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Melissa Harris-Perry, Transcript 08/15/15

Guests: Daunasia Yancey, Alicia Garner, Jeanne Theoharis, Cornell WilliamBrooks, Akhil Reed Amar, Julieta Garibay, Wesley Lowery, Johnetta Elzie,Philip Goodman, Glenn Martin, Christy Parque

JOY REID, MSNBC HOST: There were the early predictions that 2016 would be the year of the woman, the election in which women`s issues would be at the forefront, driven largely by Hillary Clinton`s position as the Democratic front-runner. She was also one of the primary players in a story about presidential legacies, along with former Florida Governor Jeb Bush and his attempt to outrun not just the other candidates but also the long shadow of the presidents in his own family. Then there were the election issues we could see coming a mile away, Obamacare and the Republicans running on the promise to repeal it all, root and branch, foreign policy, the threat of ISIS and what to do about Iran, and the burden of America`s growing income inequality on working families, all narratives that the candidates and the American people expected to be recurring themes throughout the election. But then came the unexpected. Yes, the success of gadfly business tycoon and former star of "The Apprentice," Donald Trump, as a viable actual candidate for the Republican nomination has left the party reeling. But there`s also the surprise emergence of a narrative that Republican and Democratic candidates will have to contend with, like it or not, race. And not just in the ways we`ve become accustomed to talking about race during elections. This isn`t race as a thinly veiled dog whistle or race as a talking point after a candidate`s gaffe. And this isn`t race as part of the Obama-era political analysis. No, this is the expectation that candidates running for the American presidency should have a meaningful policy response to systemic racism and the demand for racial justice. And it`s a demand that has been most clearly, consistently and emphatically directed to the candidates by the Black Lives Matter movement. Now even before the summer of Democratic candidate disruptions, Candidate Hillary Clinton made racial justice and criminal justice reform the subject of her first major policy speech back in April in response to the Baltimore uprising that was sparked by the death in police custody of Freddie Gray. One month later, former Maryland Governor Martin O`Malley became the first candidate to hear directly from protesters when he declared his candidacy back in May. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You are lying! Stop your lies. You are lying to these people, O`Malley! Stop it! You are lying! You are lying! (END VIDEO CLIP) REID: Activists stepped up their efforts to get the candidate`s attention when they disrupted a presidential forum at the Net Roots conference and demanded a concrete plan of action from O`Malley and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders. Right on the heels of Sandra Bland`s death while in custody in Texas, protesters called on a candidate to join their rallying cry to #sayhername. And within a week, O`Malley, Sanders and Hillary Clinton had all said the name of Sandra Bland to audiences on the campaign trail. As of now all three candidates` stump speeches include the acknowledgement that Black Lives Matter. And by the time Governor O`Malley appeared at the National Urban League conference at the end of July, he was ready to back up his rhetoric with a plan, and unveil a nine-page policy proposal for reform in policing and criminal justice. The movement kept the pressure on, with Black Lives Matter activists shutting down a Bernie Sanders speech during a Seattle rally last weekend. The next day, the seven-point platform outlined on Sandra`s website became an eight-point platform when racial justice appeared as a new entry on the list of issues. Black Lives Matter activists welcomed Sandra`s plan, which pledges to transform this country into a nation that affirms the value of its people of color by addressing physical, political, legal and economic violence against black and Brown Americans. And this week, members of the movement made it to the head of the pack among the Democratic candidates. According to a report from "New Republic" senior editor, Jameel Smith, activists were planning to disrupt the Hillary Clinton campaign event in Keene, New Hampshire, on Tuesday. After they were prevented from entering the event by the Secret Service, the activists later met privately with Clinton for what they told Smith was an, at times, contentious, but largely respectful conversation. By Wednesday, the movement made good on a pledge that Republican candidates would soon be hearing from them as well. Black Lives Matters activists disrupted a Nevada campaign rally for former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, reportedly forcing Bush to wrap up earlier than expected. And during a Q&A at the end of the event, Mr. Bush gave this response to a question about how he intended to address racial injustices in policing. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JEB BUSH, (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE & FORMER FLORIDA GOVERNOR: All leaders, whether they`re presidents, running for president, city council members, mayors, governors, everybody needs to be engaged in this to recognize that this is a serious problem. Perception has become reality. And there is racism in America. No one should deny that. I relate to it, as a president, to try to create a climate where there is civility and understanding and to encourage mayors, leaders at the local level, to engage so there`s not despair and isolation in communities. The best way to solve these problems are the way I believe Charleston solved it, rather than communities that were -- where there was denial there was not a serious problem. (END VIDEO CLIP) REID: "The Las Vegas Sun" reported that the woman who asked the question felt Bush`s response was vague and didn`t pinpoint the true issues. But as the Black Lives Matter movement -- as the Black Lives Matter movement re- centers racial justice as one of those true issues in the presidential election, it`s a question that all of the candidates may soon be forced to face. With me in the studio today is an incredible panel, Cornell William Brooks, president and CEO of the NAACP; Julieta Garibay, the campaign director for United We Dream; Akhil Reed Amar is the sterling professor of law and political science at Yale University and the author of "The Law of the Land: A Grand Tour of Our Constitutional Republic"; and Jeanne Theoharis is a distinguished professor of political science at Brooklyn College and the author of "The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Park." And I`m going to get to this fabulous panel soon. But, first, I want to go to the activists themselves. And joining me from Boston is Daunasia Yancey, one of the activists who met with former Secretary Hillary Clinton this week; and from San Francisco is Alicia Garza, one of the co-creators of Black Lives Matter. So thank you both. I want to start with Daunasia. Give us a little bit of a readout on your meeting with Secretary Clinton. What did she say? And do you feel she properly addressed the issues you wanted to hear? DAUNASIA YANCEY, BLACK LIVES MATTERS ACTIVIST: So we went to the event planning to ask our questions in the public forum and, like you said, were unable to get inside. We were able to have a couple minutes with her and were able to ask our questions and she did give responses, unfortunately, we were looking for a very personal response on her responsibility for advocating for policies that have decimated black communities. What we heard was not a reflection on that. REID: And what did you want to hear? What would have been a satisfying response from Secretary Clinton in your view, Daunasia? YANCEY: So Secretary Clinton and her family have been personally responsible for some of these policies. In 1994, she advocated for three strikes policy that put thousands of black people in jail for nonviolent offenses. We wanted to hear just beyond saying Black Lives Matter what the shift has been for her personally in understanding that Black Lives Matter and advocating for that and we could believe that, as president, she wouldn`t make some of those own decisions. REID: Alicia, I want to go to you. One of the questions people have asked about the approach of the Black Lives Matter movement is why it is so fixated on Democrats. I think Daunasia made a coherent point. Democrats were in charge during some of the issues of policing, but why focus so much on the Democratic Party when, to a lot of people`s criticism, it`s Republicans that the Black Lives Matter should be fixating on? ALICIA GARNER, BLACK LIVES MATTER CO-CREATOR: I think when you look at the demographics of who votes, right, in this country, 80 percent of registered voters who are black are registered Democrat. Our base, the folks we care about, are black people who are trying to make a decision about who is going to represent us over the next four years. And so it`s very important to us that we are speaking to our own demographic. At the same time we also think it`s important for the Democratic Party that, you know, espouses a lot of values around social justice. To be pushing a narrative that is counter to the Republicans and in some cases both parties, Republicans and Democrats, essentially throw black people under the bus by not having a strong narrative around racial justice so it is important to us to push Republicans but certainly we have to push the party that claims that it has our best interests at heart. REID: Alicia, when you say push the party, give us specific things you would like to hear from Democrats that they say they will do that you think would make a concrete change. GARZA: Well, the first thing we have to be mindful of is we want the Democratic Party not to take black votes for granted and, certainly, yes, Black Lives Matter is focused on police brutality and issues of incarceration but we are also focused on many more issues that impact black lives, including what is the status of black queer and trans people in our communities. Black trans people have an expected life of 35 years old. What are candidates who are vying for the highest office in the land planning on doing to make sure black trans lives matter? Black women make 64 cents to every 77 cents that a white woman makes, to what a white man makes in the economy. What are presidential candidates doing on ensuring black women`s lives matter in the economy and in our democracy? So we have a long way to go to really seeing a comprehensive plan being proposed by Democrats to ensure that black life matters in this country. REID: And, Daunasia, I`m going to go back to you. We did talk about Hillary Clinton. What about some of the other candidates? A lot of friction between the Bernie Sanders camp and some members of the Black Lives Matter movement where supporters of Sanders are saying, well, why criticize him? He marched with King, has become a meme. Are there other candidates you think should have to negotiate some changes in their strategy to satisfy the Black Lives Matter movement? YANCEY: Absolutely. Every presidential candidate should expect to hear from us and absolutely should expect to be held accountable. To stating publicly their stance on the Black Lives Matters movement and promoting black lives in this country and how they understand and what they understand about systemic racism. REID: All right. Well, I want to thank of Boston, Massachusetts, and Alicia Garza who is San Francisco, California. Thank you both. And my panel will get in on this discussion when we come back. And we will also try to understand just who is pushing whom in this presidential contest. