvees near this very intersection around 8:00, announcing that curfew.
As at this point of time, it very much seems to be a statement without any actual enforcement. We`re going on now more than 2 1/2 hours after this was put into effect, and we`re still at the very epicenter of where all of this anger was directed, and people are free to roam at will. Fires burn. It`s just overtaking the building, Brian.
CHESKY: That`s going to come down in just a few minutes. That was just started probably two or three minutes before we started talking and reporting the latest to you. That`s how quickly things can move here, and that`s why it`s so frustrating.
WILLIAMS: We`ve indeed watched it develop over your shoulder. Fire doubles in size these days approximately every 60 seconds, and that fire no different. Morgan Chesky reporting for us for the second straight night from the streets of Minneapolis.
We`re joined by our friend Frank Figliuzzi, former FBI assistant director for counter-intel and among our national security analyst.
Frank, think of what we`re not talking about right now. Let me name two topics -- the ongoing pandemic - he`s not wearing a mask because of tear gas. He`s wearing a mask because of the -- a lot of the protesters we`re seeing across the country.
Number two, this was the day we got to listen in, at least in transcript form, on General Flynn, his casual conversation as a private citizen with Russian Ambassador Kislyak. A month before, General Flynn was on the government payroll as national security adviser. So that`s what we`re not talking about tonight.
What I would like to talk to you about tonight, and I guess I`ll have a chit on those other subjects, is crowd control. I neglected to ask Commission Bratton if nay of these police chiefs have failed their task. What is going on on the streets of this country, and do they bear responsibility for these neighborhoods burning uncontrolled and unabated in addition to the anger we`re seeing, a well-founded anger on the part of the protesters?
FRANK FIGLIUZZI, NBC NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Our nation`s police forces tonight are walking a very, very fine line. They`re on a tightrope. On one side of that tightrope is the need to check protect property and they mitigate any risk of loss of life. And on the other side of that tightrope is the need to ensure that their actions and their decisions don`t actually add to loss of life and property damage. And they`re smack in the middle of that strategically tonight.
So I`ll give you an example. Last night as I watched the Minneapolis situation unfold and I saw two or three officers on the roof of that police precinct, using an act of desperation, firing flash bang grenades at a crowd, I knew that that chief of police had made a strategic decision that he was willing to lose that building.
What you saw last night was not defense of a building in any stretch of the imagination. And so we have to understand this is now replicating itself across the country where police chiefs are talking to mayors and city and county commissioners, and they`re making a decision. How bad do we want -- and police departments, and how risky is it to act in a way that incites even more violence and loss of life?
At some point, though, Brian, you talk about talking about things that we`re not talking about, on a national level you have to become concerned that there will be -- those amongst the groups that are going to exploit this for crimes of opportunity and even worse. If this gets protracted, you may see the global anarchist movement, the ones that come in and destroy our cities during events like the G20 or the G8 or free trade of the Americas or show up at Olympic protests. Those people can come in and exploit this. So the police have a decision to make. How far do we go to stand our ground, and how much are we going to allow this to play out?
WILLIAMS: I can`t tell you how many people have been in touch with me today and last tonight to say some following, which we would have laughed at five years ago. The Russians must be having a good old time looking at television images of the United States -- toll of 100,000. A pandemic not at all -- and now city streets aflame in more cities tonight than we can list.
FIGLIUZZI: Yes, I`ve lost count of the number of times you and I, Brian, have talked about this very concept, that the number one goal of the Russian government is not to get a certain person in the White House, but rather to sow discord and chaos.
Now, it helps if the person in the White House is unable to calm the nerves of the nation, is unable to get peace and calm restored in our cities through his behavior, through trust, through his relationships and his statements. So, yes, our adversaries are studying this right now. Some of them are actually pleased that we are more divided than ever. And I`m very troubled that we could be in for a very long hot summer if this isn`t quashed.
WILLIAMS: These pictures are heartbreaking to watch as was the death of George Floyd on the street, on video, under the knee of a police officer. Frank Figliuzzi, we`ll get to all of the other topics as soon as we can. Thank you very much for being part of our coverage.
For a lot of people, especially those people in and around Baltimore, Maryland, this story, watching this drama across our country has been a triggering event because of the Freddie Gray case, because of the violence we saw erupt there.
