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THE SITUATION ROOM
Protests in Baltimore. Aired 18-19:00p ET
Aired April 28, 2015 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: We're showing you live pictures of crowds on the street. They're around the same place, the same time when riots erupted just a little bit more than 24 hours ago.
We're standing by for an update from the Maryland governor about new moves to try to keep the peace in Baltimore. We saw at least one clash a few hours ago with police firing pepper spray. Right now, 1,000 Maryland National Guard troops, they're on the ground to back up police. A citywide curfew takes effect about four hours from now.
Police say at least 235 people have been arrested in connection with the rioting, the looting, the arson. At least 20 officers were injured. Tonight, President Obama says the violence is counterproductive and simply inexcusable.
Our correspondents, our analysts and newsmakers, they're all standing by as we cover the breaking story. We're watching what is going on very, very closely. Lots happening right now.
You just heard from the mayor of Baltimore, Stephanie Rawlings- Blake, say she is hoping for the best, but they are prepared, prepared for the worst.
We have got a team of correspondents and analysts. They're all standing by, as well as newsmakers.
But let's check in with Brian Todd first. He is on the streets of Baltimore -- Brian.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the protest is again on the move at the corner of Fulton Avenue and North Avenue.
I have to tell you, this has been a very dynamic protest, very fluid, largely peaceful. At this very intersection last night, where I'm standing and moving away from, there was a burned-out car. There were businesses being looted all over the place. My team and I had to pull back from this intersection last night out of fear for our own safety.
A different situation here this afternoon, this evening. This is a peaceful march. There was a little bit of tear gas fired at demonstrators at this intersection up here at Pennsylvania and North earlier this afternoon. There was some tension between police and protesters when they apprehended a man. But, largely, aside from those two incidents, it has been largely
peaceful. These protesters are on the move, and again, calling for justice for Freddie Gray. All eyes pointing to Friday, when the police send that report to prosecutors on what exactly happened to Freddie Gray on April 12.
UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: Hands up. Don't shoot.
TODD: You can hear them, Wolf. They are probably going to walk at least several more blocks, Wolf, to the intersection where they started this rally earlier this afternoon.
We have to say, again, we have less than two hours until darkness hits. We have about four hours until the curfew is put into effect. Everything looks peaceful now after last night with all the ransacking, all the looting, the street fires, the hundreds of arrest, 20 officers injured. This is going to be a very tense situation in a couple of hours when night falls, Wolf.
BLITZER: All right. Let's see what happens. Hopefully it will remain peaceful and calm. The people can scream. They can shout. But we don't want to see any more looting. We don't want the see any more arson. We don't want to see any more violence. Let's hope it stays calm.
Miguel Marquez, you're also on the streets of Baltimore for us. Where are you and what are you seeing?
MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We are at the epicenter of much of the violence last night, just across the street from where the CVS burned. This is the Gilmor Homes section of West Baltimore. And it is it is still very tense here. But today was sort of part political rally, part street party, but with a very -- a lot of heavily armed guests.
The police here in full riot gear. This is North Avenue, very major thoroughfare here. They're keeping anybody from moving down that way. That way just a few blocks is where Mr. Gray was taken into custody, and a few blocks beyond that is the Western District, which is also very heavily fortified today.
And the crowd here has been basically either chanting at police, yelling at police, taking turns with the microphone sometimes to yell at police, or you can see members of the Nation of Islam here. It's also become, as I walk through the crowd here, a bit of a street party over here.
The concern is obviously about tonight and what happens going forward. I think the next big point of concern for people here is on Friday, when the police are going to hand up that investigative report to the DA, people in this neighborhood keenly aware and want to hear what -- if anything happens with that.
We're not expecting that, but I can certainly tell you people in this neighborhood are. And if they feel if it's the same old song that they have heard before, it is very hard to see that this is going to go in a much better direction. The other unknown here is if something happens, a police officer gets shot, a civilian gets shot, then I think all bets are off and things could really take off here -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, stand by, Miguel. I want Brian to stand by.
BLITZER: I want to bring in Cornell Brooks. He's the president of the NAACP, who is joining us from Baltimore as well.
Cornell, last night, when we saw the worst riots in Baltimore since 1968 in the aftermath of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., did you ever think this would happen in Baltimore?