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) REID: Long before Independent Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders announced he was running for president as a Democrat, a progressive push to shift presumptive nominee Hillary Clinton to the left had already become one of the central narratives in the Democratic primary. It only picked up momentum after Sanders` announcement, and his speeches drew massive crowds of supporters and energized his campaign. But as the Black Lives Matter movement has pursued its strategy of directly confronting Sanders and other candidates on the issue of racial justice, another narrative has emerged about progressives being the ones who are getting pushed by grassroots activists, and in recent weeks, that push has come to shove on social media. On the one hand, you have activist who is believe Sanders` message of economic populism misses the mark on specific disparities faced by African-Americans because of racism, and on the other, there`s Sanders` fervent liberal fans who are turned off by the movement`s confrontational strategy against a candidate they believe is already the one who is most sympathetic to the activists` demands. Let`s get the panel in on that question. I want to go to you first, Jeanne, on that. That tension people have been surprised by that you got Bernie Sanders` supporters, fervent supporters, literally fighting with members of the Black Lives movement particularly on social media. Is that historically off for there to be that kind of tension within the Democratic left? JEANNE THEOHARIS, DISTINGUISHED PROFESSOR OF POLITICAL SCIENCE, BROOKLYN COLLEGE & AUTHOR: No, not at all. This is what social movements do. They move the conversation. They make people uncomfortable. But I think we have a very sanitized view. We look back to the civil rights movement, right, about how everybody loved it, about everybody was onboard from the very beginning, about how John F. Kennedy was, you know, ready, when, in fact, that was not the case, right? What moved John F. Kennedy was activists on the ground insisting and insisting. Kennedy, during the 1960 election, right, makes this very historic decision, King is in jail, makes a call. This is where you first start to see a little bit of movement, but Kennedy then doesn`t move really until `63. And part of what makes him move is activists on the ground. And that`s what we`re seeing today. And I think we get nervous because we have this whitewashed, sanitized Macy`s- parade balloon version of the civil rights movement as opposed to what the civil rights movement, was which is uncomfortable and which had to move liberals and progressives. REID: And I love that point because I think, Cornell, some of the people forget, we also had John Lewis intending to go to the march on Washington in 1963 and essentially tell off the Kennedy administration, theoretically, their own side. And they had scathing speech he wanted to give. And then you had the fight with him and King, where King said, whoa, we need to hold back. That tension was always there. CORNELL WILLIAM BROOKS, PRESIDENT & CEO, NAACP: The thing about it this way, King was also a John Lewis at one point in his career so we have the NAACP relative to the southern leadership conference. 50 years from now it may well be the Black Lives movement is upstaged by a young upstart organization. So the point being here is we need to celebrate our young activists and understand that they create a certain kind of energy and a certain moral urgency. The fact of the matter is within the NAACP, 0.1 of our board seats are reserved for young people as a consequence of young people`s demands within the NAACP. So the point being we need to lay hold of and claim this tradition of young activists acting as leaven in the bread. It`s nothing to be afraid of. It`s something to be embraced. REID: And at the same time, you have all these hurt feelings being expressed, particularly by the Bernie Sanders supporters. I`ve been struck by this sense of, we`ll, we`ve been wounded because somehow the fact Bernie Sanders was at the march on was Washington with 250,000 other people means he should not be pushed or criticized at all. AKHIL REED AMAR, STERLING PROFESSOR OF LAW AND POLITICAL SCIENCE, YALE UNIVERSITY & AUTHOR: Let`s put what Cornell just said -- and it`s great to be on set with my former student, Cornell -- in an even larger context. The people who gave us the American Revolution, the Constitution, on average, tend to be younger. They were radicals. They were reformers than the traditionalist opponents. I`m wearing my Abe Lincoln tie. Lincoln decided that slavery was wrong and he remembered those commitments made early on and helped redeem them later. Bernie Sanders was there at the march on Washington. The `60s were what they were because of the Baby Boomers. Babies started getting born and started coming of age in the `60s, and that`s Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton, and we want them as older people to remember those passions and commitments that many of them first formed early on. You see a huge demographic difference on, say, same-sex marriage since trans folks were mentioned in the earlier piece. There`s a huge just demographic difference between young adults and older Americans on this. So throughout American history there has been a lot of reformist energy. We were talking, Jeanne and I, before about some of the student activists in the Brown vs. Board of Education and companion cases. A 15-year-old? REID: Yes. And I want to get Julieta in. And we may have to start your answer now and come back after the break. Because what really strikes me is the dreamer, the Dream Act movement, the same criticisms were made, why are you targeting the liberal Democratic president and the Democratic Party? Why are you not targeting Republicans? Those same arguments were made, right? JULIETA GARIBAY, CAMPAIGN DIRECTOR, UNITED WE DREAM: Correct. Why are you attacking Obama, who said he supported immigration reform? For us young people as immigrants know the liberation of black and brown youth is connected. At the end of the day, the same system that stops our parents or our dreamers in the middle of the road because they`re brown or immigrant looking and ends up deporting them is the same system that right now is murdering black youth and black people. To us, it`s very clear there`s that connection. And, yeah, there is a place that young people are pushing that might not be very comfortable that is challenging the status quo. But that`s what it may take, pushing someone who may not want to hear it but needs to hear the livelihood of our people matters. REID: See, I told you this was going to be a great panel. And we`ll have more with in. And up next, what made you wait a whole 20 minutes -- we made you wait a whole 20 minutes, but, yes, we will tell you exactly what Donald Trump is doing right now, after the break. And then more of this great panel coming up. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DONALD TRUMP, (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE & CEO, TRUMP ORGANIZATION: I haven`t done anything because I haven`t won. If this all happens and I don`t win -- it starts with winning the primaries, getting the nomination, and then going on and winning. I consider it a total waste of time. You said, you`re wrong. You`ve done a great thing. Trust me. I won`t be happy, OK? I won`t be happy. (END VIDEO CLIP) (LAUGHTER) REID: That was Donald Trump in New Hampshire last night talking about his desire to win the presidency. Today, he`s expected to make a grand entrance to the Iowa State Fair grounds aboard his helicopter. There, he`ll be among other White House hopefuls, both Democrats and Republicans, digging into fair food and chatting up voters. Bernie Sanders is scheduled to step up to the "Des Moines Register" soapbox for a question-and-answer session. And while Hillary Clinton is not on the soapbox lineup, she had a big night at last night`s Democratic wing ding event. Joining me from Des Moines, Iowa, is NBC`s Kelly O`Donnell. Kelly, what can we expect from Donald Trump visit today, and will he eat fried butter? (LAUGHTER) KELLY O`DONNELL: Well, that will be participate of what will be so fascinating today. When people who have held elective office before coming to the fair, they`ve been through this grill before. They know about the mandatory eat something that`s attached to a stick, shake some hands, wear the right footwear, appropriate for the fair grounds. Those are all tests that Donald Trump will have to try to meet today. What will be interesting about his arrival is that he will be coming by helicopter not landing on the grounds, which are massive, about 445 acres, but in property adjacent to this area. So I think it`s a real question mark of people