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Transcript: The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell, 4/7/21

Guests: Julian Castro, Beto O`Rourke, Kirk Burkhalter, Marq Claxton, Jennifer Palmieri, Kim Janey


In an interview with "The Dallas Morning News," former Obama administration Attorney General Eric Holder sharply criticized pending legislation in Texas that would limit voting hours, restrict the number of voting machines at county-wide polling places, ban election officials from sending out unsolicited mail ballot applications to voters and provide more access at election sites to poll workers. Today on day eight of the trial of Derek Chauvin for the murder of George Floyd, the jury was told that police use of deadly force does not always involve a gun. It is now just over 24 hours since "The New York Times" reported that Congressman Matt Gaetz privately asked the White House for blanket pre-emptive pardons for himself and unidentified congressional allies for any crimes they may have committed. When Boston`s long-time Mayor Marty Walsh was confirmed as Joe Biden`s Secretary of Labor, city council president, Kim Janey became the acting mayor of the city of Boston, the city`s first black mayor, the city`s first woman mayor.



And you introduced Kim Janey to the country when she became acting mayor of Boston when Mayor Marty Walsh went on to become`s Joe Biden`s labor secretary. And tonight, Kim Janey, acting mayor of Boston, will be joining us because she`s just announced she is going to run for mayor of Boston, in the election coming up in November.

It`s a crowded field she`s jumping into. Some candidates are ahead of her on fund raising already. But she is jumping into the race. She`s going to join me at the end of the hour tonight.

And I just can`t wait because this mayoral campaign is already the most interesting, most dynamic campaign for mayor in Boston in my lifetime and I watched them all.

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: The fact that Boston has never, ever, ever had anyone other than a white male mayor, that they have had Irish-American or Italian-American mayors for 91 straight years and now, they`ve got Kim Janey and she`s running in field for a full term that is also full of lots of people of color. I mean, it`s such a fascinating turning point, such a fascinating touchstone for Boston and she`s obviously got the power of incumbency on her side now because she`s acting mayor right now. That`s going to be an amazing thing to see.

O`DONNELL: And, Rachel, the one thing they don`t have in the current lineup of major candidates is a white male candidate for mayor of Boston. So, it is a new Boston and it is exciting to watch.

MADDOW: Yeah. That`s fascinating. I can`t wait to see that interview. Well done, my friend.

O`DONNELL: Thank you, Rachel.

Well, a Lone Star state has two big stars of the Democratic Party, former Congressman Beto O`Rourke and former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julian Castro, and they will both be joining us together in just a moment to lead off our discussion tonight and that makes me more than a bit nervous, about what I`m about to say about Texas because we have two Texas experts joining us in a minute to quickly correct anything I get wrong.

Texas hasn`t voted for a Democrat for president since Jimmy Carter won Texas in 1976, but it seems Texas Republicans are now very afraid of Texas becoming the next Georgia, the next southern Republican state to go Democratic.

And in an interview with "The Dallas Morning News," former Obama administration Attorney General Eric Holder sharply criticized pending legislation in Texas that would limit voting hours, restrict the number of voting machines at county-wide polling places, ban election officials from sending out unsolicited mail ballot applications to voters and provide more access at election sites to poll workers.

The -- "what the hell does that have to do with election integrity", Holder told the Dallas Morning News. They have come up with diabolical ways in which to cripple people from getting the polls and get there in a really easy way.

Texas had its largest voter turnout in decades in the last election when 66 percent of Texas 17 million registered voters cast a ballot in the presidential election. According to the Brennan Center for Justice, the Texas legislature is currently considering right now more than 100 proposals to severely restrict vote rights and voting access.

On Thursday, the state Senate passed Senate bill 7 which would limit extended early voting hours, prohibit drive-thru voting, ban local election officials from proactively sending vote by mail applications and allow poll watchers to video-record voters receiving assistance in filling out their ballots. Election officials in Texas largest county, Harris County, which includes the city of Houston estimate that Black and Hispanic voters cast more than half of the votes counted at drive thru voting sites during extended voting hours.

House bill 6 which is awaiting a committee vote would restrict access to mail-in ballots and create new rules restricting how voters can receive help filling out the ballots. Two large companies based in Texas, Dell and American Airlines, have announced their opposition to the new legislation.