It was after that violence that we got to know our following guest Deray McKesson, author, activist, organizer. Deray, we`ve had reason to think of you quite a lot during this, I`m sure for all the wrong reasons. Tell us how you view what you`re seeing play out, not just in Minneapolis but in Brooklyn, New York, in the middle of Atlanta, Dallas, Texas, Los Angeles, all of it tonight.
DERAY MCKESSON, ACTIVIST AND ORGANIZER: So remember that in March and April of 2020, the police have killed as many people in March and April of 2020 as they did in March and April of 2019. Even COVID didn`t stop the killing by police officers, which is really wild. And a third of all the people killed by a stranger in the United States are actually killed by a police officer.
So when you think about the George Floyd killing, it is one of 400 at least killings that have happened by the police just in the beginning of the year. And, you know, it`s sort of wild that March and April of 2020 mimicked March and April of 2019 given that we`re on lockdown, that we`re on. quarantine, that we`re seeing historic decrease in crime happen at the same time in communities all across the country.
So when I see people on the street, it is frustration. It takes me back to 2014, we run street in Ferguson. 2015, we run street in Baltimore. It`s a reminder, but it`s also a reminder of how little courage we have from political leaders to change the system. And Minneapolis is no exception.
In Minneapolis today, Brian, choke holds are not banned. So that restraint that the officer used was clearly wrong, but the act of choke holding was not banned. De Blasio lifted the ban on choke holds in 2016 in New York City. In St. Paul, choke holds are not banned. In Minneapolis half of the police officers who are fired are rehired. These are choices that political leaders continue to make, and then when people take to the streets, they act suddenly surprised by the rage.
WILLIAMS: Believe me, if you heard my conversation with Bill Bratton just now, the nation`s police academies, not one of them teach young police officers how to kneel into the neck of a suspect while you have them on their stomach. But for some reason, it`s done, and it`s done in the city streets of our country. Deray, you like me, do you remember when we were told that with everyone walking around with a camera in their hand or pocket, human behavior would change for the better, do you remember that?
MCKESSON: I do. You know, and we`ve seen body cameras not turn out to be a big change either.
WILLIAMS: Yes, that`s kind of unbelievable. A final question to you about recovery. How do you defuse this? When do you know that enough energy has been released from the tank because clearly you`ve got -- yes, you have one cop charged. You`ve got three who aren`t. You`ve got the Floyd family asking for murder one. The charge is murder three. How do you know when the energy has left out, and what do you do other than picking up a broom on day one?
MCKESSON: You know, if there`s anything that Trump has taught us, which is, you know, it is a reminder that the government can move as quick as it wants to. So tomorrow, mayors all across the country and police chiefs can say we`re banning choke holds. We`re requiring de-escalation. We`re banning shooting at moving vehicles. They could ban all of these things, and, you know, I keep bringing up these policies because the use of force policies are one of the only things that we know is proven to change the outcomes around police killings.
People could do that. The mayor in Minneapolis could do a press conference tomorrow and change the policy. I think that would release a lot of tension because it would show there`s a commitment to move. I think that Biden has to release something about police violence, his campaign. We`ve had conversations with the campaign, but they have not released a plan around the police, and they need to.
You know, 2019 was the first year ever, Brian, where black people are more afraid of being killed by the police than being killed by community violence. That is wild. So I think people are going to continue in the streets for a while until they see leaders be courageous, standing up against the apparatus.
WILLIAMS: Our thanks to the man in the blue vest, the activist who became known across this country for, as I said, all the wrong reasons. Deray, thanks for having us into the house tonight. I appreciate you making time for us. I`m going to bring in someone you know, Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, the former mayor of Baltimore, Maryland.
Mayor, same question I ended on with Deray. How do you know when the energy has been let out of this, and what do you do day one other than picking up a broom, or is that enough as a public statement that we`re going to recover? The sun`s going to rise again.
STEPHANIE RAWLINGS-BLAKE, FORMER MAYOR OF BALITMORE, MARYLAND: Well, you have to pick up a broom, and you saw that in Baltimore. And it wasn`t just me, and it wasn`t just the police department. It was led by community leaders who knew that at the end of the day, they had to live there. They had to be there.
So for those people who cared enough to come in and to protest, after the protests they were gone. So, yes, you have to pick up a broom, and you have to get to work just like Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms said this evening so poignantly and powerfully, that we need activists after the protests. We need activists to work hand in hand with elected officials, with the police department, with our civic leaders to help build the change that we want to see in our cities.