CORNELL WILLIAM BROOKS, PRESIDENT, NAACP: Wolf, this is hard to imagine. It does call to mind the words of Martin Luther King who said over a generation ago that violence is the language of the unheard. In 2015, it may well be that this language, violence...
BLITZER: Cornell, I'm sorry to interrupt. I want to interrupt for a moment because the governor of Maryland, there you see him, Larry Hogan, he is about to make a statement and answer reporters' questions as well. He has moved his business from Annapolis, the state capital, to Baltimore. We heard from the mayor a little while ago. Here is the governor.
GOV. LARRY HOGAN (R), MARYLAND: Good evening, everyone. Good evening.
Less than 24 hours ago, I issued an executive order which declared a state of emergency and deployed the National Guard and all appropriate state assets to Baltimore City. Our entire team has been activated, and all state agencies are actively engaged in restoring order to the city and securing the safety of all law-abiding citizens.
Local, state, and regional resources have been deployed throughout the city. And the presence of law enforcement has been rapidly expanding. Tonight, we will have 2,000 National Guardsmen and over 1,000 law enforcement officers on duty.
We have law enforcement assets from nearly every single corner of the state of Maryland, as well as other states, such as Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and the District of Columbia, who have all dedicated law enforcement officers to our efforts.
This combined force will not tolerate violence or looting, which has led to the destruction of property and put innocent Marylanders at risk. There have already been over 250 arrests, and a citywide curfew will take place, take effect at 10:00 p.m. this evening.
Maintaining law and order, protecting innocent lives and property is our number one priority. We have also begun to assist the victims of yesterday's violence. At sunrise today, I surveyed the damage done last night and thanked law enforcement officers for their dedication.
I started at the West Baltimore precinct in the corner of North -- Northern Avenue and Pennsylvania Avenue, then went on to the Mondawmin Mall. During these visits, I saw neighbors working together to restore normalcy to their neighborhoods.
We have mobilized over 2,000 volunteers through the Governor's Office of Service and Volunteerism. And this morning, we moved the governor's office to Baltimore City. Where we held a cabinet meeting, where each state agency outlined their efforts to assist the Baltimore City community.
Immediately following that meeting, I listened to a group of community leaders who voiced their concerns and provided input on how we can begin the long process of restoring our community. We have been here all day and we will continue to be here until the threat of violence ends.
Our primary mission again is to maintain order and to begin to repair the damage inflicted by the violence and looting from last night. Acts of violence and destruction of property cannot and will not be tolerated. Baltimore's families deserve peace and safety in their community. But this is far from over.
I have here with me -- going to turn the floor over to General Linda Singh, who is the adjutant general of the Maryland Guard. And she is going to have a few comments.
But, before I do that, I just want to thank this entire team here at the Maryland Emergency Management Agency, who have been working around the clock coordinating state and local assets, and they're doing a fantastic job. So thank all of you here in the room.
GEN. LINDA SINGH, MARYLAND ARMY NATIONAL GUARD: Thank you, Governor.
First, I just wanted to say -- I want to thank all of the folks that have actually welcomed the Maryland Guard into their neighborhoods and really into our neighborhoods. I want to ensure that you understand that the Maryland Guard is not just coming in to help protect and really to help reinforce what the police are currently doing. They're doing it because it's also where they live.
A lot of these individuals are coming from those same communities. And so it is extremely important to them that they work with the police department, they work with the governor and with the mayor to be able to stand side by side to protect a city that we so love and that we so believe in.
And, as a result of that, which I think is just monumental, in the last 24 hours, we have actually activated over 1,700 Guardsmen. That is unbelievable numbers, because typically it takes us about eight hours to do an activation of a couple hundred. So we did 1,700 in less than a 24-hour period.
And that should say to you, the city of Baltimore, how important it is for the Maryland Guard to be there to support you, because I did not get any complaints. People came in from all the various parts of Maryland, regardless of where they live, whether it was in the city or in the county. And they did it with a smile on their face so that they could be there to support the police department, they could be there to support the communities.
So I think that's extremely important. The other thing that I would like to say is that, you know, we are extremely professional in the way that we are going to carry out our events and how we will deal with our communities in general.
We have trained. This is what we train for. We are trained to be able to support the police department. We are trained to be able to support the government at the time of need. So rest assured that we will use the appropriate precautions and the appropriate steps to keep you and our citizens safe.