In a virtual event yesterday, our first guests tonight, Julian Castro and Beto O`Rourke, called on the Texas business community to join the opposition to the legislation.


JULIAN CASTRO, FORMER SECRETARY OF HOUSING AND URBAN DEVELOPMENT: This is a Republican Party power grab. The Republican Party in Texas is trying to bring back Jim Crow style voter suppression to this state. They`re trying to achieve in Texas what they tried to achieve in Georgia, and companies have a choice to make.

FORMER REP. BETO O`ROURKE (D-TX): We can do it now. We still have time. But I want these companies to know. If you fail to act, if you fail to step up, please know that the very hottest places in Texas will be reserved for those companies who maintain the neutrality in a moment of moral crisis.

So we`re inviting you in. There`s still time to act. Please do.


O`DONNELL: Leading off our discussion, Beto O`Rourke, former Democratic congressman representing El Paso, Texas. He`s the founder of Powered By People, a grassroots organization with the goal of electing Democrats in Texas.

Also with us, Julian Castro, former secretary of housing and urban development in the Obama administration, and the former mayor of San Antonio, Texas.

Secretary Castro, let me begin with you. What has changed in the Texas legislature since the last election? What has stimulated all this new interest in voting regulations?

CASTRO: You know, Lawrence, I don`t know that much has changed. This is the more things change, the more they stay the same. You may remember it from a number of years, Republicans have been afraid of losing their grip on power. The state`s demographics have been changing. In fact, demographers estimated in 2021, Hispanics would become the plurality in Texas and over the next few years, then this would become firmly even more majority/minority state.

Similar legislation to this failed a couple of years ago but I think what has these Republicans in a frenzy now is that they see the gains that Democrats have been making in different parts of the state. You take places like Fort Bend County that have become more diverse or the corridor between San Antonio and Georgetown that is suburban and gone more and more Democratic. So I think what`s amped up, what`s changed sort to speak is the fear level that they face.

On top of that, I also think that they know that they can`t win elections for much longer in Texas through good old-fashioned honest campaigning. And so they need to engage in this point shaving system to just chip away at the ability of communities that they believe are going to vote against them, to get out there and exercise their right to vote.

And what we have as a result are the pieces of legislation that you pointed out. They`re trying to do in Texas what they have tried to do in Georgia. Bring Jim Crow-style voter suppression and intimidation to this state.

O`DONNELL: Beto O`Rourke, I really don`t know how important corporate opposition to this is in the Texas legislature, but I do know that I`ve never seen Mitch McConnell more flustered where he got to the point of saying that business just has to stay out of politics and that`s from a guy who I have watched through his entire career spending every day of his life -- I mean literally -- every single day begging corporations for their money for his political campaigns and the campaigns of Republicans.

And so with Mitch McConnell left flustered, I guess the corporate power must mean something.

O`ROURKE: It will about snap your neck to try to follow McConnell and other Republicans telling us that corporations are people and money is -- corporations should spend unlimited amounts of money to purchase influence or maybe outright outcomes in our elections. And then to say this, which is essentially corporations stay out of our politics.

AT&T headquartered in Texas gave more than $574,000 just over the last two years to Greg Abbott, our governor, Dan Patrick, our lieutenant governor, and the authors of these voter suppression bills that Secretary Castro was just telling us about.

So they`re already a player in the politics and frankly they`re financing hateful, voter suppressive, anti-black, anti-Mexican-American legislation like this and they owe their employees, they owe their customers, they owe the state their ability to step up and stand out and speak to this and make sure that they apply the kind of pressure necessary along with all of us in Texas to get the state to do the right thing. There`s still time for us to act.

O`DONNELL: Georgia`s Republican lieutenant governor says that the inspiration for all of these laws, Georgia, Texas, elsewhere, is the madness of Rudy Giuliani. Let`s listen to this.


LT. GOV. GEOFF DUNCAN (R), GEORGIA: This is really the fallout from the ten weeks of misinformation that flew in for former President Trump and, really, I went back over the weekend to really look at where this really started to gain momentum in the legislature and it was when Rudy Giuliani showed up in a couple of committee rooms and spend hours spreading misinformation and sowing doubt across hours of testimony.


