Politics Nation, Transcript 5/28/2017

Guests: Richard Cohen, Dawud Walid, Azi Paybarah, Alma Adams, Paul Berry, Caitlin Swain, William Barber, Sarah Blakely

Show: POLITICS NATION Date: May 28, 2017 Guest: Richard Cohen, Dawud Walid, Azi Paybarah, Alma Adams, Paul Berry, Caitlin Swain, William Barber, Sarah Blakely

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AL SHARPTON, MSNBC HOST: Good morning and welcome to POLITICS NATION.

Earlier this week we saw the horrific terror claimed the lives of several young people at a concert by singer Ariana Grande. President Trump called these perpetrators, quote, "Evil losers in life."

Here in the U.S. just two days before a black Bowie University student Richard Collins III was fatality stabbed by a white student while visiting the University of Maryland. Collins, an army ROTC officer, was just three days away from graduation, and about to begin training to defend the nation from chemical attacks.

The murder is being investigated by the FBI as a possible hate crime with the news that the killer belonged to a racist Facebook group known as Alt- Reich Nation. Yesterday, we learned that two men were killed and another injured trying to defend two Muslim women who were harassed on a Portland, Oregon commuter train. The attacker was shouting anti-Muslim slurs according to reports.

A lot has been written about the rise of white nationalism in the Trump era. To be fair, this growth started in earnest reaction as a reaction to President Obama whose tenure saw a massive increase in the number of hate groups and anti-government militias. Yet, the Trump Department of Homeland Security has de-emphasized the threat these groups pose to focus exclusively on Islamic terror.

So my question this morning is whether the Trump administration is endangering the nation by underplaying homegrown threats in favor of more politically convenient targets abroad?

Joining me now from Montgomery, Alabama, is Richard Cohen, president of the Southern Poverty Law center. From Detroit, Dawud Walid, executive director of the Michigan Chapter of the Council of American Islamic Relations. And here with me, Azi Paybarah, political reporter for Politico.

Let me go to you first, Dawud. The fact that we`re seeing what we saw in Portland. The fact that we`re seeing an increase in hate crimes, the fact that we`re seeing people using their own video parts of their smart phones and camera phones that are recording these things on a daily basis that many of us are getting, and we are not hearing the emphasis from the Trump administration or from homeland security under the Trump administration. They`ve almost exclusively talked about the threat of Muslim terrorists abroad.

How does this measure in terms of raising the level of danger and the level of rhetoric against Muslims in America?

DAWUD WALID, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, CAIR MICHIGAN INC: Well, Reverend Sharpton, you said that correctly. In 2009, the Department of Homeland Security warned our country about the rising threat of white supremacists and white nationalist groups that were involved in domestic terrorism. Since President Trump was voted into office, we`ve seen an uptick in cases in terms of hate crimes against people of color, including Muslims.

What`s really fascinating is that Mr. Trump can go halfway across the world to Saudi Arabia and speak to a group of autocrats against international terrorism or about international terrorism in which some of their governments have helped fuel terrorism, and then he also says that his first thought or his first concern is the safety and security of Americans, yet, he has been very silent. The silence has been deafening in terms of the amount of hate crimes and actual, what I say, white terrorist attacks that have taken place in the United States of America including that white supremist that stabbed those two white males to death that stood up as good Samaritans to protect Muslim women being intimidated on that transit train in Portland, Oregon.

SHARPTON: Yes, in Portland, Oregon. Richard, you documented nobody`s better at this than the Southern Poverty Law Center. How real is the increase in hate crimes? How real is the level of concern for you and others of us in the broader civil rights community to -- this is a real growing problem that has been ignored by this administration for the most part?

RICHARD COHEN, SOUTHERN POVERTY LAW CENTER: Well, we`re quite concerned, Reverend Sharpton. Last year, we saw a tripling in the number of these radical anti-Muslim groups. That followed on a year when the FBI documented about a 67 percent increase in the number of anti-Muslim hate crimes. It`s not just the Trump administration`s response to this problem. Mr. Trump himself has not taken responsibility for how his actions, how his words have roiled the waters.