And I thank you.
HOGAN: Thank you, General.
Before I turn the floor over to Clay Stamp, who is the director of the Maryland Emergency Management Agency, I just want to thank Lieutenant Governor Boyd Rutherford for his leadership. As I was heading up the office, the new governor's office in Baltimore City, he was here at MEMA all day working with Director Stamp and managing this operation. And we're working together as a team.
So thank you, Boyd, for your efforts as well.
Now we're going to turn it over to Clay Stamp.
CLAY STAMP, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, MARYLAND EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT AGENCY: Thank you, Governor.
As the governor's emergency manager, I have the honor and privilege to work with a system of dedicated individuals that starts with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and includes all of our state partners, as well as our local jurisdictions across the state of Maryland.
And I can tell you that the governor has been clear in his direction, and we have fully engaged as a system, as a community of emergency managers from Ocean City to Oakland, Southern Maryland to Cecil County to make sure we do what is necessary to give Baltimore City the help that they need, the help that they need so that they can get things under control and do what they need to do to become healthy.
I'm happy to report that we continue to successfully handle a number of missions. We have been doing that for the last 24 hours. We have been actually activated since last Saturday. We are still operating under a declaration of a state of emergency. I know there has been some discussion about what that means.
I just want the take a second and describe what that means. So, as a mayor or a county council president in Maryland, if a situation develops that exceeds their ability to manage that with the resources they have, they have the ability to declare a state of emergency.
And that state of emergency gives them certain authorities to do certain things. But it also gives them the ability to reach out for help. And reaching out for help, what that means in Maryland is they call the governor, Governor Larry Hogan in this case, and they say we have exceeded our ability to maintain this with our own resources and we need your help.
And Governor Hogan responded quickly. And I engaged my counterparts, and, again, we started moving fast to put together everything that needs to happen to deliver those resources to our group there in Baltimore City. We will continue to do so until this is done. And, again, Governor Hogan is clear. We understand it. We're pulling out all stops to do whatever is necessary for -- to -- to help Baltimore City. I'm sorry.
HOGAN: At this time, we'd be happy to answer any questions anyone might have.
HOGAN: Well, we're both pretty busy.
But I can tell you we have been in constant communication with the mayor's office. I have spoken to her on a daily basis for the past week at least. We spoke multiple times yesterday. We spoke today.
My senior adviser, Kieffer Mitchell, is a former Baltimore councilman and a member of the legislature, and has been assigned to work directly with the mayor. He is probably with her right now. And we're now coming in to try to help relieve the situation. But it's still Baltimore City, and she is still the mayor. We're here to help her. And we're trying to provide all the help we can possibly give her.
QUESTION: Are you aware of any problems, either logistical or dealing with protesters that you have had since the National Guard has been on the ground? I know police have made arrests. Have you run into any trouble, again, logistically or with anyone on the ground?
HOGAN: Not to my knowledge. Maybe if anybody has something they want to talk about.
I think so far, and I preface it by saying so far because we have got a long night ahead of us, but so far I think we have not run into any major issues and any major glitches. We have got things a little better under control than they were last night. We have got more manpower on the streets. And we're communicating better.
And so far, although there have been some arrests, we haven't had the kind of situations we had yesterday afternoon.
QUESTION: What is the plan heading into tonight and how will you make sure that there isn't any unrest like there was last night?
HOGAN: Well, you can't ensure that there is not going to be any unrest. I'm not a magician.
But what I can assure you is that we will put all the resources that we have at our disposal to make sure that the disturbances don't get out of hand, and we don't get overwhelmed, like happened last night. We have got a lot of manpower on the street. You can see looking around this room, there is a lot of people focused on this problem. And we're in management of the situation now.
And we're going to put whatever resources are necessary to make sure we keep the people of Baltimore safe.
QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) your experience with the people of Baltimore on your watch?
HOGAN: Yes, well, thank you, Pat.
It was -- I was really touched by the fact that when -- we got up there when the sun was rising this morning. And we walked through ground zero, all the neighborhoods that got hit the worst. And what I saw, there were folks up there this morning at 5:00 a.m., neighbors helping neighbors, and sweeping up the broken glass, helping people board up their windows, clearing the trash out of the streets.