WILLIAMS: Let me ask you we`ve got a problem tonight in Minneapolis, and we`re trying to chase down answers. We saw the governor again with some ceremony today said, I`m talking about this. We are flooding the zone because the city couldn`t handle its own affairs last night. Well, neither the city nor the state are visible tonight. I was -- we were heartened to see two police lines on the last live picture we just saw of Minneapolis, but they may be fleeting. What do you think is going on behind the scenes tonight? Where`s the mayor? Where is he watching, and when do you choose to make public statements?
RAWLINGS-BLAKE: All of those things are very difficult, particularly as the mayor because you not only are really needed to make public statements in real time because people need to hear from you. At the same time, you have to do your job. You`re managing resources, calling other jurisdictions to get public safety resources into your city, coordinating with the governor, coordinating with civic leaders, community leaders all at the same time people are expecting you to comment. So it is -- I feel the mayor`s pain in Minneapolis because I have been there.
That being said, what`s going on in Minneapolis is very dangerous. For me in Baltimore, unlike what Bill Bratton said, you know, property damage is never the first consideration. It`s always protection of life, and that is what I was focused on. So I was very careful in making sure that we didn`t use the rubber bullets, we didn`t use tear gas, and although it was -- you know, I took a lot of flak because, you know, some people said, well, you know, why didn`t you call in the National Guard sooner?
We see what happens when you have a militarized response to the anger and the pain of generations of particularly African-Americans in this country. We see what happens. You have the eruptions that you see all over the country. So you have to be careful, and you have to have an ear to the ear to the community to know when it`s time, you know, that`s it`s been deflated.
WILLIAMS: Mayor, thank you very much for joining us, and I realize that this is dicey territory. The last thing you want to do is criticize a sitting mayor who is going through the crisis of their administration and probably their adult lives. Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, the former mayor of Baltimore, has been kind enough to be part of our coverage tonight.
A couple of things here. I can continue listen to Minneapolis fire dispatch to see if they`re being sent to any of the open burning fires we are seeing in the background. We`re also monitoring what has always traditionally been a terrific news town in Minneapolis and local news coverage. They are apparently asking all these same questions. Where`s the fire department? Where are the cops? Where are the state police? Where`s the guard? Because what we do see is a whole lot of people.
Ali Velshi is back before a camera. Ali, tell us, you`re near the fifth precinct, and I`m told a whole lot of people are now over there. Is that the same underpass you showed us earlier?
VELSHI: Yes. Yes, I`m on top of the underpass now and I`m not getting in the shot because I want you to shall able to see what we`re seeing. Over on the right you could see people continuing to stream toward it. On the left, just where those traffic lights are, is the precinct.
Now, that`s got barriers and fencing and there are police in there. At least we saw police in there about an hour ago. But if you see just beyond it, the crowd -- there`s a crowd converging. They`re no light on them at the moment, so you can`t see them. But there are several hundred people. In fact, I saw what appeared to be several hundred people just joined that crowd. So we`ve probably got more than 1,000 people just beyond the precinct and more streaming in.
Now, this has not been closed off to traffic unlike south Minneapolis. They haven`t put those jersey barriers in. So you`ve still got cars going in. You can see the stop n shop over to the right. Perhaps you can. Miguel will show you. That`s being looted right now. They`ve made a hole. There`s an entrance into which people are going. That Blackhawk is still above us. It`s just staying above us at relatively low altitude circling and keeping an eye on this.
The protesters are not going at the precinct. For whatever reason, they went to it and have gone past it. But they`re gathering in this area, so there`s some activity related to the police precinct but not a direct confrontation at the moment. But lots of stuff happening as we discussed an hour ago, there`s no curfew going on here whatsoever.
WILLIAMS: And thanks to a zoom lens, we can actually see, I think, more than you can as you talk -- we indeed see the barricade in front of the precinct. We indeed see hundreds of people in the foreground. We see 1st Avenue across street. If anyone`s familiar with Minneapolis, you know that cross street. We saw the looting across the street. Ali, I`ve got -- you know, it`s none of my business, except I`ll go ahead and ask it. What was the governor talking about?
VELSHI: Yes, I don`t know, Brian. And look I will say this. There`s that Blackhawk. There`s another helicopter over there. But if you look that way to downtown Minneapolis, I can`t give you the shot of it, but that`s -- there are no fires coming from that side. As you know, downtown is not, as I mentioned, is not particularly vibrant at night, so you wouldn`t expect a lot.