attending the fair will actually see the helicopter in the sky but we will certainly try to get pictures of it as he comes to town. But the message will be there. He will be bringing the Trump-emblazoned helicopter. He`ll be walking about in the fair grounds, be doing the expected routine, minus, as you mentioned, that soapbox, which is part of the tradition of the fair where candidates can spell out their vision and take some questions from voters. Sometimes it turns into heckling. Sometimes they`re just good, honest questions. It`s usually quite substantive. Donald Trump is not going that route. He will be mixing and mingling and talking to people. And I can tell you in the hours we`ve already been here today I`ve met people who are anxious to see Donald Trump, like his style, and want to see where his campaign goes. So the energy around him seems to be real. It will be something to see because Trump will be here and so will Hillary Clinton. I`m not sure we can handle that much mega-wattage attention in one location but we`re going to try to meet that challenge. REID: You can handle it, Kelly but we want you back healthy. Only eat a little bit on a fried stick. O`DONNELL: I`ve learned that rule. Once you start, you can`t stop. I`m waiting for the last day. REID: All right. Kelly O`Donnell, thanks very much in Des Moines. Thank you very much. And while the official candidates are stumping in Iowa, buzz still surrounds Vice President Joe Biden, and whether or not he`ll decide to run. Sources tell "Politico" the vice president will meet with his closest circle of advisers before making a final call. This afternoon, the vice president is scheduled to attend a military memorial service for the sailor and four Marines killed in Chattanooga last month. Joining me from Martha`s Vineyard is NBC`s Ron Allen. Ron, I know you`re there covering the president. I`m going to ask you about that in a minute. First, what can you tell us about the vice president`s vacation in South Carolina and why that might be key to his decision? RON ALLEN, FOX NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Well, he has a lot of support in South Carolina. He vacations there a lot. And some of his people urging him to run, we believe, are in that first-in-the-south southern primary state. There are those factors. And Biden has said, we understand, that he`s probably going to make a decision in late August, early September, so we`re getting close to that time. But the big barrier on all this seems to be his son, the passing of his son, Beau Biden, at the age of 46 of brain cancer in May. It`s very understandable that the vice president is still working through his grief and trying to summon whatever it would take inside of him to be into this campaign 100 percent. You have to believe, also, the vice president, who has been running for president several times if the past, and has been in public life since his late 20s, believes he`s the best prepared to be president, especially after eight years in the White House. So it`s probably a very, very tough decision. A lot of this, I would expect, depends on how Hillary Clinton does. Is her candidacy viable? Does she stumble? There are lots of concern whether she`s exciting the base or not, and these e-mail questions. So there`s all of that, but ultimately, it seems this is a very personal decision for the vice president and he`s probably asking himself, his family, his friends, his closest advisers whether he can really get through this and can really do this, given the loss of his son -- Joy? REID: Yeah, indeed. All right, I want to ask you quickly about the presidents` day on the golf course yesterday, Ron. What can you tell us about that? ALLEN: Well, he was golfing with a number of NBA legends, including Steph Curry, the reigning MVP for the Golden State Warriors. They`re playing out on the course and who should they run into, but Bill Clinton, Vernon Jordan. And we have some, what we think are exclusive pictures of all of that happening. We don`t see the president much on these vacations but there they were. Vernon Jordan turns 80 tonight. He`s having a big party, a birthday party here on the island. And we believe the Clintons and the Obamas will be among what`s probably a very star-studded and powerful guest list tonight on Martha`s Vineyard -- Joy. REID: Here is hoping you scored an invite. Ron Allen on Martha`s Vineyard. Have a good time. ALLEN: Still waiting. REID: OK, it`ll get to you. It`ll get to you. Up next, can you have a racial justice platform without talking about race? (COMMERCIAL BREAK) REID: At the heart of the Black Lives Matter movement`s message to presidential candidates is a proposition that for a racial justice platform to be authentic it must be explicitly about race and the ways in which structural racism, historically and presently, have a disparate and, in some cases, deadly impact on black people. It`s a recent phenomenon in modern politics for political leaders to be called out and called upon to respond to racial inequality with explicitly race-based solutions. In the past, what politicians did was to spread racial policies across multiple groups to get maximum public support. The war on poverty, for example, marrying to poverty in the urban ghetto with the destitution in Appalachia. When politicians talk about dreamers, they don`t say this is explicitly for Latinos. The racial component of that policy is implied. Now back in 2011, that changed when the Congressional Black Caucus went on a five-city tour hosting a series of town halls and job fairs aimed at addressing chronic African-American unemployment. Members of the CBC found themselves walking a fine line between representing black constituents, who overwhelmingly supported President Obama, and criticizing the president for what they saw as his failure to pursue a policy agenda to specifically address their concerns. And during a stop in Detroit, California Representative Maxine Waters got really real with the audience about her frustrations. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REP MAXINE WATERS, (D), CALIFORNIA: We don`t put pressure on the president because you all love the president. (SHOUTING) WATERS: You love the president. (SHOUTING) WATERS: Just a minute. You`re very proud -- you`re very proud to have a black man -- (SHOUTING) WATERS: -- the first time in the United States of America. If we go after the president too hard, you`re going after us. Hey, we want to give the president every opportunity -- UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How long? (SHOUTING) WATERS: -- to show what he can do and what he`s prepared to lead on. We want to give him every opportunity. But our people are hurting. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, ma`am! WATERS: Unemployment is unconscionable. (END VIDEO CLIP) REID: And back with me are Cornell William Brooks, Juliete Garibay, Akhil Reed Amar and Jeanne Theoharis. And I`m going to come right to you, Cornell, because the frustration of the CBC at the time and before was that the president`s policies were leaning on disproportionate impact, but they weren`t exclusively saying, these are the problems of black America, these are the problems that are race based. BROOKS: The challenge here is one needs to be both race specific and when the NAACP released a report called one suspect describing racial profiling, we spoke about racial profiling with respect to African-Americans do you to race and ethnicity but also in terms of sexual identity and perception of sexual identity. We also spoke about racial profiling with respect to religion in terms of Muslims. So the point being we put forward a plan that spoke to the particular focus of bias and discrimination and bigotry but we also spoke in terms of strategies and techniques that rose above the particular ways in which people are being mistreated in this country. That needs to be reflected in presidential platforms, be race specific and also race transcendent. We say that because of the nature of what`s happening. Think about it this way. Tamir Rice was 12. Michael Brown was 18. Eric Garner was 50. Walter Scott was 50. The problem is multi-generational. It`s not age specific. In terms of looking at policing in this country, we have to drill down in terms of evidence-based strategies for addressing the problem. But we cannot ignore the reality. And when I talk to my sons, who are 16 and 18, I`m very clear with them, when a police officer pulls you over for no reason, it`s because you look like I do. REID: Yeah. We obviously saw with Sandra Bland as well. You talked about platforms, let`s look quickly at the platforms that have been put out by the present candidates. You have Hillary Clinton saying more funds for police best practices, body cameras. You know, general stuff that we`ve heard before, alternative punishments for low level drug offenders, mental health, drug addiction and treatment, and more for community policing. Let`s go to Martin O`Malley, who put out his platform that says build trust in law enforcement, more fairness in sentencing, medicalized response to addition, mental illness, accountability and due process, economic inequality. Pretty standard. And let`s go to Bernie Sanders. He says demilitarize the police force so they don`t look like an invading army, invest in community policing, training in de-escalation, make progress and get more money if you`re a state and federal resources to crack down on illegal activities. All of those policies are race transcendent. They`re not specifically saying these are policies about black issues. Is that sufficient? AMAR: Well, let me add a couple others that are formally race transcendent but they`re all about racial imbalance. If we`re talking about the criminal justice system we should be talking about grand juries, a trial jury, and who sits on them. And right now, people are dinged -- it`s called peremptory challenges -- with no explanation whatsoever, and they`re disproportionately dinged if they`re old, young, but, yes, also people of color. And we should get rid of preemptory challenges because, how our juries look and grand juries look and whether they`re fairly represented, that goes to the essence of democracy. And the Supreme Court has just agreed to take the case of preemptory challenges. Let`s talk about -- because criminal