And we tend to focus on all the problems. We have got to focus on the violence. But there is a lot of good going on in the city too. And I found people that really love the city, love their neighborhood, and who are really angry about what happened last night. They were very happy to see us. We had people hugging us and thanking us. They were happy to see us. And as the general said, they were happy to see the National Guard. They were happy to see the state police.
They were saying thank you for being here. People are concerned. They want us to restore law and order. We have been very restrained. There has been a pretty good -- in spite of the tension out there in the community, we have got a lot of people thanking us for being here. And we didn't have any major incidents yet.
QUESTION: Do we have any idea how long the extra police and the National Guard will be necessary?
HOGAN: We're going to keep them here as long as is necessary. And we don't know at this point how long that's going to be.
QUESTION: How would you judge that? What has to happen so you can finally say it's time to get things back to normal?
HOGAN: You know, I'm going have to make that call myself. And I guess I will know it when I see it. But we're going get the best information to make that decision.
HOGAN: Well, it gives us an opportunity to clear the streets. And if people are in violation of the curfew, if we feel it makes sense, we can start arresting people.
HOGAN: Look, you know, I don't want to point fingers at anyone. I don't want -- I'm not here to place blame. I'm here to try to solve the problem.
I don't want to second-guess the mayor's decisions. I know that she was trying the best she could. This was a difficult situation. The Baltimore City police and fire were doing the best they could. And when she asked us for help, we immediately responded.
I know that it typically takes eight hours to mobilize the Guard. We did it in three, because we were already ready, and we were prepared. We set up this emergency operations center last Saturday. We prepared the executive order last Saturday. Our team has been in constant communication. We set up our command center. We have been working all week.
We have been in communication with the city all week. Earlier yesterday, I talked with General Singh and told her to prepare the Guard and get them ready to be activated. So she took a lot of steps to get everybody teed up, kind of on the starting line, ready to act.
When the mayor called, I signed an executive order 30 seconds later. The Guard was already on the way.
QUESTION: You said that you started getting ready last Saturday?
HOGAN: Well, we opened up the emergency operations center here in preparation in case there was violence that broke out.
QUESTION: At the initial protests?
QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) actually wanted to call in the Guard?
HOGAN: Look, I don't want to get into what happened before. Let's talk what we're going to focus on in the future.
Right now, we're trying to keep Baltimore City safe. And, you know, we're trying to work the best we can with the city and provide as much support as we can. Anybody else?
Well, thank you all so much for being here. And let's all hope that tonight is a little safer night. Thank you. BLITZER: The governor of Maryland, Larry Hogan, over at the
Maryland Emergency Management Agency, updating us on what the state of Maryland is doing right now, including deploying U.S. National Guard, state National Guard troops on the scene. There is a state of emergency under way.
Let's get a quick update from the scene itself.
Brian Todd is on the streets.
Brian, you're walking with these protesters?
I don't know if Brian can hear me right now. Clearly, we can't -- Brian can't hear me. We will get to Brian in a moment.
But let me get reaction from the president of the NAACP. Cornell W. Brooks is joining us as well.
You're in Baltimore, Cornell.
What did you think about what the governor had to say?
BROOKS: Well, I am heartened by a few words, the use of the words appropriate caution, appropriate steps, which were the words offered by the Adjutant General Singh.
At this juncture, anything that promotes a sense of security and calm for the residents and citizens of Baltimore is a good thing. The fact that the mayor reached out to the governor indicates that -- certainly that she feels that the presence of the National Guard contributes to the security of this city.
So I believe that that's important. And the most important thing here is that we establish not only a sense of security, but also a sense of trust. I think the fact that the volunteers were coming in, as you may know, the NAACP opened a satellite office in Sandtown, so that we might signal to the community that we, along with so many others, will continue to work day in and day out to bring about justice for the family of Freddie Gray, but, then, in addition to that, to respond to this ongoing challenge across this country.
So this is a tense time. But there are a good number of people who are working to bring about justice with peace, not the least of whom are all the people on the streets that we have seen across the day cleaning up streets that they did not sully and dirty, and shoring up businesses that they did not burn or loot. So that's encouraging.
BLITZER: Cornell, don't leave us. Stay with us.
I want to try to reconnect with Brian Todd once again. He is on the streets of Baltimore.
