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George Floyd mourned TRANSCRIPT: 6/4/20, The Beat w/ Ari Melber

Guests: Zellnor Myrie, Christina Greer, Jamil Smith, DeRay McKesson


Good evening, Ari.

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chuck. And thank you for that update. We will be keeping an eye on that. Sounds like a nice group of folks there to see.

Now, let me tell you what is going on. I`m Ari Melber. This is THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER.

And we are looking at these live protests. This is, of course, the continuing story gripping the country, major cities around the nation. We are headed into the 10th straight night of demonstrations.

And in many places, people are continuing to keep this on the front burner.

This has also been a day of mourning and remembering the life of George Floyd. He was killed in police custody in Minneapolis. It is his death, as you know, that sparked this movement, first there, then quickly around the continue, and on to around the world.

We have seen solidarity marches and issues of international racism and police brutality and disparities really joined by people all over the globe. This memorial drew civil rights activists, members of Congress, prominent people in arts and culture.

And at the core of it, of course, there is still a real family, a real loss, real people, a family grieving the loss of a son and a father.


PHILONISE FLOYD, BROTHER OF GEORGE FLOYD: Everywhere you go and see people how they cling to him, they wanted to be around him. When you spoke to George, they felt like they was the president, because that`s how he made you feel.

RODNEY FLOYD, BROTHER OF GEORGE FLOYD: Everything he exhorted us and taught us, he was doing him, but he was teaching us how to be a man, because he was in this world already before us.

And he gave us a lot of great lessons.

P. FLOYD: Everybody want justice. We want justice for George. He`s going to get it. He`s going to get it.


MELBER: Now, as this memorial was happening in Minneapolis, 1,000 miles away, Floyd`s brother leading a vigil in honor of his late brother in Brooklyn.


TERRENCE FLOYD, BROTHER OF GEORGE FLOYD: I`m proud of the protest, but I`m not proud of the destruction. I`m going to say that again. I`m proud of the protests, but I`m not proud of the destruction.


T. FLOYD: My brother wasn`t about that.


MELBER: And that is part of the work that`s being done.

We`re seeing the memorial and the activism. There`s also the signs of change occurring.

Three former police officers, it was just yesterday that they were charged with murder. They`re now making their first court appearance. Their attorney is offering a preview of what we may expect in their defense, which, of course, in our system of justice, they have every right to make their legal defense.

One of these officers` attorneys said that he told his own fellow officers -- quote -- "You shouldn`t do this."

Another update down in Georgia. The suspects accused of killing Ahmaud Arbery also had their court appearance today. We can tell you the details emerging from that case are things you need to know. A special agent testifying that the shooter used a racial, racist slur after shooting Arbery dead.

So, we`re talking about someone saying that as he lay dying. We`re not repeating the slur, obviously, in our news coverage.

A federal investigation into possible hate crimes continues. You don`t need to be a lawyer to know that slur contributes to a case. In addition to a potential murder, it was also a potential hate crime.

Here is the investigator bluntly saying Arbery was being pursued.


RICHARD DIAL, GEORGIA BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION SPECIAL AGENT: I don`t believe it was self-defense by Mr. McMichael. I believe it was self-defense by Mr. Arbery.

I believe Mr. Arbery was being pursued, and he couldn`t ran until he couldn`t run anymore, and then turning back to the man with the shotgun or fight with his bare hands against the man with the shotgun. He chose to fight.


MELBER: That`s an update to several of the stories we`re tracking.

And as we do here on THE BEAT, we have several angles, including some history for you, later in the show.

But we begin with what`s happening on the ground.

MSNBC`s Steve Patterson is in Minneapolis -- Steve.

STEVE PATTERSON, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Ari, if you thought that the rallies or the enthusiasm or the activism was going to be dying down or waning even just a little bit after the last 10 days, you would be dead wrong.

Take a look at this. I know you have seen this scene before. This is the scene where George Floyd was killed. And we have seen this growing memorial, growing sort of activism spring up out of this.

It`s only gotten bigger as the week has gone on. The speedway over here, I`m sure you have seen this before, has now kind of turned almost into its own village. There is a stage behind me. People are putting their fists up.

We have been seeing this as that memorial, that somber memorial was also playing out as well. You know, just a while ago as well, Reverend Jesse Jackson was on stage here. I saw Reverend Al speaking while that memorial was going on earlier.