O`DONNELL: Secretary Castro, your reaction to that?

CASTRO: I mean, it is not surprising, right? Rudy Giuliani has been the source of so many crazy theories, ideas over the last few years but look, what we have seen is a radicalization of the Republican Party during the Trump era, where conspiracy theories become fact for them. And more and more naked power grabs. They`re not even pretending anymore really that this is about good governance or voter security. They mouth the words but pretty much they admit that this is a power grab for them.

And the good news and why it`s so important that folks like Congressman O`Rourke have been out there calling on companies to say something is that whereas in Georgia, it was great that Delta Air Lines came out against the legislation, but you know what? They did it too late. The legislation had already passed.

The difference here is that we still have a chance to stop this legislation in Texas. That`s why it`s so important for whether it`s AT&T or Southwest Airlines or USAA or any other big Texas companies to use their resources and their influence to stop this.

O`DONNELL: All of these companies have lobbyists, Texas lobbyists, Washington lobbyists. Most of those lobbyists used to work in the legislature as staff members or members of the legislature.

And, Beto O`Rourke, to those lobbyists, do they have the access to get into the offices and change this legislation or block this legislation?

O`ROURKE: It certainly could have an influence and we saw when Texas Republicans in 2017 proposed a hateful (AUDIO GAP) that when every day Texas citizens and responsible corporations stepped up, they were able to stop that. They were able to stop it because it was the wrong thing to do morally and able to make an economic case that this would deeply harm our state.

I think there`s a very similar, moral and economic case to make right now. According to the Texas Civil Rights Project, we can see losses in Texas over the next four years of up to $15 billion.

But one quick point, Lawrence, on this circular logic by the Republicans, Dan Patrick, our lieutenant governor, offered a million dollar bounty for anyone finding voter fraud. No money was able to find any. No money was paid out.

When the chairman of the house committee, Briscoe Cain, was asked for evidence of voter fraud, he couldn`t point to a single case but said the voters I talked to the in the district are concerned about it. They`re concerned about it because Rudy Giuliani and Briscoe Cain and our attorney general and lieutenant governor and governor are all trafficking in the big lie that too many people, too many fellow Americans believe in now.

The responsible thing to do is to tell the truth and stop this voter suppression legislation. We can do it in Texas.

O`DONNELL: Well, tonight, the Lone Star State is the two star state here in THE LAST WORD, with Beto O`Rourke and Julian Castro starting us off. Thank you both very much for starting off the conversation tonight. We really appreciate it.

And please come back as a team. This was fun.

O`ROURKE: You got it.

CASTRO: Thanks, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: Thank you both. Thank you.

And coming up, today, the trial of Derek Chauvin for the murder of George Floyd. In that trial, the jury learned that police use of deadly force does not always involve gunshots. We`ll be joined once again by the experts, former NYPD detectives Marq Claxton and Kirk Burkhalter.

And at the end of the hour tonight, we will be joined by the first black woman mayor of Boston who has announced she is running to be Boston`s next mayor. Kim Janey will join us at the end of the hour and she will get tonight`s last word.


O`DONNELL: Today on day eight of the trial of Derek Chauvin for the murder of George Floyd, the jury was told that police use of deadly force does not always involve a gun.


PROSECUTOR: Do you have an opinion to a degree of reasonable professional certainty whether the force used as shown in exhibit 254, whether that force being applied then for the restraint period which you have defined as 9:29 could constitute deadly force?


PROSECUTOR: What is that opinion?


PROSECUTOR: Why is that?

STIGER: Because at the time of the restraint period Mr. Floyd was not resisting. He was in the prone position. He was handcuffed. He was not attempting to evade. He was not attempting to resist.

And the pressure that he was -- that was being caused by the body weight would -- to cause positional asphyxia which could cause death.

PROSECUTOR: Sir, do you have an opinion to a degree of reasonable or professional certainty how much force was reasonable for the defendant to use on Mr. Floyd after Mr. Floyd was handcuffed, placed in the prone position and not resisting?


PROSECUTOR: What is that opinion?

STIGER: My opinion was that no force should have been used once he was in that position.