Brian, where are you?
TODD: Wolf, we're on -- trying to get the cross-streets here. We're on Laurens Street near North Bruce Street. We thought we might be going to the Western District police station. But they have made a turn to the east, heading toward North Mount Street.
They may yet turn to the south to head towards that precinct. We're not quite sure where they're going. As was the case last night, we don't know where this is going. We don't know whether this kind of a march could turn violent later. Last week, when we were following marchers, it did get a little tense on occasion. Last night, it wasn't so much marching as there were random looting and burning, as you saw.
But, so far, this is a very kinetic, dynamic situation with these marchers. I talked to the protest leader not long ago. He said he is committed to exhorting these people not to be violent. But we know that from experience last week that when they start to march through the streets and pick up people along the way, anything can happen, Wolf.
BLITZER: Let's hope it does stay peaceful, and you're going to continue to march with them, Brian.
Earlier, President Obama spoke out very forcefully on the rioting in Baltimore, saying the city was torn up by -- quote -- "criminals and thugs," his words, criminals and thugs. But he also says there are police across the country who, in his words again, aren't doing the right thing right now.
Let's go to our White House correspondent, Michelle Kosinski.
Michelle, update us on what the president had to say in the Rose Garden.
MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Wolf.
Right. He went on about this. And it was only 24 hours ago that we saw this very low-key response from the White House on what is going on in Baltimore. That's similar to what we have seen in other police incidents since Ferguson. But, today, the president knew somebody was going to ask a question about this in the Rose Garden during his press conference, and he was ready.
I mean, he let loose on what he feels about this for 14 minutes, using some pretty blunt language and saying there is no excuse for violence.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Senseless violence and destruction. That is not a protest. That is not a statement. That's people -- a handful of people taking advantage of the situation for their own purposes. And they need to be treated as criminals, criminals and thugs who tore up the place.
This has been a slow-rolling crisis. This has been going on for a long time. This is not new, and we shouldn't pretend that it's new. If our society really wanted to solve the problem, we could. It
just it would require everybody saying this is important, this is significant, and that we don't just pay attention to these communities when a CVS burns, but we're paying attention all the time because we consider those kids our kids, and we think they're important. And they shouldn't be living in poverty and violence.
That's how I feel.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KOSINSKI: Some of this was surprising, and that he said, you know, this is not a protest. Not everybody was pleased that he used the word thug there.
But when you look at the entirety of what he said, you can see him really trying to be diplomatic here and cover all the bases. First, he clearly wanted to call out strongly those who were committing violent acts, as well as applaud the people within the community who were trying to stop that violence. He even said they often get far less attention than the violent people do.
And he wanted to support police officers who were doing their job correctly. But he also wanted to call out those police who aren't. And he put this extremely diplomatically, saying that there have been too many instances of police interacting with people, primarily African-Americans, often poor, in ways that raise troubling questions, and saying that these things come up now, it seems like, every week or every couple of weeks, Wolf.
BLITZER: Michelle, thanks very much.
I want to go back to Cornell Brooks, the president of the NAACP.
Cornell, you think the president went far enough, went too far? Were you satisfied with his remarks?
BROOKS: The president sounded two themes that are equally important. The first theme that he sounded was the fact that violence and looting does nothing, nothing to offer consolation or justice for the family of Freddie Gray. Nothing.
And the second theme he sounded was that the overwhelming majority of people are attempting to protest peacefully. And so we have to both call out the violence, but also lift up the fact that most people are pursuing a reform of policing in this country nonviolently. Those themes are important to sound.
Walking through the streets of Baltimore, through Sandtown, seeing people clean the streets, seeing men stand between police officers and protesters, attempting to offer and create a wall of trust, that's important. It's a testament to the character of the people in this city.
I think, at this juncture, it's critically important that the president speak to the situation, as he has, and as so many people around the country are doing, because here is what we need to keep in mind. If a generation ago, Martin Luther King said that violence is the language of the unheard, what happens when so many people are crying for reforms of policing in this country, and they don't yet feel heard it?
It then seems violence is the language of the unseen and the unheard. We have got to heed what people are saying. Policing has to be reformed in this country. We need body cameras. We need to pass the End Racial Profiling Act. We need to move away from a form of policing that engenders distrust and endangers both police officers and the community.