So, that`s two different legendary civil rights speakers. I`m in a crowd during a time of civil unrest. That`s the kind of day I`m having. But there`s two powerful moments I wanted to highlight at that memorial, again, very somber, but I think the two moments actually spoke to how uncomfortable it was and for a reason.

The first one was the attorney for the family, Ben Crump. He was reading the names of just about every black person that was killed from civil injustice over the last, I don`t know, five, 10 years. It was so long that people started to look around and wonder what was going on.

And then the second one was those eight minutes and 46 seconds where everybody was silent. At first, it felt like something of solidarity. But by the end, it was so uncomfortable because it felt so long. And to think that this is how long that prosecutors say that that knee was on that neck is unbelievable.

Two powerful moments from that memorial, as we saw George Floyd`s casket, him being wheeled out, and to the sound of protesting, to the sound of people who are upset, instead of to the sound of what you might think, which would be somber sort of emotions or gospel music.

MELBER: Right.

PATTERSON: It was a very energetic, very sort of somber scene.


PATTERSON: But, again, it sort of spoke to the fact that is all about civil justice -- back to you.

MELBER: Thank you. We`re going to keep an eye on Minneapolis.

We want to turn immediately to Los Angeles.

MSNBC`s Jacob Soboroff has been covering that out on the ground today.

What are you seeing?


You know, this has been a really interesting 24 hours in Los Angeles. The mayor, the city council, the police commission announced, in response to the protest we have been seeing play out here in L.A. over the course of the last week, that they are going to take to $100 million $150 million out of the Los Angeles Police Department and reallocate it towards programs that benefit the African-American community and communities of color.

And what we`re seeing here right now is that that fight, the fight that we have been seeing on the streets, is a long way from over. This is a march for the Latino, Latinx community to express solidarity, not only with Black Lives Matter, but with other causes around the city of Los Angeles.

And it`s wrapping up here now, but we all marched about a mile down through Northeast Los Angeles. Come with me. I`m going take you inside here the El Sereno Community Garden, where we`re seeing "(SPEAKING SPANISH) BLM" together." "We`re together here with Black Lives Matter."

Tell me -- sorry to jump on you like that, but we`re live on MSNBC. What are you doing here?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Supporting the Black Lives Matter movement.

SOBOROFF: And what compelled you to come out and particularly this message of unity between the Latinx community and Black Lives Matter?

I put you on the spot, but the reality is -- don`t worry. What`s your name?


SOBOROFF: You ever come out to a protest like this before?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, it`s my third one.

SOBOROFF: And what it`s like. What does it feel -- what do you feel being out here?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It`s really nice, because -- to see all these people getting together, supporting the Black Lives Matter movement.

SOBOROFF: Yes. Well, I appreciate you. And sorry to put you on TV just like that. Nice to meet you. Great job.

But, Ari, there is an interconnectedness to the messages here. They`re talking about abolishing ICE. At the same time, they`re talking about defunding the LAPD.

And like Reverend Al said, that metaphor of the knee on the neck, it`s felt out here. It`s felt out here in multiple ways, not just the systemic racism of policing. That`s obviously front and center. But, again, this is a very, very peaceful demonstration of solidarity out here in Northeast L.A.

MELBER: Jacob Soboroff on the ground.

Thanks to all of our reporters on the ground. And stay safe. We will be coming back to them as warranted, because we`re tracking all these protests.

Joining me now is civil rights activists and Black Lives Matter organizer DeRay McKesson. He`s the author of the book "On the Other Side of Freedom: The Case for Hope." He`s been with us many times before.

And joining us is Democratic New York state Senator Zellnor Myrie. He posted this photo recounting how he himself, an elected official and a person at a protest, found himself pepper-sprayed and then handcuffed by police.

Thanks to both of you for being here.

Senator, what happened?

ZELLNOR MYRIE (D), NEW YORK STATE SENATOR: I went down to the protests in Brooklyn in solidarity and as a fellow black person in this country.

I knew the rage and the hopelessness and the sadness that we were feeling about police brutality and thought it would be important to be present and also to be a liaison between law enforcement and the protesters.

And even my title, my pedigree, the fact that I had a neon green shirt with my name and title on the back of it didn`t save me from being brutalized by the NYPD. We were compliant. We were moving back, as ordered, and we started getting it in the back with bicycles, pushed and shoved, and ultimately pepper-sprayed and handcuffed. .

MELBER: When you were then taken into that custody, did you identify yourself as an elected official?

MYRIE: I identified myself throughout.