Mr. Trump`s xenophobic vitriolic campaign coupled with his attacks on political correctness have told many people that the gloves are off and that they are allowed, basically, to act on their worst instincts. He needs to take responsibility for what he`s done and he needs to take action to basically put the genie back in the bottle.

SHARPTON: Azi, how much of this is Donald Trump? How much of this is him playing to the right wing? Because you covered New York. I`ve been very active in civil rights in New York the last decades. I can`t remember attacks in New York. I`m talking about we reached in the 80s when I was involved in leadership going forward, where Trump was a New Yorker, lived in the burro, grew up in a burro? I kept thinking the last three or four decades, he was speaking out on race attacks in New York, best known as we see of now is president dealing broadly. The only attack I ever heard him just speak on was when he was on the wrong side of the central park five case and said those five young men who ended up being innocent should be executed. But he never opened his mouth. Yusef Hawkins, none of them.

AZI PAYBARAH, POLITICAL REPORTER, POLITICO: No. He`s very selective about when he speaks out against these crimes and he`s also very purposely when people say hate crimes committed by whites are on the rise. What Trump and a lot of other supporters seems to argue is that those are isolated incidents, not connected to the president or o his campaign or to the rhetoric that he and his campaign put forward.

When the attacker appears to be Muslim, as we saw what happened in Manchester, there is an instant cry of connecting that to a series of other events. So when it suits their purposes, they say look at the pattern that`s happening on the other side. When people say look what`s happening domestically at home with the rise in the Alt-Reich and white rate crimes, they say, well, those are isolated incidents. And you shouldn`t -- can`t have it both ways. If you`re going to go travel abroad and speak out against extremism, you have to recognize it when it`s here at home.

SHARPTON: Listen to the Maryland congressman, Anthony Brown.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. ANTHONY BROWN (D), MARYLAND: Pretending that the murder of Richard Collins, in cold blood, is an isolated incident will only make the situation worse. One would have to be purposefully obtuse to not see a direct line from the recent elections to the emboldening of the perpetrators across the country. Today, I`m calling on the administration that has repeatedly failed to denounce the hate crimes directed to Jews, members of the LGBT community or immigrants to denounce the hate-fueled killing of a black soldier second lieutenant Richard Collins.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: Second lieutenant, black ROTC, a soldier. Memorial Day weekend this to happen going in. No denouncing of this. The alleged perpetrator, a member of a Facebook Alt-Reich group.

Richard, how can you not hear from the administration about this? And where`s the media? It`s almost been a blackout, or as we would say in the movement circles, a whiteout, of the atrocity of what happened to Collins here.

COHEN: Yeah. You don`t want it to become normal and people ignore it. It`s really wrong. Social norms are fragile. We need leadership in our country both from the pulpit, both from our political leaders to reinforce the social norms that keeps civil society together. Unfortunately, with the kind of rhetoric from the Trump campaign for some of the problems that we`re seeing, I worry that those social norms are unraveling.

SHARPTON: You know, Azi, part of it also is where`s the media? People have asked me all my life, why do you march? Why do you lead marches, protests? Because without that, you don`t get the social attention. Why isn`t the media raising issues like Collins, raising issues like Dawud is saying, more? Why do we have to always have to -- have these -- have street theater to raise the attention, and then we get condemned for doing the street theater which we have to do, otherwise, the unheard will never be heard?

PAYBARAH: It is unfortunate when incidents like this don`t get as much coverage as they deserve. I think one reason why it doesn`t, particularly right now is because there`s so much news coming out of Washington about Donald Trump.

Just look back on Friday when you had "The Washington Post" break a story about Jared Kushner, the president`s son-in-law and top aid wanted to create a "back channel" to the Russians using a Russian facility. This comes not long after a series of other scandals.

SHARPTON: But we found to a way to cover where his wife holds his hand walking down the red carpet. What I`m saying, Dawud, is I think Richard is right about the normalization but it`s about the marginalizing of the lives of people of colors and Muslims and others that I think that those choices need to be challenged even in the media.