We can do that. And the president is right. If we're all involved, we're all committed, and we're all committed to our young people, we can do this. And the issue is important, whether or not a convenience store burns in Ferguson or a drugstore burns in Baltimore. It's important all the time because of our kids.
BLITZER: Let's get some more thoughts. Cornell, if you can stay with us, I would be grateful.
I want to bring in Tom Fuentes, our senior law enforcement analyst, former assistant director of the FBI. You've heard -- you've heard now from the mayor, the police commissioner, the governor of the state of Maryland.
You see the protests, largely peaceful right now. There have been a few minor little incidents, a few arrests today. Certainly, nothing like occurred yesterday. But they're bracing for the worst. Hopefully, it won't happen as it starts to get dark.
FUENTES: Wolf, what I would like to see is some leadership from the president on down on what the police do about the fact that Baltimore, in the last 27 months, had 632 murders. And according to Commissioner Batts, 95 percent of the murdered people were black. That's an average of 23 murders per month. Where's the outrage about that or about doing something about that?
And secondarily, what do the police do to bring that number down? What is the policing on the street when you have this many people? And the 600 murders weren't outside agitators, they were gang members and members of that community, you know, that he's referred to. And he actually said that he blamed it on gang activity, random confrontations and the Black Guerrilla Family. That's Commissioner Batts saying that's what's causing that.
BLITZER: Well, let me go to Don Lemon right now. Don, you're there in Baltimore. There's been a lot of accusations against these gang members. I understand you have some representatives with you?
LEMON: Yes, we had some representatives of the gang, and we had technical issues. We can't get to them. But -- and you'll have to watch it tonight, Wolf.
But it's really interesting, because they're saying they had nothing to do with this. They said for the first time that they can remember, the Crips and the Bloods and the Black Guerrilla Family, they have come together; and there is a truce. They're saying to me -- this is what they're saying to me. They were actually out there trying to protect the community and trying to get people not to loot and not to riot.
And I asked them, I said, "Are you sure about that?"
They said, "Yes. Why would we want to loot? Why would we want to riot?"
In their estimation -- again, they can stay it better than me, but they said, "We're making money. We don't need to rob a liquor store or a convenience store in order to make money." That's beneath what they do. That has no -- they're not tempted to do anything like this.
But we're showing something positive. We're here at the Druid Hill Park. And just across this park here, you had hundreds of people who are out across the park here. It was organized by many of the people here, and they're from different affiliations here. But mostly from Mr. Soki (ph) Carmichael Kennedy, who is an anti-violence activist.
And why did you guys do this?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was necessary. We thought that the kids vocalized their frustration last night, and we strongly condemned their behavior. And we thought it was necessary to come together and unify and make a positivity front and give these kids another positive voice. Now that we got that back, we're going to try to seek different resolutions than last night. And, you know, we don't want our neighborhoods and communities destroyed with violence.
LEMON: You may recognize this gentleman right here this. His name is Will Barton. He's a guard for the Denver Nuggets. He's out here with the organization, as well. Right? Why here?
WILL BARTON, GUARD FOR DENVER NUGGETS: We spoke in the car (ph), linked up with Cannon (ph) over here, and we just wanted to come out and show our support and show that, you know, it's another way to go about things to get results.
And we feel like we do it in a positive manner, that we can pull the city together. And we can just come together and do some positive things to end this stuff and get results. But in the right way and not, you know, just keep doing violence and rioting and stuff like that. Because that's not going to do anything. That's not going to solve anything.
LEMON: You know, I was surprised earlier by listening, they call them -- they said it's not about colors, the members of the gangs. They said to me that they didn't have anything to do with this. Is that true?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: From my observation, I agree with them. I think yesterday was a mix between juveniles and adolescents who was getting out of high school. And most of those kids were opportunists. They saw opportunities to do some things that pretty much they wouldn't do on a normal day, and they took advantage of it.
And I mean, we condemn that. And that's why today we strongly come together and try to administer a bunch of positive individuals who have a positive influence like Neil, like Gary Neil (ph); my friend Amy Jones (ph) from New York who came down here today just to be here to show the kids that we understand their frustration. But we got to redirect and try to think about a positive resolution, you know, instead of being violent.