In fact, I let law enforcement know that I was coming to the protest about an hour before I arrived. I was joined by my colleague in the assembly, Assemblymember Diana Richardson. Both of us identified ourselves when we got on the scene to those who were in charge, and even that couldn`t stop us from becoming victims.

MELBER: And this is what I wanted to draw you out on. And then DeRay is going to join us momentarily here.

But just because of your story, obviously, an unlawful arrest is just that, period, regardless of the identity of the individual. But there are other categories that were historically, before this current era, generally more supported.

We`re looking, viewers here seeing, so people can judge for themselves, you in that arrest. We have seen, though, a normalizing of attacks and arrests and intimidation tactics against some of those categories, which would include elected officials like yourself, journalists, whatever organization they may work for.

Do you view this as a part of that effort? Do you think Donald Trump has fomented it, and do you see your arrest as unlawful?

MYRIE: Well, certainly, the current occupant of the White House has trafficked in hateful language. It`s something he enjoys, he relishes, and, quite frankly, the only thing he has been good at.

But this has preceded the president. We have seen structural racism in both parties. It does not have a partisan bent, although the -- my friends on the other side of the aisle have seen more political rewards for it. We have seen this since this country`s inception.

And police misconduct has its roots in brutality from our slave patrols, to our slave codes, to the Jim Crow laws, to the Black Codes, and certainly now with the lack of accountability for police departments all over the country.

MELBER: Appreciate that, and appreciate your nonpartisan and nuanced view of really the larger roots.

DeRay joins us here.

You have been here many times DeRay. We have talked about individual incidents. We have also talked about the larger arc of what the senator mentioned, structural racism and the fundamentals.

As you join our broadcast tonight, DeRay, what`s on your mind, just big picture, living through all of this and having worked on it for a long time?

DERAY MCKESSON, CO-FOUNDER, BLACK LIVES MATTER: Well, state Senator, I`m sad that the NYPD brutalized you.

And it`s a reminder that the NYPD settles $200 million worth of cases every year. The highest has been about $300 million in recent years, which is wild. And de Blasio has not done much to rein in the NYPD.

But when I think today, I think about what the solutions are that have been offered. I think there have been incredible set of actors who have pushed around defunding the police.

And, remember, when we think about that, that really is a simple notion. Right? It`s this idea that experts should do what experts do. And when we think about the experts to deal with mental health issue, that`s not the police. When we think about the experts to deal with family issues, that`s not the police.

There is a host of things that we actually have the police assigned to that is really not the work of the police. So part of what we need to do is demand that we take those responsibilities away from the police, and we also permanently take that funding away from police.

And that`s actually how we make communities safer and give communities the resource they need. And the other way is that we reduce the power of the police immediately.

So, we started this campaign called, so we can get these eight policies enacted in cities across the country, because mayors have the policy do it. And it would reduce the power of the police today.

But this is a both/and strategy. We want to shrink the role of the police, shrink the money, shrink the responsibilities, and reduce the power immediately, both/and at the same time.

MELBER: Well, and a couple of things.

One, I want viewers to understand we`re keeping an eye there on the memorial in Minnesota, some of the Floyd family members showing up. And as part of our reporting tonight, we will keep an eye on all that and go in and out as warranted. That`s more of a housekeeping note.

DeRay, to your policy agenda, one can make a very vague analogy, not a perfect analogy, but a vague analogy to the debates in the federal government over whether you want the military making a lot of calls or other parts of the government.

So, when you bring in a diplomat to start a conversation, you`re already in a different footing. It doesn`t mean that you have no right as a government to ever also use the military. But who you send to the meeting in the first place does matter.

And you`re referring to something we have discussed before here on the program is, how many -- again, it`s all local. So, how many different police departments in different cities lead with, begin with a police decision-making process?

So, if you put more police in schools, you`re going to have more 10-year- olds arrested. Now, as a society, do we think policing is the first approach to when a 10-year-old gets into, yes, a dispute with another 10- year-old at lunch, or 8 or 6? I`m sure everyone could pick an age at which point they would find leading with police to be problematic, before you even get into the disparities of how often that then is overenforced against black Americans.

So, I`m curious, first to DeRay and then the senator, what does it look like to turn these protests about all of these -- all of these issues into what you`re calling a more structural police reform in different places around the country?

MCKESSON: Yes, I think it`s already there.

I think that the demands have already emerged. I think that people are already -- they have turned into structural issues. I think that we learned a lot from 2014, right?

In 2014, we were sort of just learning what solutions are. By now, people know. People understand what it looks like.