WALID: One thing is for sure is our country is not a post racial country. We have this disease of white supremacy in our society that plays itself out more subtle ways. It seems to be that when there`s white attackers, white folks get the benefit of the doubt, and then they`re made or talked about as being anomalies or they somehow are not seen. But then when a person of color doesn`t attack, it gets blown up in the media. They`re all 100 percent seen, and then at the time, it`s used as a type of means of trying to concertize the entire demographics.

So at the end of the day, I believe that why the media has been so silent on this issue, goes back to white privilege and how white folks get the benefit of the doubt and they get minimize the crimes, and the terror they`re involved in. While when it`s people of color, especially if it`s a Muslim, then 1.6 billion people get concertized by a small group of radicals extremist.

SHARPTON: I`m going to have to leave it there. Thank you, Richard Cohen, Dawud Walid, and Azi Paybarah.

Later in the show, fear of white supremacy is driving up sales of guns among black Americans.

Coming up next, former attorney general Eric Holder called it a watershed moment in the fight to end racial gerrymandering. What was he talking about? I`ll tell you when we come back. This is POLITICS NATION on MSNBC.

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SHARPTON: This week, the United States Supreme Court struck down two congressional district maps in North Carolina. Ruling that the state had engaged in an unconstitutional racial gerrymandering. Meaning that it had relied too heavily on race in the drawing the borderlines of those districts like North Carolina voters had argued the new borders packed them in districts that had already had a high percentage of African-Americans. Thus, diluting their presence in other districts.

The ruling may have significant potential implications for the 2018 midterm elections. Former attorney general Eric Holder called it, quote, "A watershed moment in the fight to end racial gerrymandering."

Does the ruling have the potential to affect not just North Carolina but across the south and maybe the nation as a whole?

Joining me now from Charlotte is Congresswoman Alma Adams whose district was one of the two being examined in the case.

Congresswoman, let me just put it to you directly. They were almost just stacking blacks on top of each other in two districts and not having them also in many of the other areas which protected seats, because they didn`t have to worry about an expanded voting electorate. Now that the Supreme Court has found that, how will that impact those districts now that now have to deal with an expanded population and how could this affect districts similar to this around the country as we head into 2018?

REP. ALMA ADAMS (D), NORTH CAROLINA: Well, thank you, Reverend Sharpton. You know, I certainly applaud what the Supreme Court did to uphold the ruling of the lower court that yes, indeed, racial gerrymandering is unconstitutional, and it`s not going to be tolerated. That what it does when you pack all of these African-Americans into a district that`s already full with African-Americans, you dilute our power outside of that.

So, I think it`s going to have a tremendous impact on other districts, similar drawings across this country. And, yes, I believe that as we look toward the 2020 census, it`s going to be important that we pay attention to the 2018 elections of the general assemblies who will actually still, as we have it, will be redrawing and looking at the drawing of new districts.

So we`re hopeful that this ruling will have an impact not only in North Carolina but across the country. They`re going to probably have to -- when they draw them, gerrymandering racial gerrymandering will not be tolerated.

SHARPTON: I`m glad you mentioned about the local general assemblies. Because the lines are drawn by the local state legislators. A lot of people talk about the congressional races, but the congressional lines are actually drawn by their local state legislators and people have to focus on voting for that. But the racial aspect of this, you and I have talked about and it`s clear. But it`s also politically where they do this because they feel most blacks will vote democratic. A lot of the republicans feel they are safe in the midterm elections no matter how unpopular Donald Trump may be, if their districts are carved with people that are most likely to vote republican, no matter what. The politics of this is basically undemocratic.

ADAMS: Well, you`re absolutely right. The majority of the democrats are African-American, and so they used really the partisan aspect as well, so we do have some issues.

Folks need to make sure that we have -- that we elect people to the general assembly who are going to be fair, who will look at drawing these lines if, in fact, they`re going to continue to draw them. So that they represent the state. North Carolina has 13 folks in the congress. Ten of those are republicans. Three are democrats. That is not reflective of our state. We have more democrats registered here in North Carolina. We almost have a 50/50. So we need to make sure that our citizens are represented fairly, and that would mean that we should have equal representation, at least, in our congress.