LEMON: You've got food out here. I've had some of the wings. They're really good. You guys saw me. I feel like I'm at home. I had some wings, chips and an orange Crush. I said I feel like I was back in Louisiana. You guys said to me you want people to feel welcome here; the pictures that are shown on television, that's not indicative of Baltimore? It's not indicative of Baltimore. The pictures that we've seen on television?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Absolutely not. Baltimore is a lovely place to visit, a lovely place to live in. And we stand strong to rebuild our community.
LEMON: Thank you, guys. Thank you, guys. I appreciate it.
And we're going to be out here until there's a resolution, Wolf. We have been listening to the press conference. They're listening to the officials, as well. And so here we are at an event that is a positive event, a better reflection, they say, of what Baltimore really is.
[18:35:08] BLITZER: Baltimore is a great city. We love Baltimore. I hope it stays that way and hope it remains peaceful. We're going to get back to you, Don. Thank you.
I want to bring in Philip Banks right now. He's a former NYPD chief of department who's joining us. Thanks so much for joining us, Chief Banks.
We saw the crowd today, very peaceful for all practical purposes. Although there was some pepper spray after one protester was arrested. If this were your police department right now on this day after the violence, the arson, the looting we saw yesterday, what would you be doing? What would you want to -- your officers to do to handle this situation?
PHILIP BANKS, FORMER NYPD CHIEF OF DEPARTMENT: Well, the first thing, Wolf, is that we have to protect life and you have to property. And so not in any priority order. My priority would be to make sure that my officers were safe; certainly, to make sure the people in that community were safe; certainly, protect the businesses.
But I would be opening up dialogue with the people who are on the ground there to find out what these particular issues are, to get as much intel as we possibly can, and to just map out a strategy and operational plan to make sure that people can protest peacefully, but certainly, with the ruckus and the violence and the chaos, that's something that has to be stopped.
BLITZER: A quick question, Chief Banks. This is the worst rioting in Baltimore since 1968 in the aftermath of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King. If it happened in Baltimore, it could happen elsewhere, right?
BANKS: Certainly, it can happen elsewhere. And if I was the police chief in another city or a mayor in another city, I would have my people paying attention to exactly what's going on. I would get as much intel as I possibly can.
Because I'm certainly sure that the mayor and the police commissioner, the police chief in Baltimore did not think that this could happen over this particular incident. I'm sure they were paying attention to Charleston and Ferguson, and then it happened to Baltimore. So it certainly can happen.
And that's why developing those intimate relationships with the proper people is very, very important. Once it gets to this point, it means that something you have done from this point prior did not work. And you need to change that.
BLITZER: All right. Stand by for a moment. I want to bring in Joey Jackson, our HLN legal analyst. He's a former criminal defense attorney, as well, maybe still a criminal defense attorney.
I want to get back to the news that Evan Perez broke here in THE SITUATION ROOM a little while ago that on Friday, the police will make their report available to state prosecutors on the behavior, the arrest of Freddie Gray. Eventually, he died, as we know, after his neck was broken. He was in a coma in the hospital. They're going to make that evidence available to the prosecutors. But presumably, it will remain secret.
But you know the community. They want details, and they're getting -- growing increasingly impatient. How do you balance, Joey, the need to reassure the community that the right investigation is going forward while, at the same time, not doing anything to undermine potential prosecution, the evidence available?
JOEY JACKSON, HLN FORMER CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Wolf, that's a wonderful question. And let's start out here, and let's go to the general, then we'll get to the specific.
In general, we're hearing from our leaders -- and we have to keep in mind what this is all about. It's about Freddie Gray. It's about the overaggressive policing that occurred as to him. It's about his death. It's about whether his death was warranted. And certainly, the community and everyone thinks not.
And so it's nice, of course, to hear from the leaders. And we are hearing from them, and they're very reassuring.
But the true test of that leadership, Wolf, will be what are people doing and what reforms are instituted when the cameras aren't rolling, when Wolf Blitzer is not there to cross-examine or at least ask the important questions and hold the police and community accountable? What will happen? Will businesses reinvest in the community? What will occur in the community? Will people be upset in the community? So that's important. But moving forward...
BLITZER: Hold on, Joey, one second. Because Brian Todd has got the protest leader with him. I quickly want to get to Brian.