And when we think of the defund strategy or this idea of shrinking the police, that is rooted in the idea that you can`t feed the beast and expect to it shrink. Right?

Part of it is, you actually have to stop feeding the monster. And I think that one of the things that has happened in this past couple of weeks is everything has seen the violence of the police on TV. We have seen the police attack senators, state senators. We have seen the police attack reporters.

There were people who in 2014 told me I was being dramatic, that, like, we must have done something, you just didn`t know. And this moment is laying all of that bare again.

MELBER: All makes sense.

Senator, your reaction to the same question, but also, as we look at the Floyd family there gathering so far quietly, but in that site, I also want to play for viewers a little bit of what we gathered in our reporting earlier today speaking at the memorial.

Take a listen..


BENJAMIN CRUMP, ATTORNEY FOR FAMILY OF GEORGE FLOYD: It was not the coronavirus pandemic that killed George Floyd. I want to make it clear, on the record.

REV. AL SHARPTON, CIVIL RIGHTS ACTIVIST: For those that have agendas that are not about justice, this family will not let you use George as a prop.



MELBER: Senator?

MYRIE: I think what we just heard was the fact is, we have to remain focused on the message and not the method.

Those who are opposed to reforming law enforcement would like for us to focus on the violent elements and the disruptive elements. But the truth is, this is about police brutality. And a lot of folks often say, well, this is just a few bad apples and it`s not a systemic problem.

Well, black communities have 99 issues, and a bad apple isn`t one. It`s all 99. And because there is no accountability for police misconduct, we see that there is no justice. And it`s precisely why we`re seeing that there is no peace.

MELBER: Now, Senator Myrie, these are serious times.

But if you are representing New York and quoting Hov, that`s going to have to be acknowledged in the broadcast.

MYRIE: I had to make sure that that was done. I knew I was coming on a hip- hop fan show. So, wanted to make sure we rep Brooklyn correct.

MELBER: I appreciate you representing Brooklyn, as they say, in more than one way.

And for viewers who aren`t as privy as the senator, what Jay-Z and so many others were talking about, of course, was with bars and music and lyrics and poetry, but also the reality, documenting so much of these same issues all the way back.

So I think it is, in my person opinion, quite well-applied, Senator.

And, DeRay, you can bring bars the next time or not. That`s a personal call.

MCKESSON: We will see.


MELBER: We will see, yes, sir.

DeRay and Senator, thank you for everything, including the points you made earlier, a lot to think about.

We`re going to fit in a break.

I want to tell everyone what`s coming up. There`s a new retired general warning, Trump is actually endangering the way democracy functions in this country. It`s a serious warning. We want to bring it to you tonight.

Later, a very special guest on what government leaders should actually do if they get an unlawful order to abuse people in custody.

And we`re going to show how Donald Trump`s support is actually plunging in some key states. This relates to the virus, the recession and also the racial strife.

We will also continue to follow, as I have told you, these continuing marches. They are all around the country.

You`re looking at Minneapolis live right now.

I`m Ari Melber. You`re watching THE BEAT on MSNBC.


MELBER: Tonight, the Trump administration under fire for allegations of misusing its power and the military, some saying the tactics are reminiscent of authoritarian countries.

The White House is becoming something of a fortress. There is new fencing going up. Protesters are encountering armed law enforcement officers who don`t even show agency I.D.s. Some in Congress expressing alarm at this so- called American secret police.


SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): Our nation`s capital is being patrolled by federal law officers commanded by President Trump and Attorney General Barr who refuse to identify who they are and where they come from. What is President Trump doing to this democracy?


MELBER: And a new warning from people within the military itself, people with real experience.

Former General John Allen, who fought against ISIS, now saying Trump`s call to use troops against citizens could be -- quote -- "the beginning of the end of the American experiment."

We turn now to Professor Christina Greer.

Your thoughts on what this means?

CHRISTINA GREER, FORDHAM UNIVERSITY: Well, it`s quite frightening and alarming, Ari, but many of us have been ringing this alarm since Trump got elected in 2016.

I`m glad that Senator Schumer has decided to speak out against this. But we knew from day one that Donald Trump did not understand or respect the role of executive. We knew that he had a Congress that actually would go in lockstep and the Republicans in Congress would go in lockstep with all his wishes and demands.

And now, sadly, we have a Supreme Court that seems to be willing to do the same. And now we see Washington, D.C., under a police state. Keep in mind, Washington, D.C., does not have governors or two senators. They are a and a district and they`re not considered a state.