SHARPTON: Well, I`m glad at least one of those congress people is you who has really stood up and fought these fights. Thank you so much for joining us, Congresswoman Alma Adams.

ADAMS: Thank you, Reverend Sharpton. And thank you for all your work. We appreciate it.

SHARPTON: Thank you.

Up next, what every kid should do while getting a haircut. Stay tuned.

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SHARPTON: On this Memorial Day weekend, we wanted to show some love to a young brother, children`s author and comedian, Alvin Irby who has committed himself do getting young boys of color to read while they get a nice shapeup in the barber`s chair. We caught up with Irby at master barber Polo Greene`s shop in Harlem to hear how his organization "barbershop Books," is improving child literacy one fade at the time.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ALVIN IRBY, AUTHOR: My name is Alvin Irby. I`m the founder and chief reading inspirer at "Barbershop Books." My role is to help inspire young black boys and other boys to fall in love with reading. That is what I`m doing each and every day. The mission of "Barbershop Books" is to help young black boys and other boys of color to identify as readers by connecting books and reading to a male-centered space and by involved a man and boys early reading experiences

People ask me all the time, why barbershops. There are a lot of spaces in the community where boys might be sitting or waiting for a while but none of those spaces are male-centered spaces that create an opportunity for men to be involved on a regular basis.

There are thousands if not millions of young black boys who never see a black man reading in school or encouraging them to read. Many of them may not have relevant male reading models at home. However, a lot of those same boys come to the barbershop every month, some of them twice a month. And so there`s this unique opportunity to really leverage the cultural significance of the barbershop and the relationships that barbers have with young boys to help them identify as readers.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Since I had the books, I have had kids come into the shop and literally walk over to the Barbershop Book stand and grab a book. It`s a beautiful program that helps the children read. It helps the parents connect with their children even more and helps the parents read to the children. And it also gives the kids a chance to read on their own. I hope that all barbershops, everywhere, will pick up this program, because this is a very good program for all the barbershops and all the children that come in. Boys and girls.

IRBY: At the end of the day, what "Barbershop Books" wants to do is to get young black boys to say three words, I`m a reader.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: Thanks again to Alvin Irby and "Barbershop Books."

A quick note. If you want to donate or volunteer with "Barbershop Books," please visit barbershopbooks.org.

And now a quick update on our friend Lesley McSpadden. She`s the mother of Michael Brown, the 18-year-old black man who was fatality shot by a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri. Along with that she`s been continuing to advocate for the memory of her son, but she graduated from Jennings High School outside of St. Louis Friday as part of an adult education program she helped to start. Completing that family affair, her daughter, Deja Brown, also received her diploma. I`ve known the family for three years now, and we at POLITICS NATION wish both women the very best.

When we come back, more and more African-Americans are buying guns since Donald Trump took office. Is that a good thing or a bad thing? That debate in just a moment.

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SHARPTON: The story of legal gun ownership among black Americans is as combustible as it is complex. Some have contended that modern gun control begins not with school shootings but with the Black Panther Party for self- defense. Who in May of 1967 legally entered the California state house, brandishing shotguns and pistols to protest a bill proposed specifically to restrict their gun rights.

The visual of legally armed black revolutionaries prompted then Governor Ronald Reagan to sign the bill into law forbidding public carrying of loaded firearms. That and other incidents of the era prompted lawmakers to pass the first national gun control legislation of the post war era. Launching the gun debate as we know it. A debate that dogged the Obama administration where sales exploded under the right wing`s assumption that ownership would be restricted.

But NBC News has found that it is African-Americans that are now increasingly taking up legal arms in the Trump era. While the buyers are diverse in age and gender, the reasoning is singular. They don`t trust the Trump administration to protect them from the rise of white supremist aggression that we`ve seen in the past year.

Joining me now from St. Louis is Paul Berry who ran for congress as a republican in 2016. He is now host of "Show Me Politics" TV.

You have been an advocate for this, Paul. Tell me why and what you think is achieved by blacks buying and owning more guns?

PAUL BERRY, CONSERVATIVE ACTIVIST: Good morning and happy Sunday, Reverend Sharpton.