(END VIDEO CLIP) O`DONNELL: Once again today, the defense returned to the theory that George Floyd was still in a position to threaten Derek Chauvin even when George Floyd was lying face down on the pavement with Derek Chauvin`s knee on his neck and Derek Chauvin`s other neon his back with two other police officers holding George Floyd down on the pavement.


ERIC NELSON, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Oftentimes, people who become compliant after a struggle start to struggle again, right?

STIGER: In certain instances, yes.

NELSON: It happens. Right?

STIGER: Yes, it does.

NELSON: Someone who said almost like catch the wind again, right, and start fighting again, right?

STIGER: In certain instances, yes, but in most cases, officers are trained that you can only go by what the suspect`s actions are at the time. You can say, well, I thought he or she was going to do this, then I was going to use this force.


STIGER: It has to be based on their actions.


O`DONNELL: Joining us now, Kirk Burkhalter, a criminal law professor at New York law school where he`s the director of the 21st Century Policing Project, and Marq Claxton, director of the Black Law Enforcement Alliance. Both are former New York City police detectives.

And, Professor Burkhalter, let me begin with you today.

That stressing to the jury about deadly force, and the message that obviously it does not only involve guns and bullets.

KIRK BURKHALTER, NYU SCHOOL OF LAW CRIMINAL LAW PROFESSOR: Sure. That`s very important point because whenever we use the term deadly force in the context of police most often that`s what people think of, a police officer firing his weapon. However, deadly force can also certainly be the application of a force that is strong enough to take the life from someone that doesn`t involve a weapon at all.

So, naturally, if you use your hands and choke someone causing asphyxia, use a strike in the head or body in some type of blunt force trauma, that, too, can cause death. So it`s very important point for the jury to understand here.

O`DONNELL: There was another point raised by this LAPD police sergeant who`s an expert in these matters saying that the position itself can be dangerous that George Floyd was in no matter how much pressure was on his body and his neck. Let`s listen to that.


STIGER: Positional asphyxia can occur even if there is no pressure, no body weight on a subject. Just being in that position and especially being handcuffed creates a situation where the person has a difficult time breathing which can cause death. When you add body weight to that, then it just increases the possibility of death.

PROSECUTOR: And what additional weight did you see in the analysis here?

STIGER: The defendant`s body weight and two other individuals, two other officers.


O`DONNELL: Marq Claxton, that changed the dynamic for the jury about what they look at of how much weight, how much pressure is Derek Chauvin putting on George Floyd`s neck.

MARQ CLAXTON, BLACK LAW ENFORCEMENT ALLIANCE DIRECTOR: Yeah. And what`s key about the expert witness` testimony as he indicated it`s over 20 years of discussion (AUDIO GAP) so surprising the Minneapolis still had tactical training that involves (AUDIO GAP) grappling or jujitsu movement and increases the risk that (AUDIO GAP) coming out -- the dangers of AUDIO GAP) and requiring that police officers AUDIO GAP) critical decision making. Evaluate and reassess before continuing that movement.

O`DONNELL: I want to take a look at testimony that the defense lawyer elicited. He was playing a piece of audio tape and suggesting to two witnesses in a row that what they were hearing was George Floyd saying I ate too many drugs. Each witness said they couldn`t make out what George Floyd was saying.

Then he put the words in their mind and the first witness said, no, I still don`t hear it. Second witness had a different run through this testimony. Let`s listen to this.



NELSON: Did you hear?

WITNESS: Yes, I did.

NELSON: Did it appear he said I ate too many drugs?

WITNESS: Yes, I did.

PROSECUTOR: Having heard it in context, are you able to tell what Mr. Floyd is saying there?

WITNESS: Yes. I believe Mr. Floyd was saying I ain`t do no drugs.


O`DONNELL: Kirk Burkhalter, you have been in enough criminal trials to see switches like that are pretty rare but there`s a witness who went from affirming the defense theory after first saying he couldn`t make it out at all and saying, yeah, I think he said I ate too many drugs and then when more of that very same audio piece was played he then believed that he heard was I ain`t do no drugs.

What do you make of that exchange?

BURKHALTER: I don`t think that exchange was as helpful as it should have been for the prosecution and it could be a couple reasons here. One simply could be a witness responding without taking a moment to think about the question that he was being asked. The other could do with preparation. This was the prosecution`s witness so their job to prepare the witness not to tell them what to say but to prepare what they may be asked.