And so there are ways that the president can circumvent certain rules and regulations and laws in dealing with D.C. But we also know that this is a visual president. He likes to have sort of this big man strength. I mean, likes to show force within the military.

And, sadly, if we`re looking at how other regimes have done this over time, we should be very concerned about November 3, and how this president will translate his rhetoric into real action to make sure that democracy is not equitable across the United States.

MELBER: Christina, can you walk us through why it is that, when it comes to the violation of civil liberties and the excessive force against dissent, it seems to come up the most historically and again now against people advocating for equal and civil rights for black Americans?

GREER: I mean, this country is having such a difficult moment understanding what`s happening right now, is because we have never actually had a real reckoning of what has happened over time, over generations.

And we don`t even need to go back to 1619. We can think about how FDR allocated issues and resources within the New Deal. We can see the struggles that LBJ had trying to get the Civil Rights Act passed in 1964.

There`s something that is -- there`s an anti-black racism that is in the soil of this nation. And until we actually come to grips with that, we can`t move forward.

MELBER: Right.

GREER: And so there are lots of things that happen to marginalized people, lots of inequities that happened to people of color, writ large.

But there`s something very specific about the nation, this nation, and their relationship with black Americans in particular. And what we`re seeing across cities and towns across all 50 states is real anguish and pain of black Americans and their allies, recognizing that we have not ever been seen as full citizens.

And things that happen to us and our children on a daily basis just don`t happen to any other communities, by the police state, by officials that we pay taxes to.

MELBER: Right. Right.

And when you when you put it like that, it helps everyone understand, this is the response to just trying to get up to that level, equal position.

Professor Greer, good to see you again back on THE BEAT. And we will be seeing you soon, I imagine. Thank you.

GREER: Yes, indeed. Take care, Ari.

MELBER: Thank you.

We have a 30-second break. When we come back, what do you do if you`re in government, and you get one of these unlawful orders to do police brutality? We have a special report on that in 30.


MELBER: We want to turn to some thing very important right now.

Big question hanging over these controversies is, what are people on the inside actually supposed to do? What do police do if they are told to use excessive force? What do people in the federal government do if the president tells you, yes, rough up some detainees?


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: When you see these thugs being thrown into the back of a paddy wagon, you just see them thrown in, rough, I said, please don`t be too nice.


MELBER: That was the president addressing, of course, his employees and police in 2017.

But then something important happened. We actually saw -- whether you remember it or not, I`m going to show it to you right now -- an example of one way that people in government who, yes, have bosses, have jobs, how they can stand up to what was there, I can tell you, an unlawful suggestion.

At the time, the acting head of the DEA broke with his boss, the president, and did something important, sending new guidance to an entire agency, the DEA, warning against what Trump seemed to be asking for and telling his own employees, "We must earn and keep the public trust and continue to hold ourselves to the very highest standards."

That is one way to take on your boss, in the service of reminding your own employees not to rough up suspects, which, of course, is also literally against the law.

That same official later made a move which had an obvious personal and professional cost.


RACHEL MADDOW, HOST, "THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW": A senior official in the Trump administration has just resigned.

And the resignation is apparently in protest against this president.

His name is Chuck Rosenberg. "The Times" described Chuck Rosenberg AS having -- quote -- "become convinced that President Trump has little respect for the law."

This is a big deal.


MELBER: That was a big deal. That was 2017. That was an individual with a lot of federal experience who at the time may not have been known to news viewers all over the country.

He did that because he said and wrote at the time it was necessary to uphold the law.

That`s one way to deal with this. And that individual, of course, is someone that, if you watch this channel, this news channel, you may be familiar with, because, after leaving government, he has been a legal analyst for us.

His name is, of course, Chuck Rosenberg, a former acting head of the DEA and former prosecutor, and I happen to know someone who does not draw a ton of attention to his history.

Indeed, you didn`t know we put that together. But I don`t mean to put you on the spot. I did want to dig into it, sir. Nice to see you.


MELBER: Why was it important to you to do that then and let your own staff know what the rules are? And how does that apply, in your view, to the obligation of people in leadership and government, police or federal, now?

ROSENBERG: I believe that the men and women of the DEA, the FBI and federal law enforcement know the rules and that they abide them.

But it`s also important for leaders to articulate the rules to set the tone from the top. Look, we have lots of obligations to the American people, to the men and women we lead, and to the mission of our agencies, but we only have oath, to support and defend the Constitution.