justice is nested in a broader political and justice system so talk about voting rights, the 50th anniversary of voting rights in America. And that was an insider, LBJ, older, and younger outsiders like Martin King. And LBJ was telling King, you keep pushing me, the more you push me, the more I can push other people, so we have to work together on this. That was 50 years ago that it was signed into law. And the Supreme Court gutted a key provision of it, and that law when you get deep into it is race transcendent but also race specific because there are portions of it, racially disparate, and we need a new Voting Rights Act. REID: Absolutely. AMAR: And that`s both. That`s key because you`re not going to get racial justice in America unless everyone votes, especially -- and that includes, of course, people who for centuries were not allowed to vote. REID: I`ll come back. I know everybody wants to get in on it more. But we have to take a commercial break to pay for all of this. Up next, Democrats distance themselves from two of their party`s biggest stars. What`s behind the move? We`ll talk about that and get more of the panel in on this when we come back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) REID: Every year for nearly a century, Democrats have thrown themselves a big celebratory confab named for the men they recognize as the founders of the party, Thomas Jefferson and Andrew Jackson. The annual Jefferson/Jackson Day Dinners are organized by state branches of the Democratic National Committee and they draw political candidates and activists to help raise money to fund state and local elections. But recently, the Democratic Party has realized that celebrating two men who were slave holders, and one of whom spearheaded the Trail of Tears to remove Native Americans from lands desired by the expanding nation, is inconsistent with its values of exclusiveness and diversity. So, state by state the party has begun to abandon the names of Jefferson and Jackson in association with the annual events. Last weekend, the Iowa Democratic Party joined three other states that have already changed the name of the dinners, and five other states have been considering a change since the June massacre at a black church in Charleston, South Carolina. But a question is, is changing the name of an event most voters know nothing about enough? Shouldn`t the party also address some of the more systemic beefs that voters of color have with their party of choice? And for that, I want to go straight to you, Julieta, because one of the things that you hear, complaints about the Democratic Party, is that it takes the base for granted. You hear that from African-Americans. And one of the things the African-Americans say is, how come when it comes to Latinos, and they make demands on the party, they get what they ask for, when the LBGT community stands up and heckles the president, they get what they ask for, and it`s always specific or it`s LBGT specific, why not us? From the point of view of somebody who has fought for the dreamers -- you`re part of that group -- African-Americans often say, you always get what you want. Do you feel that you get what you want when you go after the Democrats? GARIBAY: Before I answer that question, I think that power does not concede anything unless you demand. It never has and never will. That`s what undocumented youth and what Black Lives Matters does. It says, I`m going to demand what I deserve because that`s what it should be. For us, yes, we were able to push and demand and win that Obama provide relief for immigrant youth. And then this past November, we were able to win for some parents. But at the end of the day, we still hear of people being deported, being detained. At the end of the day, the Democratic Party as well as the Republican Party is OK working with for-profit corporations that criminalize our communities. So we haven`t gotten what we want. Every single day, we get a call from someone who is deported, a call from an LBGT immigrant youth who is in deportation proceedings. And so more power to youth to keep pushing against this so we actually get humanized as who we`re supposed to be. REID: And historically, Jeanne, as a historical matter because you did write a book about Rosa Parks, which is fabulous, as a historical matter, has this been a long-running argument that you`ve had African-Americans fighting for change primarily within the structure of the American party, which was inhospitable at the time you wrote the book. Is it the standard as a historical matter? THEOHARIS: I think we forget, right, that African-Americans supporting the party, happens at historical moments, midway through the New Deal, right? African-Americans don`t support Roosevelt when he runs in because there`s nothing to indicate that Roosevelt`s New Deal in its vague sense and in its first years is going to aid African-Americans. You begin to see African- Americans moving to the Democratic Party. So this idea that African- Americans are wed to the Democratic Party is born of a historical moment, and then it happens again more fully in the 1960s. But it`s not -- it doesn`t exist from time immemorial. And going back to the question of the Voting Rights Act, I think if we`re thinking of getting rid of Jefferson or Jackson, we could do something more substantive, which is the legacy of Jim Crowe America, which is disenfranchisement. REID: Absolutely. AMAR: And power, voting power, you have to make it easy for people to register to vote and that`s young adults. If you just show up at the protest but don`t show up on election day, you`re not going to be able to affect the kind of positive change that if you show up at the protest and you show up on election day, and so that`s voter registration. And you say it`s not just the Jefferson you see was a slave holder, it`s that the Electoral College was rigged to help, actually, the south because the three-fifths clause meant the more slaves you have, the more Electoral College vote you got. Thomas Jefferson would have lost the election of 1800 against John Adams if you hadn`t counted slavery. REID: Yeah, absolutely. AMAR: Southern states and not the northern states. So the rules for voting matter hugely. REID: Very short. BROOKS: Sure. When we think about Ferguson, Ferguson exploded as a consequence of police brutality but also the failure to exercise the right to vote. REID: Absolutely. BROOKS: Which is why the NAACP is pushing for restoration of the Voting Rights Act. REID: Yes. And, unfortunately, I have to leave it there. Thank you very much. This panel will be back next hour. But next, his plan could prevent thousands of people from voting. And that`s why he is getting my "Letter of the Week." (COMMERCIAL BREAK) REID: On August 6, the Republican National Committee issued a statement issued from Chairman Reince Priebus commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act. The statement noted the broad Republican support that the act enjoyed back in 1965 and stated that "protecting citizens` right to vote in free and fair elections is not a Republican priority, it`s an American priority." Hear, hear. But Mr. Priebus also included this: "Every citizen should have the chance to vote in our elections while we also work to ensure the integrity of the voting process by preventing things such as mistakes, fraud and confusion." It`s an interesting and seemingly contradictory statement from the head of the Republican Party. On the one hand, celebrating voting rights for all Americans harkening back to the party`s crucial yesteryear support to the landmark bill that tore down the insidious barriers southern states erected to keep millions of black citizens from exercising their right to vote, and, yet, still harping on the mythical and manufactured threat of voter fraud, a myth that has been used time and again to justify new restrictive voting laws in state after state, legislation that disproportionately impacts the ability of those very black voters to exercise the franchise. Which brings me to this week`s letter to Kansas Secretary of State, Kris Kobach. "Dear Secretary Kobach, it`s me, Joy. Congratulations on your powerful new role in which your governor, Sam Brownback, deputized you personally to prosecute voter fraud. You know, the voter fraud you say is common in Kansas, despite the fact that the U.S. attorney for the district of Kansas, Barry Grissom (ph), told you in a November 2014 letter that he never received a single voter fraud case from your office in four and a half years. Despite the fact the textbook case of fraud you cited in a 2010 press conference, that of alleged zombie voter, Fred K. Brewer, was undercut by the fact that Mr. Brewer was actually very much alive. And that, according to your own data, your office examined 84 million votes cast in 22 states and found just 14 cases of duplicate voter registration, a fraud percentage of 0.0017 percent. Six zeros. And the fact that between 1997 and 2010, an analysis by "The Wichita Eagle" found just 11 confirmed cases of voter fraud in your entire state. And yet, Secretary Kobach, your new powers will enable you to prosecute these fictitious cases as felonies, no less, by going after voters who show up at the wrong polling place by mistake or for making an error on their voter registration application. Meanwhile, as if it`s not enough for you to have extraordinary prosecutorial power no other secretary of state in the country has, one of your new initiatives is a regulation that would empower your office to purge more than 30,000 Kansans from the voter roles. 30,000. You would be able to conduct your purge by declaring those voter applications incomplete because the applications -- the applicants failed to provide sufficient proof of citizenship like a birth certificate or passport. That is on top of the 25,000 voters who had their registrations suspended ahead of the 2014 election, your re-election year, because of the birther law you spearheaded in 2011. Now under the current rules, voters have until Election Day to provide the required documents. You`d like to cut that to 90 days. Your state is just one of four to require proof of citizenship at all. And, surprise, the people most affected are young people, low-income Kansans, the elderly, and -- wait for it -- African-Americans. Secretary Kobach, enacting birther-inspired legislation to cancel 30,000 Kansans` right to vote is no way to honor your party`s support for the Voting Rights Act. And it`s certainly not going to help your party do better with minority voters. But based on your actions, maybe that isn`t what your actual goal is anyway. Sincerely, Joy." And coming up, a volatile week in Ferguson and why police took DNA samples from some of the protesters. Plus, the prisoners on the front lines of California`s firefight saving homes and maybe even lives while earning just $1 an hour. More Nerd Land at the top of the hour. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) REID: Welcome back, everyone. I`m Joy Reid, in for Melissa. On Friday morning, a state of emergency was lifted in Ferguson, Missouri, placing the city back under local control for the first time in five days. St. Louis County initially imposed the state of emergency after a young man allegedly opened fire on a group of undercover police officers Sunday night. The officers fired back, leaving the 18-year-old, whose name is Tyrone Harris Jr., in critical condition. Although police say Harris was not part of the protest, the freshly imposed state of emergency came amid the renewed demonstrations marking the one- year anniversary of the shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown. The killing of a black teenager by a police officer, the outrage expressed on social media, the subsequent protests, and a militaristic police response brought national attention to the small city of Ferguson and added fuel to the movement known as Black Lives Matter. This week, as protesters mark the one-year anniversary of Brown`s death, it felt like deja vu. Protests and vigils were mostly peaceful, beginning Sunday morning with the silent march. But after dark, police moved in, wearing riot gear, following reports of looting and vandalism at some downtown businesses. Then, on Monday, more than 100 people were arrested for various acts of civil disobedience. More than 50 were arrested while protesting at the federal courthouse in St. Louis. More than 60 arrested when they blocked Interstate 70 during rush hour clasping hands across the busy road. When one woman tried to drive her SUV through the crowd, two protesters fought back and they were charged with assault and felony property damage. But the rest of the week was peaceful. And yesterday, after several nights of quiet, the county executive lifted the state of emergency saying, quote, "I am pleased to report our law enforcement officers have established order while preventing further acts of violence in Ferguson." Some of the most striking images from Ferguson this week were these. Heavily armed white men who appeared at the protest saying they were members of the Oath Keepers, a paramilitary group that advocates armed resistance to what they deem unlawful government overreach. The fact that police didn`t approach the armed Oath Keepers or ask them to leave let alone arrest them while unarmed black protesters were handcuffed and arrested touched a nerve. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You and people who look like you white males have the sovereignty to take advantage of the Second Amendment and walk around with assault rifles, but we can`t even stand out here and assemble peacefully and exercise our constitutional right to do so without being gassed, maced, and arrested. What`s your perspective on that? What do you think about that? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don`t have a perspective. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You don`t have a perspective? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I haven`t been here since day one. So, I haven`t firsthand how you`ve been treated. (END VIDEO CLIP) REID: Seeing these images, we have to wonder, has anything changed in Ferguson? We also learned this week the city is pursuing criminal charges against members of the media who were arrested during last year`s protests, arrest that is have been condemned by journalists and human rights groups as unjustified and unconstitutional. At the table with me in New York are Cornell William Brooks, president and CEO of the NAACP, Julieta Garibay, campaign director for United We Dream, Akhil Reed Amar, sterling professor of law and political science at Yale University, and Jeanne Theoharis, distinguished professor of political science at Brooklyn College. And joining us now live from Washington, D.C., is one of those journalists now facing charges in Ferguson, Wesley Lowery of "The Washington Post." OK, Wesley. You were reporting in Ferguson this week. First of all, let me ask you if you feel like anything has changed much in perfecting son versus last August. WESLEY LOWERY, POLITICAL REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST: You know, in terms of my reporting, it seems as if much has not changed in Ferguson. So, I mean, the obvious things people point out, the national changes, the change in perception, the change in perspective and now the national conversation about body cameras. Some states, we`re seeing in California just this last week banned the use of grand juries and in cases of police shootings. New York, which is now using a special prosecutor in cases of police shootings. But in Ferguson, Missouri, itself, we`ve seen cosmetic change but not a lot of deep political and policy change. So, we`ve seen a new police chief who`s a black officer. We`ve seen some new city council members, some turnover in the court system. But with that said in terms of the broader policies we`re still seeing a lot of people arrested, a lot of arrest warrants being issued. And we are also still seeing in Ferguson, Missouri, a disconnect between a lot of the police departments and the residents themselves and that manifested itself in the arrest that we still saw during these acts of civil disobedience and these demonstrations since last week. REID: Yes, they certainly to be just as aggressive against the protesters. I want to ask you about your own arrest yourself and Ryan J. Reilly being post (ph) or facing prosecution. Do you expect these prosecutions to go forward? Is that the expectation of your legal counsel? LOWERY: Well, at this point, we`ve been charged, and so, we`re moving forward as if. We`re expecting this to go forward unless we hear otherwise. We`ve all come out and we`ve been pretty forthcoming with what we think of these charges previously. I don`t have a ton of new stuff to add. We know that we were detained illegally. We were given illegal instructions and we were two journalists trying to do our job. I was frankly surprised that these charges were something that were revisited by St. Louis County a year later. But, at this point, we probably should have learned our lesson about being surprised by the behavior of police in Ferguson. REID: Yes, absolutely. And, Akhil, I want to come to you on that question. This idea of arresting journalists who are on the streets actually covering the protests but then really despite the negative blowback from having done that, really going and continuing to pursue prosecution of these journalists, what do you think of that as a constitutional matter, as a legal matter? AKHIL REED AMAR, YALE UNIVERSITY: So, we`ve been talking about the First Amendment and freedom of assembly and press and the Second Amendment has come in with folks parading around. Let me give you a different account of the second amendment. It starts with power and voting power, black people are now voting in Ferguson more than before and we have city council people, OK, and I said, we need to have juries look different and grand juries look different. We need to have -- and city councils look different, police departments as well and not just the chief but the department should look like the community, just like the jury should look like the community. And Bernie Sanders` platform talked a little bit about representative police forces. The Second Amendment is actually about that. Let me read it to you and listen to a well-regulated militia necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed. The militia is supposed to look like the people. Who are the people? The voters. We the people actually on election day we elect Congress. Who is the militia? Well, today at the federal level basically the army. The army should look like America and at the local level, basically, it`s police departments. So, we don`t really have the founders militia anymore. We have police departments at the local level, the army at the national level, and both should look like the community as should grand juries, as should juries, as should city councils, as should people who show up on election day. REID: But I`m also just concerned specifically for the panel about this idea of essentially punishing journalists for being there and filming. That as a constitutional matter seems dubious, Cornell. CORNELL WILLIAM BROOKS, NAACP: Yes, of course it is. But the climate in Ferguson has not changed. So across the country we`ve seen a seismic shift in attitude with respect to race. But in terms of policy reforms, a glacier shift. So, across the country and specifically in Missouri, all we`ve seen is a change with respect to municipal find. The law under which Michael Brown was killed has not been changed. There has not been reform in policing across the state, and the governor and legislature would both admit that they are not where they should be. So, the point being here is, we can`t be surprised that journalists are treated as poorly as citizens. REID: Right. And, Wesley, I want to come back in on this question of the changes that have been happening in personnel and who is actually running things in Ferguson are real. There are more city councilmembers. They have a new police chief. But when you were back in Ferguson and just looking at the situation on the ground, do you get the sense people feel more empowered, the citizens who live there? LOWERY: No. I mean, talking to the citizens and residents on the ground, Ferguson feels as divided as ever. The business owners and some of the parts of the white community very frustrated with these protests and these demonstrations a year ago remain frustrated and remained confounded and confused by this anger they`re seeing by their fellow residents. And many of the people who have taken to the streets are just as angry and just as upset and they do not feel in any way more empowered. And so, as I have conversations, as I worked in the city for several days last weekend, it became very clear that, like I said, there has been cosmetic change in Ferguson, Missouri, and there`s some cosmetic change in greater St. Louis and, you know, with the caveat that sometimes it is hard to feel the titanic turning as it turns, there is certainly some work that is being done, there are people who are working hard and have some progress that has been made. But, no, to show up in Ferguson last week, it was not to parachute into a new and fundamentally different and changed city than a year ago that had to be drafted a year prior. REID: Yes, we don`t have a great deal of time, but I have to play this one piece of sound one more because Akhil did talk about the Second Amendment. Let`s play the Oath Keeper again interacting with this time a white protester who was asking them about what they were doing. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can you imagine a black man coming down here looking like you, walking this way? You think what would happen to him? What do you think might happen to him? You wouldn`t be left alone like you are. (END VIDEO CLIP) REID: I mean, Jean, you have the situation where literally you have white armed men walking around the street unassailed by police and black unarmed protesters being arrested. This seems dystopic. JEANNE THEOHARIS, AUTHOR: Undoubtedly. And I think this is emblematic of where we are in this country that some people`s rights are understood to be full and rich, and some people`s rights we cannot imagine an African- American fully armed like that, a Muslim-American fully armed like that and getting to walk freely similarly, right? That when you are stopped by police the kind of generosity, the idea that the police are protecting and serving you varies, right? Sandra Bland, you know, how she`s treated versus sort of -- I mean, if you look out on the street, right, the NYPD says to protect and serve and certainly the NYPD protects and serves some people. REID: It`s clearly the same for members of the Latino community. JULIETA GARIBAY, UNITED WE DREAM: Exactly talking about Sandra. I remember we were (INAUDIBLE) coming out and I just kept on thinking had Sandra been a white woman or an Irish immigrant, she would have never been pulled over. Or maybe pulled over but she would never even asked to turn off your cigarette. She would have never died. REID: I think it`s important to remember that this traffic stop before that went swimmingly and the person apparently didn`t have their insurance and the police officer said, have your dad e-mail it to you? All right. I want to thank Wesley Lowery in Washington, D.C. Thank you very much. LOWERY: Anytime. REID: Everybody stay right there because up next why did police collect DNA samples from some of the Ferguson activists? One of the protesters joins us live when we come back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) REID: Early this week, protesters marched and held a sit-in at the federal courthouse in St. Louis, an act of civil disobedience in the face of police and federal marshals who tried to keep them off the grounds. More than 50 arrested for causing a disturbance on federal property. Among them were prominent Black Lives Matter activists Deray McKesson and Johnetta Elzie, who each took a pretty -- told a pretty shocking story about their booking experience. Deray tweeted, "Did you know that when in the custody of the U.S. Marshal, that they take two DNA swabs from your mouth to be sent to the FBI? I didn`t." Elzie had a similar experience, "DNA swabs were wild. The woman marshal told me to open my mouth and I had to ask her for what. Sound outrageous?" Well, according to the U.S. Supreme Court, it was all perfectly legal. In 2012, the court ruled that police can collect DNA from someone who`s under arrest without a warrant. Their reasoning was that swabbing for DNA is the same as fingerprinting and photographing suspects. In his dissent, Justice Scalia joined by the court`s three liberal women rained down hot fire claim, writing, quote, "Today`s judgment will, to be sure, have the beneficial effect of solving more crimes. Then again, so would the taking of DNA samples from everyone who flies on an airplane, applies for a driver`s license or attends a public school. Perhaps the Constitution of such a generic -- perhaps the construction of such a generic practice is wide, I doubt the wise men would have been so eager to open their mouths for royal inspection." Joining us from St. Louis is Johnetta Elzie, a Ferguson protester who was arrested on Monday and the co-founder of Mapping Police Violence. All right. So, Johnetta, tell us how does it feel to have to open your mouth for royal inspection. JOHNETTA ELZIE, FERGUSON PROTESTER: It was really intrusive. She didn`t tell me what she was doing or why she was about to swab my mouth. She just told me to open my mouth, and while she had the swab in my mouth I asked what was it for, and then she told me that it was just another form of identification. But she did not -- she explained what she was doing before she did it to one of the white women who was also arrested who came after me. So, it was really interesting just to see how she described it to a white person versus how she told me to open my mouth. REID: And were you told at the end of the day after it was all done that this is DNA that`s going to be held, that`s going to be maintained? What were you told about what was going to be done with the sample? ELZIE: I wasn`t told anything. She just took my swabs, put it in an envelope, mailed it -- or sealed it -- or they sealed it and prepared it for mail and that was it. REID: OK, Akhil, I have to ask, we read there is a Supreme Court case saying this is OK to do. It doesn`t feel OK I think to most people here. AMAR: And it cut across ideological lines. You had Scalia dissenting and Justices Thomas and Alito thinking it was OK. You had three Democratic appointees, the women who were dissenting but Steve Breyer, another Democratic appointee and liberal, thinking it`s OK. So, the Fourth Amendment says there`s a right against unreasonable searches and seizures. And here is the kick in the head -- sometimes actually the broader search might be more reasonable. The problem now is we`re only doing it to arrestees and arrestees are disproportionately nonwhite going back to earlier questions about disparate impact. So, maybe, actually, eventually we`ll be in a world that freaks Justice Scalia out where we`re a part of a database, maybe even a drop of blood at birth goes to DNA fingerprint ID, so your ID card will be buy metric and that`s scary. But let`s take airports. They don`t just ask me to go through a metal detector because I look a certain way, Middle Eastern or something, they make everyone go through. And some ways, that makes me feel at least treated equally. Misery loves company. REID: Right. AMAR: We may be in an unstable situation where only arrestees. And, by the way, the DNA fingerprint can also generate information about family members. Family members share DNA. So, maybe it`s unstable to only do arrestees. Maybe we`re going to have to do possibly more. REID: OK. That`s terrifying. I want to go back to Johnetta, just to come to your experience, because the purpose of why you were in Ferguson, what you and other activists were there for, explain to me what your purpose was and do you feel it was fulfilled? ELZIE: So, I came back home because it was the one-year anniversary of the shooting death of Mike Brown and I just was there to support to do what I`ve been doing since August 4 of 2014 to document tweets, Vine, Periscope, and really just being there to reflect on what it feels like to be in St. Louis a year later. REID: And I want to ask you the same question -- ELZIE: And realizing not much has changed. REID: That was the question I was going to ask you, the same question I asked Wesley Lowery, does it feel any different? Do the people on the ground feel more empowered versus the police or -- I mean, given your experience I can`t imagine much feeling of empowerment. But did the activists on the ground, did the citizens feel, to you, more empowered? ELZIE: Yes, I would definitely say that people are definitely impacted in a different way than we were last year, just the experiences that we faced, while coming out of our homes and refusing to go in for the first 21 days under police and military occupation in Ferguson, I feel like this year everyone is a little more bold, little more brave and definitely empowered. I don`t and did not expect the police to be any different than they were last year. REID: Yes. ELZIE: I lived in St. Louis and I`ve experienced police violence, micro and macro. And so it`s not surprising to me that what happened this weekend happened. But I do feel that more people are being radicalized by watching how brutal police can be or experience in it for themselves. REID: Yes. All right. Well, I want to thank you and get your last name properly, Johnetta Elzie. Thank you for being here from St. Louis. Appreciate it. ELZIE: Thank you. REID: OK, thank you. And here in New York, thank you to Julieta Garibay and the rest of my panel is sticking around. And still to come, the surprising group of people helping to fight the California wildfires and why they`re earning just $1 an hour. But up next, Donald Trump wants a wall to divide two nations. We`ll have a look at the one that once did. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) REID: On this day in 1961, construction began on one of the world`s most infamous symbols of oppression and division, the Berlin Wall. After World War II, the city of Berlin, like the rest of Germany, was divided, with the Soviets controlling the eastern half and the U.S., Great Britain and France controlling the Western section. But life in the two Berlins was very different. Throughout the 1950s and early `60s, some 2.5 million East Germans fled to West Berlin to escape communist rule. The refugees including many skilled workers, professionals and intellectuals, and their exit had a devastating effect on the East German economy. By August of 1961 an average of 2,000 East Germans were crossing into the west every day. In an effort to stop the exodus, late one August night, East Germany began constructing a barrier first with miles of barbed wire, but within days that was replaced with concrete walls. With little warning, Berliners found themselves cut off from friend, family, and work. The barrier continued to grow, eventually comprised of a series of concrete walls standing up to 15 feet high. Heavily fortified and stretching more than 100 miles. Soldiers stationed along the wall were under order to shoot anyone who attempted to defect. And yet some East Germans risked their lives to continue trying to cross the border. An estimated 5,000 managed to get past the Berlin Wall. Another 5,000 were captured trying and nearly 200 others killed. For 28 years the wall stood as most visible symbol of the cold war synonymous with the divide between East and West, American-style capitalism and communism. Finally, on a historic night in 1989, the Berlin Wall effectively came down as East German guards opened the borders allowing East and West Berliners to roam their city freely. But walls as a means of separating and isolating people, countries and cultures are still a thing, including in the United States as evidenced by Donald Trump`s plan for the U.S.-Mexico border. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I said we need to build a wall and it has to be built quickly. And I don`t mind having a big, beautiful door in that wall so that people can come into this country legally. But we need, Jeb, to build a wall. We need to keep illegals out. (END VIDEO CLIP) REID: But history has taught us building a wall whether to keep people out or to lock them in can have far-reaching and sometimes devastating consequences. Just like that wall bisecting Berlin which the government of East Germany began building on this day August 15, 1961. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) REID: California is burning. So much so that its governor, Jerry Brown has declared a state of emergency to help mobilize efforts as wildfires burn across the state. There are currently 16 active wildfires across California and more than 10,000 firefighters are on the ground battling them. But this isn`t a story about how extreme weather and drought have turned California into a tinderbox of dry vegetation or about the 150 people forced to evacuate their homes. Instead, it`s about some of the people on the front lines fighting the California blazes and how they might not be who you think. Between 30 percent and 40 percent of California`s forest firefighters are state prison inmates. Yes, you heard that right. That`s because 4,000 low-level felons in the state`s prison system are part of a program that allows them to earn wages doing manual labor outside, from clearing brush to starting fires. The inmates live in concentration camps scattered throughout the state. California is the largest program of its kind. The inmates are supervised by correctional officers and chosen based on good behavior, as well as what they were convicted of. For instance those convicted of arson, for obvious reasons, are barred from the program. For each day they work in the program, the inmates receive a two-day reduction in their sentences. They`re paid $1 an hour while on the line fighting fires. It`s estimated that the program has saved the state of California up to $100 million a year, according to Bill Sessa, the spokesperson for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, the agency that runs the program with Cal Fire. Sessa also told us that the inmates cut containment lines and get close to the flames which can reach 100 feet high on rugged terrain. He said it`s life-or- death situations, it`s dangerous work. And joining the panel now is Glenn Martin, president and founder of JustLeadership USA. And joining me from Toronto, Canada, is Philip Goodman, assistant professor in the Department of Sociology at the University of Toronto. I want to first come to you, Glenn, because I believe you wrote a dissertation about this issue. I`m sorry, oh, Philip wrote a dissertation about issues. I`m going to go to Philip, first. You wrote a dissertation about this issue. So, tell me about the ethics of this first. You have people who are incarcerated. It`s not like they have a lot of choices, but giving them this choice, which is to do potentially deadly work for an hour, the ethics of that, in your view? PHILIP GOODMAN, ASSISTANT PROF. UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO: Thanks for that question and thanks so much for the opportunity to be on the show. So, I think you`re right to highlight the fact that on the one hand, prisoners who are spending their time, their incarcerated time inside of the fire camps, those men and women for the most part would prefer to be in a fire camp as opposed to a traditional walled prison. On the other hand, it`s important to note that it`s in light of the alternative and that really makes it complicated, right, to identify this as either purely voluntary or not. Ask questions about ways in which it is and is not coercive is precisely because they`re choosing to be in a fire camp, in many cases from the men and women I had a chance to interview because the conditions are somewhat less austere and painful than in walled prisons. The food may be in many cases better. But, again, they`re choosing to do that dangerous, dirty, exhaustive work of fighting wildfires precisely given both the better conditions but also very much the alternative of how they would otherwise spend those days of their lives. REID: I mean, there are some ways in which these prisoners are having a less onerous experience the camps are less segregated. We understand about 250 of the 4,000 are women. The conditions are just not as onerous as being locked down, I guess, in a prison. At the same time, you have people who are earning $1 an hour to do work that we pay -- that we pay professional firefighters substantially more. I don`t know. I can`t get my head around the ethics. GLENN MARTIN, PRES. & FOUNDER, JUSTLEADERSHIP USA: I don`t -- as someone who served six years in prison, the first thing I would say, the idea of being able to work and keep yourself busy while you`re there makes sense, right? It helps your time go by. You pick up skills that you may not have otherwise. But in this situation, we shouldn`t be surprised that California has found yet another ways to monetize misery. The idea that we save $100 million, that`s like government sleight of hand, right? You save $100 million here, but you`re spending $9 billion here to lock people up. And these are the lowest level defenders. Arguably, many of these folks probably shouldn`t be in the criminal justice system in the first place. But it`s not just government. I mean, the perverse incentives that underlie our system have been taken advantage of by Walmart, by many for profit companies, Victoria`s Secret, you name it. So, essentially, we have a criminal justice system that people are essentially in the business of keeping locked up because it means you have low wage labor, people who are not going to stray, people who are not going to complain about vacation time and so on. And so, the coercion is one piece but just overall, when you have 100 million Americans who have an arrest or criminal record on file, you have to ask yourself, what is driving this sort of criminal justice? REID: And in the case of people who are fighting forest fires, they could actually die doing this. This is sort of making people doubly expendable. Meaning, you don`t have to pay them more than a dollar an hour or $2 a day when they`re not actually on the fire line. But they also -- this deadly - - potentially deadly work. GOODMAN: It certainly is. And I think in exchange for doing that potentially deadly work, if it is something we want prisoners to do at the very minimum, we owe them many things. We owe them better wages than we currently pay them. We owe them better opportunities to get work for those who want it after they`re released. And for those who are not interested in that, we need better educational and vocational opportunities not just in the camps but in prisons in general, right, so that we can follow through on this commitment to allow people to lead better lives post incarceration. So, I think we need all of those things and those who are doing this deadly work in the fire camp so clearly deserve all of those things and more. REID: And, Glenn, we need to be paying people professional wages to do this work, aside from that. But I want to ask specifically about the post incarceration experience. Let`s say you do a prison "job", quote/unquote, as minimally paid as it is, does that mean you`re more likely to get the same job outside? MARTIN: A couple of things. One, I think we should always go upstream and figure out where the bodies are coming from, right? Our criminal justice was created at the intersection of civil right gains and jobless ghettos. So, these are folks who couldn`t get jobs in the first place. Yet, once they`re in prison we`re suddenly willing to give them these great jobs. Post release, right now, we`re asking President Obama to sign a ban the box executive order to create job opportunities for formerly incarcerated people because there are so many people in this country who have been impacted by the criminal justice system that we`ve created an under class of citizenship. REID: Yes. Absolutely. That`s something the Clinton campaign has jumped on, the ban the box. Thank you very much to Philip Goodman in Toronto, Canada. And thank you to Glenn Martin here in New York. And up next, New York`s homeless caught on camera. Are they becoming victims of a political feud between the police and the mayor? (COMMERCIAL BREAK) REID: A New York City labor union for police officers is being accused of homeless shaming in its most recent social media campaign. The Sergeant`s Benevolence Association is encouraging officers along with friends and family members to take pictures of homeless New Yorkers and post them online. The new campaign is called "Peek-A-Boo, We See You, Too". And it was announced in a letter e-mailed to the union`s 12,000 members on Monday. Sergeant Ed Mullins, the SBA president and an outspoken critic of New York Mayor Bill de Blasio wrote, "As you travel about the city of New