What`s the concern here for the prosecution is you had a witness give two separate statements and now it`s up to the jury to choose which statement to believe as opposed to providing one statement for the jury to believe.

O`DONNELL: And we`ll find out in the medical examiner`s testimony just how important any discussion of drugs is.

Kirk Burkhalter and Marq Claxton, thank you both very much for joining us tonight. Really appreciate it.

CLAXTON: Thanks.

BURKHALTER: You`re welcome.

O`DONNELL: Thank you.

And coming up, Congressman Matt Gaetz issued what Washington sometimes a non-denial denial to "The New York Times" story he asked the Trump White House for a blanket pre-emptive pardon for himself and members of Congress. John Heilemann and Jennifer Palmieri join us, next.


O`DONNELL: It is now just over 24 hours since "The New York Times" reported that Congressman Matt Gaetz quote "privately asked the White House for blanket pre-emptive pardons for himself and unidentified congressional allies for any crimes they may have committed".

"The Times" said it was unclear if Gaetz knew he was under federal investigation at the time. And we have a no denial-denial from Congressman Matt Gaetz. Today Congressman Gaetz issued the old what Washington used to call the nondenial denial saying "Our office does not have a statement at this time. We do request everyone to update their stories with the full statement from President Donald Trump."

We will now update our story with that full statement from Donald Trump. "Congressman Matt Gaetz has never asked me for a pardon. It must also be remembered that he had totally denied the accusations against him."

But "The New York Times" never said that Matt Gaetz asked Donald Trump directly for a pardon and so Matt Gaetz still has not denied what "The New York Times" has reported about Matt Gaetz asking the White House for a blanket pre-emptive pardon for himself and other members of Congress.

Tonight NBC News has confirmed a report earlier tonight from CBS News. CBS News reported "Federal investigators are looking into a Bahamas trip Matt Gaetz allegedly took in late 2018 or early 2019 as part of an inquiry into whether the Florida representative violated sex trafficking laws, multiple sources told CBS News.

Gaetz was on that trip with a marijuana entrepreneur, a hand surgeon named Jason Pirozzolo who allegedly paid for the travel expenses, accommodations and female escorts, the sources said. Investigators are trying to determine if the escorts were illegally trafficked across state or international lines for the purpose of sex with the Congressman."

MSNBC reached out to Jason Pirozzolo but received no response. Congressman Gaetz reiterated his denial of any criminal conduct but characterized the new investigation as quote, "a general fishing exercise about vacations and consensual relationships with adults".

And joining us now is John Heilemann, NBC News and MSNBC national affairs analyst. He is the host and executive producer of Showtime`s "The Circus" and the host of the Hell and High Water podcast from Recount.

Also joining us Jennifer Palmieri, former communications director for the Obama White House. She is a co-host of Showtime`s "The Circus".

And Jennifer, we will begin with you and what you might be able to decode from the madness of Matt Gaetz as the story stands tonight.

JENNIFER PALMIERI, FORMER OBAMA COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: So keep in mind that the Matt Gaetz sex trafficking investigation started as a wholly unrelated investigation of his friend and colleague Joel Greenberg. And imagine the alarm that Trump and his allies would feel if that investigation (INAUDIBLE) and if they are going -- if there was indeed a request from Matt Gaetz, "The Times" has reported that they passed that pardon, got the pardon -- that they pulled from (INAUDIBLE) for this pardon and publicly said -- Gaetz publicly said that Trump should pardon, have a blanket pardon of everyone, anybody, me, anybody who might be attacked by the left

And imagine what would happen if all of a sudden the Trump White House is under this investigation that involves sex trafficking, women, expands to the White House. And I think you see that`s why the Trump operation put out a terse -- unduly terse statement from Trump said, I did not speak with Gaetz. And that the Trump staff that were in "The New York Times" story, they say they don`t deny that Gaetz didn`t ask for the pardon.

They just -- he was public about it, right. That`s an old tried and true Trump tactic. Say the quiet part out loud so then it doesn`t seem nefarious but no one is denying that this requests happened and we know from "The Times" reporting that some of these conversations were happening as the investigation of Gaetz was ongoing.