And so if, at the very top, there`s a suggestion, an impetus, right, a notion that we`re going to harm people in our custody, we`re going to hurt them, we`re going to violate their civil rights, really, it`s not that complicated, Ari.

Either you do it, which is unlawful, or you leave, which is actually relatively easy. And so I left. I didn`t want to be a part of it. I had served under President Bush. I had served under President Obama. I have great respect for both of those men.

But I could not countenance what the president was saying in that speech to police officers in July of 2017. It is fundamentally at odds with our obligation to take care of people in our custody.

MELBER: How was it received when you said no to what the president had said publicly, and, as I mentioned, to officers in attendance, and you said, this is how the rules work? How was that received?

ROSENBERG: Not well. Well, it depends on who you`re talking about. I mean, some of my superiors were not all pleased. I would say they were not enthralled.

It was clear that I had to leave the post, which was fine. I understood what the consequences of speaking out might be.

One piece of advice I got from a graduate school professor, Ari...


MELBER: Chuck, I want to pause on that and then get to your advice.

But just -- you just said something that I think everyone around the country listening will go, wait, that sounds like a bad sign.

You stood up and said, we are an honorable profession, so we must act honorably. Don`t rough people up. And you just told us that some of your superiors in the Trump administration, that alone was a problem.

ROSENBERG: It seemed to be.

I don`t know that they disagreed with what I said. I think they were unhappy that I said it. Look, you can also ignore the president. It`s not that hard to do these days. And so maybe their feeling was, I shouldn`t have said anything at all, and we just go about our business, and we take care of those in our custody.

That`s a possibility, Ari. You would need to ask them. But my view is, again, that the tone comes from the top, and you simply can`t countenance that type of talk from the president of the United States.

MELBER: And the advice you wanted to share?

ROSENBERG: Yes, a professor who once told me, don`t ever hire anybody for a job who desperately needs it.

You need detachment. You need to be able to walk away. In all of these jobs, right, there are times when you fundamentally disagree perhaps with a policy. That`s OK. Happens all the time. But if you fundamentally -- fundamentally disagree with the tone from the top with an edict or an order, if you`re asked to do something that is unconstitutional or unlawful, or somebody suggests that that is OK, you know it`s not, and you know what you need to do.

Look, it`s a very personal decision. People make these determinations all the time. I`m not here to advise other people on what they should do. But, for me, I couldn`t stay.

MELBER: It`s an important piece of recent history that is so applicable now, which is why we wanted to give it some time.

Chuck Rosenberg, thank you for your service. Thank you for being here.

ROSENBERG: Thank you. Thank you for having me.

MELBER: A hundred percent.

Protesters are gathering for a 10th straight night. New signs that Trumpism is actually on the run.

We will explain when we come back.


MELBER: We`re tracking protests that are now heading into their 10th straight night.

Meanwhile, Barack Obama and John Lewis speaking out about what these protests reveal and what they show about a new generation that`s demanding a reckoning on racial justice.


BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You look at those protests, and that was a far more representative cross-section of America out on the streets peacefully protesting.

REP. JOHN LEWIS (D-GA): I have been so moved and so inspired by seeing hundreds and thousands of people, black, white, Latino, Asian-American, Native American, men, women, people of different background, from all over America.


MELBER: We`re joined now by Jamil Smith. He`s a senior writer with "Rolling Stone."

His latest piece, "American Plague," addresses racism as the underlying condition that explains so much in America and much that needs to change.

Good evening, sir.


MELBER: When you look out at these protests, heading into their second week, maybe a third week, when you see President Obama, who I would argue is not known to be incredibly emotional or hyperbolic. I wouldn`t say that`s his thing in how he talks, tell America, this is to him the greatest social movement of his lifetime, do you agree, and what do you see out there?

SMITH: Well, far be it from me to compare what he`s seen, but I think certainly we`re seeing something that is unlike anything we have seen certainly within, I`d say, the last seven to eight years, since the inception, perhaps, of the Black Lives Matter movement.

We`re seeing people on the street who may not have been previously inclined, first of all, to march, but also we`re seeing them do so at -- really, literally, at the risk of their own lives.

We`re in the midst of a coronavirus pandemic that is still raging right now and that has no treatment, that has no cure. And we`re seeing people essentially risk their lives to plead for our lives.

And I think that there`s certainly some poetry in that. But, really, moreover, we`re seeing folks say, it`s time for us to be held accountable for our privilege, for our station in life. It`s time for us to do to put action behind our words.