York, please utilize your smart phones to photograph the homeless lining in our streets. Aggressive panhandlers, people urinating in public, or engaging in open air drug activity and quality of life offenses of every type. Our sergeants will notify our public officials in writing of what is being observed." The photos were being posted on the SBA`s Flickr site, a page that shows hundreds of images of homeless people sleeping or asking for money. As of Thursday afternoon, however, the photos were no longer visible to the public. The SBA told us that the reason was a technical glitch and that the photos will be back up shortly. However, "The New York Daily News" reported yesterday that Flickr took down the photos. According to New York City`s Department of Homeless Services, 56,000 individuals including adults and children were housed in homeless shelters on Thursday. The mayor`s office told us -- told us this show, sorry, by e- mail that the number of homeless New Yorkers has dropped from approximately 59,000 in 2014 to approximately 56,000 today. And yet, other reports say the number of homeless has actually gone up. In fact, in recent years, homelessness in New York City has reached its highest level since the Great Depression of the 1930s according to the Coalition for the Homeless. In a Quinnipiac poll released last week, 53 percent of New Yorkers reported seeing more homeless people than they did a few years ago. Facing mounting pressure to reduce and serve the homeless population, Mayor de Blasio unveiled a $22 million plan to help New Yorkers suffering from mental illness. The initiative NYC Safe proposes more services for the homeless who pose a danger to themselves and others. But what happens if the homeless become just another prop in the ongoing drama between the mayor and the police? Joining the table now is Christy Parque, executive director of Homeless Services United. And, Christie, thank you for being here. I want to start by asking you, what you -- what is your response to hearing the characterization of homeless people in this callout by the SBA saying take pictures of people urinating in public and doing open air drug activity, is this a stereotyping of homeless people that you are bothered by? CHRISTY PARQUE, EXEC. DIR. HOMELESS SERVICES UNITED: Absolutely. When I heard this, it was clear this was a publicity stunt designed to shame the mayor and the city council for their efforts to have oversight over the police department and instead of shaming them, what they`re doing is shaming a very vulnerable population. It`s based on stereotypes that`s already oppressing people who are struggling on the street, and it`s, you know, perpetuating a myth about who is homeless. It`s making this assumption. Just putting aside the privacy and legal concerns about this, it`s perpetuating a myth about who is actually homeless in New York City. In reality, you know, I think everybody recognized there`s a problem. The mayor recognizes there`s a problem but is perpetuating this myth of who is homeless assuming that the public can identify who is homeless by how they look or where they`re at. When in reality what we`re seeing in New York City`s homeless is families and children. It`s the woman escaping a domestic violence situation with her child, it`s the senior citizen priced out, it`s the trans kid kicked out of his family`s home, the people homeless. It`s this kind of publicity that does nothing to solve the problem. What we need is affordable housing and supportive housing for this particular population on the street. REID: Yes. And, Cornell, it does feel like, to Christy`s point, attempting to shame the mayor but actually shaming the homeless. On the shame the mayor part of it, even the title "Peek-A-Boo, We See You, Too", it seems like a response to even citizens filming police. Am I reading that go wrong? BROOKS: Exactly. To me this is emblematic of bad policing, right, in the sense of we have these quality of life crimes criminalizing a class of people, a kind of hard-hearted Jell-o brained approach to policing that has nothing to do with deterring crime. And to use the citizens of New York, because homeless people are still citizens, they`re using the citizens of New York as a prop or a cudgel to go after the mayor is absolutely shameless. So, they are not, in fact, shaming the homeless. They`re shaming themselves, their badges, their oaths and everything police officers represent. REID: But at the same time, Christie, they`re also dehumanizing these people by using the props. They are essentially shaming them because they`re showing somebody without their permission and showing them as if they don`t have the option or the right to give their permission to be photographed. PARQUE: It`s completely unethical to create an Internet meme out of somebody`s suffering. It`s unacceptable. New Yorkers can do better and our police, you know, by and large know this, too, because we work with them every day with our folks. So, this is the leadership and this kind of characterization will lead to criminalization of poor people, homeless people and this is just absolutely dehumanizing to the people that were trying to work them and the people that are working with them. REID: Yes. And I wonder about that. How this -- what this says about the attitude of police in general and should it be concerning? AMAR: Well, your point was very interesting this may be a reaction to the filming of the police. And so if you film the police in Ferguson, I guess you get yourself arrested maybe in Ferguson, but the police can film you. The right of the people to keep and bear arms -- well, what are arms? You know, cameras are among the most powerful weapons in the world and when wielded by the citizenry to keep the police accountable -- REID: Yes. AMAR: -- it can be -- but then there are these privacy issues that are implicated. REID: Well, I think we`re out of time. But very quickly, Christy, is there going to be a response to what you`ve seen here? PARQUE: A lot of my members, including my board members, we have a broad network of folks who are issuing responses, letters to the editor. There will be a rally coming up this week. So, people are really pushing back. REID: Keep us posted. PARQUE: We need to be taking care of folks. REID: OK. We are out of time but keep us posted. Thank you so much to Cornell William Brooks, Christy Parque, sorry about, and Akil Reed Amar, and Jeanne Theoharis. Thank you all. I will eventually be able to do this properly. And a quick programming note, want a chance to see Beyonce, Pearl Jam, Ed Sheeran and Coldplay live? If you`re in the New York City area Monday, August 17th, you can join MSNBC on a Snapchat journey through the city. For a chance to win tickets to the Global Citizen Festival, to play, first follow us on Snapchat at ShiftMSNBC and visit snap.MSNBC.com for full rules and details. Good luck to you. And up next, our foot soldier of the week. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) REID: For many of us, doing our hair and maybe applying a little makeup is just part of the daily routine, TV appearances notwithstanding. But what about the more than 300,000 Americans who spend their nights in homeless shelters around the country? For them, issues of appearance and grooming are anything but routine. In fact, they can add stress to an already-difficult living situation. Our foot soldier this week is breaking the stereotypes attached to homelessness and bringing beauty to where it is needed most. Jody Wood, a multimedia artist, is the founder and creator of Beauty in Transition. It`s a project that provides free services like hair washing, cutting, coloring and styling to people living in homeless shelters who lack the resources, supplies, and space to allow the day-to-day things so many of us take for granted. Beauty in Transition is an ongoing artistic project with a mobile twist. As on lookers walk by what looks like a typical truck, those who venture inside find themselves in a fully outfitted hair salon. Within the small, intimate space of the mobile salon, participants are treated as equals. The label "homeless" disappears. And they are transformed. Using her artistic talent, Jody Wood has showcased the project using photography, video, and audio recordings, allowing her audience to empathize with the experience of homelessness. The goal of the project is to shatter the cultural value system that defines beauty by rigid standards, often excluding those who are not conventionally attractive or financially successful. With the city streets as her muse, Jody unpacks the trauma and social isolation that comes with being homeless while at the same time reacquainting those who may have forgotten their identity in the midst of their circumstances with their own inherent beauty. The project began in 2006 in Kansas and now operates through invitations from art institutions serving homeless shelters in Philadelphia, New York City, Denver, and Denver, Colorado. With the help of professional stylists, some of whom were once homeless themselves, along with shelter volunteers, the project provides services that may not seem like the most urgent need of the homeless but which help build crucial self-esteem while challenging the social stigmas that add to the flight of some of our most vulnerable citizens. When we spoke with Jody, she said, "The stigma attached to homelessness is such a learned cognitive error and it`s so easy to undo once you have face- to-face contact between two humans in a tactile intimate setting and a hair salon can create this." (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Today, my experience was rejuvenating. It restored my self-esteem. It gave me a little more hope that I could get through this. (END VIDEO CLIP) REID: While they`re temporary, the Beauty in Transition pop-up salons allow homeless individuals to enter a healing space where stylist can impart a little beauty therapy. And for reviving the self image of the displaced and giving them a sense of hope for tomorrow, Jody Wood is our foot soldier of the week. And that`s our show for today. Thanks to you at home for watching. I`ll see you tomorrow morning at 10:00 a.m. Eastern. And now, it`s time for a preview of "WEEKENDS WITH ALEX WITT." My sister, Alex, how are you? THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END