And that could -- that could cause -- it could cause the Trump White House apparatus to get swept up into this investigation and I think that`s what they`re really scared about.

O`DONNELL: And John Heilemann the one thing that Matt Gaetz has said about this which is now provably true, he said this a couple of days ago. He said there would be a drip, drip, drip -- that was his phrase -- of leaks, more leaks coming out about this investigation and he`s right. The dripping continues.

JOHN HEILEMANN, MSNBC NATIONAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Yes. And Lawrence, I`d like to actually start this evening by requesting a blanket pardon from you for all future transgressions on this program. Any time in the future that I like engage in any kind of profanity for instance on the air. Can I -- Can I get a pardon from you for that in perpetuity?

O`DONNELL: I can`t pardon you ahead of time. That`s the thing about the pardon. It only works backwards on what you have already done and you have been pardoned on this program several times.

HEILEMANN: Look. I think, you know, yes -- the drip, drips are going on. This is a person who has lived a very seedy and shady life as we are now finding out and when you have lived a seedy and shady life and you have consorted with shady people like people who are indicted sex traffickers and I`m not ever going to be in a position of taking unwarranted pot shots at marijuana entrepreneurs.

But, you know, the people that Gaetz has surrounded himself are not the most savory. The behavior he has engaged in that we know of are not the most savory. And what we have learned most of all in the course of this entire thing is that he has no friends in Congress.

Maybe except Donald Trump although Donald Trump is not even coming to his rescue right now except in a very, very, very, very -- as Jennifer pointed out -- very limited way. So it`s like he`s a guy with no friends. He`s a guy that whose allies would like to see him go down.

A lot of people think he`s a ticking time bomb and that he`s radioactive and so in an environment like that you hang out with shady people, you do shady stuff, you have no friends and people are terrified that when you explode you`re going to get radioactive goo all over them, what happens in that situation Lawrence is a lot of drip, drip, drip.

You just saw (ph) the details tumble out because everyone`s interest is to see, at this point, is to see Matt Gaetz go down and go down hard. And that I think is what people are now including people who ostensibly are his friend and allies are kind of in a loose way co-conspiring to do is to destroy Matt Gaetz with obviously a lot of help from Matt Gaetz.

O`DONNELL: Jennifer, I keep thinking back to Nancy Pelosi and the way she just threw Anthony Weiner out of the House of Representatives. No Ethics Committee hearing, no nothing, no investigation. It took about ten days.

were a couple of things that happened on Twitter with Anthony Weiner, these photographs, and she just brought him in to the office and said, Anthony, go home because this party, this House of Representatives, this Nancy Pelosi, I am not going to suffer another story with my name in an article with Anthony Weiner again. You are gone.

The Republican Party and Kevin McCarthy don`t seem to have the same fear of association.

PALMIERI: Or they fear -- or -- or they fear their association with Matt Gaetz. I mean it has also been reported -- I mean first of all, the Republicans always have a lower standard of behavior for their members of Congress and tolerate behavior in their members of Congress than the Democrats never do. That`s, you know -- that is a -- that is a very old story.

But I do wonder, it has been reported that Gaetz was showing photos of perhaps underaged women on the House floor to his colleagues. And if they throw Matt Gaetz out he could -- he has the potential to do a lot of damage if he has, in fact, you know, shown the photos -- if other members of congress are involved so I think they have a very delicate situation to manage for the House Republican Caucus. They don`t like to give him any more ammunition.

O`DONNELL: Jennifer Palmieri and John Heilemann, thank you both very much for joining our discussion tonight.

HEILEMMAN: Thanks, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: Thank you.

Coming up, Boston`s acting mayor Kim Janey, is serving out the term of Marty Walsh who is now Joe Biden`s Labor Secretary. Mayor Janey had a police escort on her first day as mayor when she went to visit her old middle school in Boston.

She also had a police escort when she first arrived at that middle school on a school bus carrying black students into a white neighborhood. Her school bus was hit with rocks, she heard racial epithets screamed at her when she was an 11-year-old girl.

She is Boston`s first black mayor, Boston`s first woman mayor. Mayor Kim Janey will join us and get tonight`s LAST WORD.