But these are in certain quarters of the place. You and I were watching and listening to scanners last night, and you know there are parts of St. Paul and generally little parts of things. But what I think the police have largely succeeded and doing with the National Guard today is dissipating the crowds.
But as we`re seeing in front of us, they are recollecting in certain places, and at that point we`re not seeing a police presence or a National Guard presence. Again, I don`t know what the strategy is, but it has been a while since we`ve seen a crowd that large that has now reassembled here right by the fifth precinct.
Now remember, at the fourth precinct there was some tension a few years ago. The third precinct was the one that was taken by the protesters yesterday and then retaken again today. And now we`re at the fifth precinct, but they do not seem to be moving on the precinct at the moment. They`re just gathering.
WILLIAMS: Also we hasten to mention with live traffic coming and going around them and no evident traffic control despite that zone having been surged by state patrol and by the National Guard today. Ali Velshi, please stay in touch with us. Thank you for that situation.
We want to bring in Phillipe Cunningham, city councilmember for the Fourth Ward which unlike where you`re watching is in the northwestern portion of the city Minneapolis.
Councilman, I just raised where is the law enforcement or is this somehow, some way wave-off by the mayor, by the governor, for a second night in a row, choosing not to flood the zone with law enforcement and not to let the fire department fight fires?
PHILLIPE CUNNINGHAM, MINNEAPOLIS CITY COUNCIL MEMBER: Well, first off, thank you for having me. I`ll just say that, you know, those are really valid questions. Even as a councilmember, I am asking those questions. I`ve been in conversations with the mayor. Right now really the state is at the lead, and we are having issues over here in north Minneapolis as well. And we do not have any presence whatsoever of the National Guard or the state patrols. And we have buildings on fire here, and there is no one to be found.
WILLIAMS: How far from you -- is Ward 9 the Award we`re watching down at the fifth precinct right now?
CUNNINGHAM: That is the -- I do believe the -- perhaps the Tenth Ward, excuse me.
WILLIAMS: OK. I`m asking because you probably know the councilwoman who represents the Ninth is saying they`ve got a gas station on fire. She is begging for backup from the National Guard because that is very, very apparently the only way Minneapolis fire is going to get through and deal with that fire, which she says if it`s allowed to grow will take out houses next.
You`re watching, I presume, the same live pictures we`re watching. We have concurrent issues here. We have a man who died in the street on camera with a police officer`s knee in his neck. We have all the anger and sadness over the death of George Floyd. But, oh, by the way, we also have this, a city out of control, parts of it in flames for nights on end. So what are you left to do?
CUNNINGHAM: Well, what we`re left to do is really navigate holding multiple possible for us to have a challenging conversation around policing in Minneapolis and the long, traumatic history between the police and black and brown communities here in Minneapolis and also the way that we are currently seeing the responses to the issues that we`re having on the ground in our communities is unacceptable.
And so I think that we need to really be looking at actually the state, who is now at the helm, and asking them where are they and having them show up like they are supposed to.
WILLIAMS: Again, our thanks for making time. I realize how nerve-racking and deeply, deeply troubling a time this must be for an elected councilmember in the city of Minneapolis, a place we all like to think of as such a good and decent place most days of the year, most years. But like any other big city, look just a little bit under the surface, and you can see the problems, and now the problems have ripped open and the whole world is watching.
We hasten to add this is hardly the only major city in our country with big, big problems tonight, including but not limited to violence in the streets. As we said, Brooklyn, New York, Atlanta, Georgia, Louisville. There on your screen, Cincinnati, Ohio, another place with a tough history of race relations. Several cities in California, including but not limited to Los Angeles. There was violence tonight in Las Vegas. The list goes on and on. Denver, Colorado.
Again, to compile a graphic, to put it all on one screen as live pictures would exceed our capacity because we, like all the people you see on the screen tonight, are operating in the middle, let`s not forget, of a pandemic already gripping our country. 40 million people out of work that we know of. 40 million who have raised their hands for benefits. This is the definition of a tough time in America, and it is behind so many of the pictures we see playing out.
We are very fortunate to have Joy Reid taking over at the top of the hour for our live coverage. I will see you tomorrow afternoon, 3:00 to 4:00 p.m. Eastern starting at noon on the west coast as the attempted launch goes off in California, attempt number two for the NASA mission. Our breaking news coverage continues now with my colleague Joy Reid.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END