And it goes beyond sharing a meme or searching for cookies on Facebook or what have you. It`s -- we have to get it out into the streets, and we have to actually do something.

MELBER: Yes, I mean, far be it for me to make light of anything in this serious time, but it is THE BEAT, Jamil.

Some things demand more than memes.

SMITH: Right.

MELBER: Some things demand more than, oh, wow, we just -- that was so clever, and I shared it, and now we move on, even though, as we all know, art and culture and memes can also address serious stuff.

But there`s more to that.

Talk about serious, you have been working on these issues, working and writing on these issues for a long time. We report on a lot of this. We reported on the Arbery case when the video emerged, before there were charges. We heard from the family lawyer. We heard from other experts.

We heard from civil rights leaders. Then there were finally late charges.

As a journalist, I can`t tell the viewers what was inside the minds of the initial DA, right, because I can`t read his mind.

SMITH: Right.

MELBER: But I can tell viewers that he said many things that were false, that he should know to be false, which makes him a liar.

I can tell you that, after public pressure, there were charges. And now, only now, after all that, down in that other case, are we learning new things that need to be heard, ugly as they are?

Take a listen to the Arbery detective recounting what this shooter and defendant said as Mr. Arbery lay dying. Here we go.


DIAL: Mr. Bryan said that, after the shooting took place, before police arrival, while Mr. Arbery was on the ground, that he heard Travis McMichael make a statement (EXPLETIVE DELETED).


MELBER: As a news organization, we bleep it, but that is the testimonial evidence. That`s the video testimony.

And, Jamil, there was an F-word and an N-word. Your response?

SMITH: Yes. Yes, I mean, unfortunately, it`s going to take that for some people to believe that finally Travis McMichael is a racist.

It wasn`t the evidence that he killed Ahmaud Arbery in broad daylight, after this man was simply going by his business taking a job, but the fact that he actually uses that language. That, unfortunately, in America is the barometer by which too many people measure racism in this country.

So, if it takes that, then, unfortunately, we`re at that point. That being said, there is no hate crime statute in Georgia. And, certainly, I don`t rely upon William Barr, who sicced tear gas and rubber bullets on peaceful protesters in front of the White House the other day, to successfully adjudicate a civil rights prosecution of these men in the Ahmaud Arbery case.

So I certainly don`t have a whole lot of hopes that, even this evidence, we`re going to see a successful hate crimes prosecution.

MELBER: Right, even though the evidence is of a -- as you say, a hate crime.

Jamil, good to have you back on the program. Thank you.

We`re looking here at live shots there in Atlanta and around the country, as we track these protests. This is another area we`re looking at, protests and crowds gathering heading into the 10th night.

We will be right back.


MELBER: We`re continuing to track these protests all over the country, including the nation`s capital, Washington, D.C., where marchers continue. We have seen a lot of action there, as well as on the coasts.

And when we come back tonight, we`re going to do something very special. I urge you to stay with me, because we have been working on a special report that looks exactly at how other presidents have dealt with these protests and what we can learn going forward.

That`s next.


MELBER: As America faces this 10th night of protests, these now familiar scenes still do offer -- think about it -- several contrast to past periods of racial strife.

There`s more public support for the protests than in recent history. Many crowds are more diverse in age and race than previous other efforts.

And one of the sharpest contrasts comes from the top. Unlike all modern examples, Donald Trump is not even going through any motions of urging calm or supporting peace and diversity right now, which past presidents in both parties have strived to do.



GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: American can be proud of the progress we have made toward equality. But we all must recognize we have more to do.

OBAMA: As Americans, we got to use this moment to seek out our shared humanity that`s been laid bare by this moment.

GEORGE H.W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If we are to remain the most vibrant and hopeful nation on Earth, we must allow our diversity to bring us together, not drive us apart. We must build a future where, in every city across this country, empty rage gives way to hope, where poverty and despair give way to opportunity.


MELBER: That last remark was President Bush touting diversity after the infamous LAPD beating of Rodney King, an incident caught on tape at a time before cell phones, when personal video recording was very rare.

Bush`s response shows one standard Trump is failing.

And beyond presidents, there are many other examples set by regular citizens outside of politics. In fact, in the same year Bush was speaking, 1991, another young man raised by a Black Panther leader came forward saying LAPD officers confronted him after he crossed the street and attacked him using a choke hold, slamming his head into the concrete, knocking him unconscious.