O`DONNELL: According to a new study of the hundreds of people arrested for the invasion of the Capitol on January 6 most of them are white supremacists angry at what they see as a loss of white control of their own neighborhoods where the black and brown populations are increasing.

The attack on the Capitol by the Trump mob on January 6th was not the first time that I saw a flag pole being used as a deadly weapon. The first time I saw a flag pole used as a deadly weapon, it was also being used by a white supremacist who feared the loss of control of his all-white neighborhood of south Boston.

It was 1976 when the city of Boston was in the middle of years of racial crisis because of a federal court order to desegregate Boston`s public schools.

News photographer Stanley Foreman (ph) won the Pulitzer prize for this horrifying photograph taken outside Boston`s city hall. The man in a three- piece suit, Attorney Ted Landsmark, was attacked as he walked towards city hall simply because he was black.

That is the only thing his attacker from south Boston knew about Ted Landsmark, that he was black. That`s all it took to have your life threatened anywhere you might go in Boston in those days. Being black in Boston in those days could not have been more dangerous.

Five months after the photograph of Ted Landsmark being attacked was seen around the world, an 11-year-old black girl got on a Boston public school bus for the first time and headed into the heart of the battle in the all- white neighborhood of Charlestown which was then the toughest neighborhood in Boston by far.

I was afraid to go to Charlestown in those days after my very first venture in that neighborhood got one of the guys I was with stabbed. That was Charlestown then.

An 11-year-old girl, Kim Janey had no idea what to expect when her school bus rolled into Charlestown for the first time. She was shocked when a white supremacist mob attacked her bus throwing rocks, screaming racial epithets, saying go back to Africa.

That was the standard greeting in places like Charlestown and south Boston for school buses of black students in those days.

But life inside the Edwards middle school in Charlestown was different from what Kim Janey experienced on her way into the building. Her best friend inside the Edwards Middle School was an Irish-American girl named Cathy.

Kim Janey returned to the Edwards Middle School a few weeks ago in her first public appearance as mayor of Boston. She said, "I wanted to start here". Kim Janey said the Edwards Middle School has quote "tough, tough memories for me but this is a new day in Boston".

The next day in her first speech at city hall, Mayor Kim Janey said this.


MAYOR KIM JANEY (D), BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS: As a girl growing up in Boston I was nurtured by a family who believed in me and surrounded by good neighbors who knew my name. It was my village.

But when I was just 11 years old school bussing rolled into my life. I was forced on to the front lines of the 1970s battle to desegregate Boston public schools. I had rocks and racial slurs thrown at my bus simply for attending school while black.

And just yesterday on my first full day as mayor I visited my childhood alma mater. I saw students happy to be back in school with their teachers and friends instead of the pain and trauma that I had experienced in middle school.


O`DONNELL: When Boston`s long-time Mayor Marty Walsh was confirmed as Joe Biden`s Secretary of Labor, city council president, Kim Janey became the acting mayor of the city of Boston, the city`s first black mayor, the city`s first woman mayor.

And yesterday Kim Janey announced she is entering an already crowded field of candidates in the hope of being elected mayor of Boston in November.

Boston`s acting Mayor Kim Janey joins us next and will get tonight`s LAST WORD.



JANEY: My life`s work from education advocacy to leading the city council has been centered around making sure every child has the opportunity to learn and succeed in a more just city than the one I grew up in.

See, I was part of desegregation bussing, 11 years old having rocks and racial slurs thrown at me. I`ve been at the center of Boston`s history, the bad and the good.

So let`s keep on going together, Boston.

Your mayor is asking.


O`DONNELL: Joining us now is Kim Janey, acting mayor of Boston for her first live national television interview since announcing that she is running to be elected to a full term as mayor.

Mayor Janey, thank you very much for joining us tonight. We really appreciate it.

JANEY: Thank you. Thank you so much for having me.

O`DONNELL: You know, when I saw you go visit your middle school as one of your first acts as mayor, I just had to wonder what was it like to go back there? You`ve described what it was like when you arrived there as an 11- year-old girl and how terrifying and disorienting that was.

What was it like to go back there as mayor and be inside those walls?

JANEY: You know, it was pretty powerful. I was able to visit classrooms. I see students. There was one classroom in particular where they were learning about the history of bussing in Boston.