SHARPTON: Thank you.

BERRY: First and foremost, I want to clarify. This is sort of a misconception. I`m not actually for arming people. What I do believe is that regardless of who you are, race, creed, ZIP code or financial background, that you have access to the United States constitution. Now, currently in the constitution the second amendment provides that a person may bear arms. My position is always been simple. You should not be fearful as an African-American to open-carry, concealed-carry, or own a gun just like in anywhere else in America. And I believe that your constitutional right should not be watered down like ordering a pizza from your local pizza place.

So for myself, if you support the first amendment right to protest, you have to protect the second amendment right. If you support the rights to a jury trial, you got to support the rights of civil rights. For myself, it`s open-carry, conceal-carry, no-carry. Every citizen should have an equal opportunity access. Where I get frustrated, Reverend, is that when we have politicians that lay on the congressional floor yelling no buy, to me, what we have to do is we have to talk about the real issues and the real issue is illegal gun ownership. And violence.

SHARPTON: But I think that some that lay on the floor yelling no buy also are saying that across the board, and they`re not concerned about just telling blacks not to be able to have the same constitutional rights as others, but to really deal with the fact of gun ownership, but the other aspect of this, and I agree. We must have equal execution of our constitutional rights.

But let`s be serious, Paul. Blacks riding around with guns given the racial dynamics even with law enforcement, is a lot different than other Americans. And aren`t we also setting up situations that could lead to more shootings? Oh, he had a gun. I felt he was going to shoot. The danger of that, I think, has to be entered into this conversation, because we can`t act like everyone is equally treated when they`re viewed even by law enforcement if they`re carrying a weapon.

BERRY: Well, what you said was very articulate. My response is this. If you have a situation where -- we have two paths we can take here, Reverend. Path A is the path of the shadows. That we`re going to live in the shadows of the constitution and we`re not going to express our rights as others.

In the second path, we`re going to have sunshine. We`re going to have light, and we`re going to respect the fact that we have these constitutional rights. You know, in St. Louis, my hometown, we have the highest by death rates regarding toddlers. But you know why that comes? Why that happens and why it`s not happening in rural America? Because people in rural America are teaching their children firearm safety. Here in these urban areas, they say if you teach somebody how to be safe with a gun, that you`re supporting gun ownership. I don`t agree with that.

SHARPTON: I think you`re being very articulate in your answer, but you`re not addressing what I`m saying. Let`s put the sunlight on it. The sunlight says that people are treated differently that are gun owners based on who they are. I`m not saying operate in the shade. I`m saying that how people relate to people that own guns are shady, depending on their skin texture and depending on who they are and in some cases, even whether they`re Muslim or not.

So if we`re going to put the sunlight on, put the sunlight on the disparities that plays into that if I teach my child one thing, it is not the same as another American teaching their child just from the optics of who has the gun.

BERRY: How do you address -- Reverend, respectfully, how do you address the disparities if we`re going to say all black people aren`t going to own guns?

SHARPTON: No. Maybe by dealing with gun control for everybody since you seemingly can`t control the ending of racial disparities. Let me tell you, Paul, what bothers me. Let me show you a clip of what a man said that is not what you`re saying. This is the kinds of things that we`re talking about that I`m concerned about.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KARL JONES, REVEREND: Several times. He`s told his people to protect yourselves. He told them to look out for the enemy. So we have no problem with that when people come and say, oh, the church will be -- no, the God that I serve was a God of wrath, vengeance, protection, watching out for his own.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: So that`s the kind of thing that bothers me. I`ve been a follower of Martin Luther King`s ideology all my life mentored by -- I have Jesse Jackson, Wyatt Tee Walker. So I believe in a resaving of America`s soul, not that we ought to be the ones with vengeance. You have people out here actually preaching, get a gun, have vengeance and all, which I understand anger. I understand fear. I understand self-protection as we see these militia groups rising.

But I also understand we`re not playing on an even playing field. So even if you don`t have the commitment to nonviolence that I have, you`ve got to have the reality of that you are treated differently, and are we setting people up for more danger, more situations like we`ve seen?