He filed a lawsuit and held a public address about it, stressing this was a routine practice against black men. He shared pictures of his wounds. He said he hoped to draw more scrutiny to this because, while he was famous for his music, others couldn`t get the same attention.

This was a then 20-year-old artist named Tupac Shakur.


TUPAC SHAKUR, MUSICIAN: They were charging me with jaywalking, so I was riffing, arguing about, why would they charge him with such a petty crime?

So, I kept yelling, asked them to give me my citation and let me go about my business. Next thing I know, my face was being buried into the concrete, and I was laying face down in the gutter, waking up from being unconscious in cuffs.


MELBER: Waking up from being unconscious.

Today, people are marching about more than that single case in Minnesota. In fact, we hear from so many saying they are fed up, that this is endless.

We need to listen to these statements. And, as with any claim, we need to then listen and see if it`s true. So, we look at the facts and the history, which features these many accounts of this same pattern of brutality.


SHAKUR: For everybody who don`t know, as if it doesn`t happen every day everywhere, I, innocent young black male, was walking down the streets of Oakland minding my own business, and the police department -- next thing I knew, I was in a choke hold, passing out.

If you can see this, Mr. Cameraman, all of this scars I will go to my grave with.

QUESTION: I can see it.

SHAKUR: These are learn to be a (EXPLETIVE DELETED) scars.


QUESTION: Who did that to you?

SHAKUR: Oakland Police Department, all above my eye, all of that.

QUESTION: You are suing them.

SHAKUR: For 10 mil.

QUESTION: We will see what happens.

SHAKUR: What else can I do?


SHAKUR: We will see what happens. You know how that go.


SHAKUR: Rodney King still fighting for his, and they got it on tape.


MELBER: They got it on tape. Yes, they did.

But those officers who beat Rodney King were acquitted in their local trial. The officers who knocked Tupac unconscious, they actually settled his civil suit against them. And Shakur would go on to have several problems with the law.

But when we do this seriously, when we listen to people today and people across history and, yes, people who are no longer here allowed to tell their stories, I think we can hear and we can see, and, if we try, we can feel how, over all these years -- what I just showed you is 25 years old -- too little has changed.

So many of these old stories and pleas, they register today because they apply today. People are asking America to get the police to stop abusing and killing them.

In 1970, in 1991, you just saw, and now in 2020, they`re asking America to get the police to stop killing them under the cover of night or in broad daylight, on tape or off the grid, during normal times or during a pandemic. It`s all the same plea.

America, can you get the police to stop abusing and killing innocent and unarmed people?

And that`s not all. There are core conditions that feed racism and abuse and inequality. These activists and civil rights leaders and artists who have been speaking for this, on this, for so long, we should listen to that too.

Tupac was famous and, apparently infamous among some of those police officers, precisely because he had been speaking out on all of that. He would do so until he died.

So, as America reels right now, and so many people tell us night after night after night that this isn`t just about right now, it`s about the history, it`s about how we got here and continue to be in this place, let`s listen to much of what he said back then that does, sadly, apply today.

Let`s really listen to what we`re learning from people and hearing from people about the system.

And, as you listen to this, our final thought in tonight`s broadcast, I want you to keep in mind what you`re about to see was a young man who was just 23 years old at the time. This was a few years after the incident with the California police.

And he says, when people are hungry and desperate, when people need food, and when people watch their own peaceful leaders murdered as they ask for help, those conditions will shape how people respond.


SHAKUR: Open the door. Let me see the party. Let me see, like, them throwing salami all over the -- I mean, just like throwing food around, but they`re telling me there`s no food in there. You know what I`m saying?

Every day, I`m standing outside trying to sing my way in. You know what I`m saying?

(singing): We are hungry. Please let us in. We are hungry. Please let us in.

After about a week, that song is going to change to:

(singing): We hungry. We need some food.

After two three weeks, it`s like: Give me the food. Breaking down the door.

After years, you are just like, you know what I`m saying, I`m picking the lock, coming through the door blasting. You know what I`m saying? It`s like, you`re hungry. You reached your level. You don`t want anymore.

We asked 10 years ago. We was asking with the Panthers. We was asking with them, the civil rights movement. We was asking.

Now, those people that were asking, they`re all dead and in jail. So, now what do you think we`re going to do? Ask?


MELBER: Let`s keep listening. That`s the sound of a very informed voice narrating why people were fed up.

That was 25 years ago. America faces a larger reckoning now. We fail to listen and act at our own peril.

That`s our broadcast tonight. Keep it right here on MSNBC.