And so to go into that classroom and to share my own story and experience as someone who has lived through that history and then stand before them as mayor was just powerful, powerful.

And I remember leaving the school that day and there was a mural on the wall that said "Turning a negative into a positive, that is the Edwards way". And I just thought that that was just really telling of how far we have come. And not just in that school but in our city.

So it was a great way to start my first full day as mayor of Boston. Returning to a place where there was so much pain and trauma, and to be able to see young people learning about that history. And now they can the first black mayor and the first woman mayor in our city`s history after 199 years of having mayors. So you know, just wonderful.

I think Lawrence, about all of the children that I have seen since in the last two weeks -- little girls and little boys whether in the super market, whether in classrooms at school or in playgrounds and even on Zoom screens, you know.

I am taking meetings all of the time on Zoom. And so many folks bring their children with them. There are so many little girls that I get to say hello to. and when I shoot a little wave them, their eyes light up. And it just shows what is possible, you know.

There is a saying that if you can see it, you can be it. And now little girls are all across our city can see and aspire to be mayor. So I think it is wonderful.

O`DONNELL: I need your advice about how to think about Boston and talk about Boston now because you`ve talked about how far we`ve come. And I`m not sure, I don`t know how to strike the balance and I mean things like this.

I have driven through south Boston the last couple of years at different times. And I`ve had young people, relatives of mine in the care with me. And I find myself wanting to say, you know, when I was your age -- and I kind of hold myself back because everything I`m going to say after that is poison because I`m looking at a black person waiting for a bus in south Boston along with other people and that person`s life is not threatened now.

But when I was in high school, when I was in college -- that person could have been killed for waiting for a bus in south Boston. And I don`t know how much of that history we have to keep in mind with all the progress that Boston has made since then or whether we should just be looking forward.

JANEY: Well, you know we need to be informed by our past so that we don`t repeat the mistakes of our past. And I remember a time where, of course, you couldn`t go into certain neighborhoods in the city of Boston but now you can go pretty much anywhere in our city.

And it doesn`t mean that we don`t still have challenges, we obviously do. Every city in America is still dealing with racism and sexism and overcoming so many challenges that have been years and years in the making.

So We have a lot of work to do but we have come very far in our city. And I`m really proud of the work that we`ve done but we clearly have so much more work to do.

O`DONNELL: And your first campaign ad that you released yesterday, I saw Mel King in there and that`s Mel King at a time when I was working with Mel King on the issue of police reform -- Boston police reform. I had written a book about the Boston Police Department at the time and so many others.

And you`re not the first black female candidate for mayor. In fact in this cycle, Andrea Campbell beat you to that, fellow city council member who is already running.

And so this is a whole new politics from back when Mel King was so striking as the only black candidate for mayor in Boston. And now here we have this field that is very diverse already.

JANEY: Yes. Yes. Yes. It is a diverse field. And that again, is another testament to how much progress we have made at our city. And I remember when Mel King ran for mayor. Mel King lives still in the south end. And at that time my great grandparents owned a house one street over.

So I grew up knowing Mel my entire life and in fact, I volunteered on his campaign for mayor. And he is a Boston treasure. He is a national treasure.

And so for me launching my campaign for mayor was really important to pay homage to all of those who have come before me in running either for mayor of Boston or women in particular who have run for office.

I stand on many shoulders as the first -- the first black mayor and the first woman mayor, and I wanted to pay homage to those who have come before me.

O`DONNELL: What is your number one issue as a candidate for mayor?

JANEY: Well, we have many challenges as I have said. But first and foremost, obviously we need to deal and continue to battle the pandemic that is before us, COVID-19. And making sure that we are getting vaccines out. And that we are distributing them equitably.

I have been able to visit a number of mobile vaccination clinics over the last several months in fact and it`s been important -- and it`s so important for our recovery, reopening and renewal.

O`DONNELL: Mayor Kim Janey, thank you very much for joining us tonight. I want you to come back during the campaign to talk about more of the issues facing the city. We really, really appreciate you joining us tonight.

JANEY: Thank you. Thank you so much for having me.

O`DONNELL: It is really an honor for me to say that Mayor Kim Janey gets tonight`s LAST WORD.