BERRY: And what I believe in this situation what we need to do as a people is have an honest conversation. So if I carry a gun on my hip inside a Walmart in the state of Missouri, as a practicing bail bondsman, do I get a couple I cuts? Yeah. The bottom-line is this. We`re going to make sure that we have the same constitutional rights as all others and so say we`re going to restrict them for everybody. We`re not being realistic in the time of who our president is, who our congress is, so what are we going to do, Al Sharpton? Are we going to sit there and wait, OK, for four, eight years, or ever long you think for there`s another chance, different administration? St. Louis can`t wait.

Right now, we are the number one murder capital of the United States. We rank higher than Honduras in murders per capita.

SHARPTON: You also are at Ferguson where there wasn`t a gun. You also where there`ve been other police shootings. I`m not talking about waiting. I`m talking about dealing right now and let`s not wait for them to one day say that we have equal constitutional rights when we`re not protected under the present laws now without guns. Imagine if we had more of us with guns.

Let`s continue this debate in the future. I thank you for coming on though. You`re a very good guest. Thank you, Paul Berry.

BERRY: I thank you too. Happy Sunday. My mother`s from Chicago says hello.

SHARPTON: Tell her hello from me.

BERRY: Absolutely.

SHARPTON: Special thanks though for the NBC`s Trymaine Lee for the original reporting on this story.

Up next, it happened more than two decades ago. But now things may finally change and set free an innocent man. Details after the break.

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SHARPTON: Welcome back. It happened more than two decades ago. But now things may finally change for Dontae Sharpe. Sharpe was convicted in 1995 of killing George Radcliffe. One of the key witnesses against him, a 15- year-old girl who said she saw him a drug dealer at the time shoot Radcliffe recanted her story two years later.

Sharpe has maintained his innocence since the day he was arrested. He even denied a plea deal offered to him, his family and friends have recently presented nearly 80,000 signatures on a petition asking for his release.

And this month the county district attorney has announced they`re conducting another investigation into the case that led to Dontae`s conviction.

Joining me now, Dontae`s mother, Sarah Blakely. Caitlin Swain, an attorney with the advancement project who`s helping the family in the case. And the Reverend William Barber, former president of North Carolina NAACP chapter. Now the president of Repairers of the Breach, and a pastor of Green Leaf Christian Church of Disciples of Christ in North Carolina.

Let me go to you, Reverend Barber. You brought this to my attention. And I`m going to be joining you down there on this case. What spoke to your heart that you`ve been so diligent on this case, and advocating for Dontae?

WILLIAM BARBER, FORMER PRESIDENT, NORTH CAROLINA NAACP: Well, thank you so much, Reverend Al. It`s good to be with you and with Caitlin with the forward justice and Duke Innocence Project. The NAACP and color for change and now with you coming on, this is a powerful case. This man has been in jail over 22 years for a crime he did not commit. The witness has recanted for more than 20 years. There was no physical evidence in this case. The young man has refused to take plea deals that would have let him out because he says, I`m innocent. I can`t do it for over 20-some years.

The suspect that actually did the crime, there was evidence of who it was, and it has not been pursued. There was collusion by the judicial system in the county and the cops, and they know that this man is innocent. That`s why we`re calling for an independent review, even beyond the current DA. The DA in the county, Governor Roy Cooper and the Attorney General Stein can change this wrong.

Over 22 years the state has gotten it wrong. And Reverend Al, it`s immoral, it`s wrong. Dontae Sharpe should be out. He has not seen his children. He`s not seen his grandchildren. He should be contributing to society. I visited him in the prisons several times. Even the guards, they know this is an innocent man who should not be in jail.

SHARPTON: Caitlin, why has it taken so long to address this if two years later the eyewitness recanted? I mean, what was the reasoning behind this prosecution zeroing in on Dontae?

CAITLIN SWAIN, ATTORNEY: Well, Reverend Sharpton, first of all, thank you so much for having us with you this morning.

From the perspectives of the attorneys who have worked on this case including the Duke Law Innocence Project which has worked on it for more than a decade, one of the major problems here is that the criminal justice system is designed to look backwards. It is designed -- we are not able to apologize when we get things wrong.

Every objective court that has looked at this case has, in fact, found that it was irreparably -- it was an irreparable, unconstitutional wrongful conviction. In fact, in 2010 a federal court found Dontae innocent and ordered his immediate release. That decision was overturned by the fourth circuit. That is why we`ve been back fighting again at the Pitt County and state level to finally get justice in this case for a man who, as Reverend Barber has said, has shown such integrity, not being willing to accept a plea deal that would have allowed him to leave prison, but required him to admit to a crime that he did not commit.

SHARPTON: Miss Blakely, I know this has had to be a tremendous burden on you as his mother, and the family. But you must have pride that he would not plea to something that he didn`t do, even though he`s been in jail all of this time. He seems to have a resolve. Tell us how you`ve had to live through these last over two decades with your son who said he`s innocent and won`t take a plea deal and you feel as a mother he`s there doing time, missing the core years of his life for something he didn`t do.

SARAH BLAKELY, MOTHER OF DONTAE SHARPE: Well, Reverend Sharpton, it`s been hard. I guess going to the prison to see him, and him having the smiles and the energy and has kept me going all for these 22 years. And I think the thing that really gets me the most is that like the Reverend Barber just said, he has a daughter that they really haven`t bonded and he has two grandchildren. He`s seen one and not the other. But it`s been -- it`s like a strange relationship, it has caused so much strain on the family.

My sister used to be with me from the time Dontae was arrested until about two years ago and she passed of lung cancer. That was kind of hard on Dontae. That was my fighter with me also and it`s been just real a big strain. It`s been something that -- I guess what I talk to -- I`m trying to live up to myself. You know, when you`re innocent of something, I always talk to -- I tell him not to own up to something he didn`t do. If you`re guilty, then you accept whatever and you go on. But if you`re innocent not to take nothing. To me, it`s a coward. So I always taught them do what`s right, say what`s right, and be right.

SHARPTON: I`m out of time, but Reverend Barber, this is what Repairers of the Breach really means, the group you`re leading now, to stand in the gap and repair where there`s been an injustice and a break in what the country should be about.

BARBER: Exactly. We`re looking forward to you coming with National Action Network here. The governor can pardon him tomorrow. The DA can say, look, I want an independent review. Dontae is ready for the independent review and the attorney general could give an independent review and this tragedy could be -- this tragedy could be overturned. The fact of the matter is North Carolina has had the highest rate of black being exonerated from prison and death than any other state in the country.

SHARPTON: All right. I appreciate that. Reverend William Barber, my friend and Sarah Blakely and Caitlyn Swain. You all continue to stand and we will continue to report this.

Listen to this. Listen to this. Alabama this week, Governor Kay Ivey signed a bill into law which restores voting rights to thousands of felons. Until now the state has barred anyone with a felony conviction from voting. Not anymore. As under the new law, voting rights are taken away only from those who have committed a specific set of felonies freeing thousands to register and take part in democracy once again. My congratulations to my brother Reverend Kenny Glasgow and others for that fight.

Up next, what we should be thinking about on this Memorial Day. Stay with us.

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SHARPTON: Tomorrow is Memorial Day where we remember the men and women who served in the military that lost their lives for this country. I protested various wars, various military engagements all my life. But not protested those that were engaged in military service who lost their lives fighting for my right to protest. Fighting for our right to live the life we have lived. Let`s not confuse the politics of the war with those that gave their lives in duty. And let`s not forget those that loved the country, even when the country didn`t show them love.

Blacks who fought in armed services and died, some that came home and had to sit behind enemies that could ride the front of the bus when they had to ride the back, could vote. Couldn`t even buy a cup of coffee with some of those that they fought abroad could sit down and eat what they want, and sleep in whatever hotels. Tomorrow, I`ll be remembering the real patriots, the Percy Suttons, the Roscoe Browns, Tuskegee airmen, those that fought enemies abroad and fought them home. Happy Memorial Day to all who that had served.

That does it for me. Thanks for watching. I`ll see you back here next Sunday.

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