Go ahead, Brian.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, this is Jay Morrison. He's been leading this protest now for a couple of hours, this protest march through the streets of Baltimore.
Jay, what is your goal? What is your goal tonight?
JAY MORRISON, PROTEST LEADER: Our goal, the goal: worldwide attention to the oppression of blacks in America. We want freedom. We want independence. We want all our global citizens around me with us to join YMC.org (ph). We are organizing. Rally with us, please.
TODD: You told me you did not want this to turn violent. Are you prepared to encourage these people not to turn violent tonight?
MORRISON: We are not animals. We are not beasts. We're not animals; we're not beasts. We will not turn violent. We are organizing. We are mobilizing. We're calling on world leaders and global leaders to join YMC.org (ph). Rally with us. We want freedom. End the oppression of black people in America, please. Understand our plight in America.
TODD: Thank you, Jay. Appreciate it. Thank you.
All right, Wolf. A lot of energy in this crowd. You heard Mr. Morrison say they do not want violence. He has encouraged these people all night not to be violent. They have a ton of energy. He's saying it again, no violence. We're going to hope that this doesn't happen.
[18:40:08] Some of these protest marchers last week turned tense, but they did not turn violent.
MORRISON: That's for all people. Freedom for all people.
TODD: Last night was one night in the last week that turned violent. They are hoping on the streets that that was an anomaly, Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Brian, stand by. I can see the passion there. I want to quickly go to Cornell W. Brooks, the president of the NAACP, for some reaction.
Cornell, you hear that passion. You hear that fervor. What goes through your mind?
BROOKS: Well, what goes through my mind is that people are entitled to be passionate, to be angry, and to be righteously angry, if you will. But the acid test of leadership, the acid test of this movement is our ability to translate anger into action.
Bear in mind the NAACP, our headquarters is in Baltimore. This is our hometown. Thurgood Marshall made his home in Baltimore. We care deeply about the city, deeply about what happened to Freddie Gray, deeply about this challenge.
But at the end of the day, what we have to do is we have to translate our anger into specific actions, calling for reform, pushing for change in policing. The fact of the matter is on Friday, we've got to make sure that the people in this city are prepared for having some information, no information, or information that they're unhappy with, so that we're prepared to push for real reform, long-term and in the short term.
BLITZER: Cornell, hold on for a moment. I want to go quickly back to Brian Todd.
Brian, you've got more over there. What's going on?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Justice!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Justice!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Justice!
TODD: Wolf, back with Jay Morrison, the march leader.
Jay, I want you to tell me what you were feeling last night when all that burning, all that looting was going on in your neighborhood.
MORRISON: I thought last night was a distraction. I'm a real- estate guy. I understand the value of property. But the distraction was we all looked away from the six police officers that know what happened to Freddie Gray, and no one has been arrested.
Let's stop being distracted by property. Six officers know why that man's neck was broken and spine was broken. Why are there no officers arrested to this day? If any American citizens pulled around (ph) a dead body, six of us, we'd be arrested.
BLITZER: What happens on Friday if you don't get the answers you want?
MORRISON: No comment.
BLITZER: OK, Wolf. We're marching on.
BLITZER: Continuing to march. Let's get reaction from Philip Banks, the former NYPD chief of department. What do you think, Phil?
BANKS: I think that the leadership in Baltimore have their hands full. But certainly, what I'm hearing through the lines there is that the people are upset, and people are angry, and they have a right to do so. But I do hear that there is room there to make those changes and make some progress. So while it appears that we're at DEFCON 4, I would certainly
suggest to the mayor and certainly to Tony Batts, the police chief there, is that there is room there to make some progress. It may seem like we're at DEFCON 4. But what I'm hearing from -- you shifted to the person who played the professional basketball, the comments, if they were accurate comments, coming from those gang members down there. It looks like there is some room that we can come to a compromise here.
But be very clear. Law and order must prevail.
BLITZER: You're absolutely right. Jeffrey Toobin, you've done a lot of reporting from Baltimore on these gangs here. Now we're hearing -- you just heard in Don Lemon's report these gang members saying they weren't causing this violence. They were trying to prevent the violence. They were trying to stop the looting. They didn't need the looting to go on. They have their own sources of income.
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Yes, Wolf, allow me to express some skepticism about the benevolence of the Crips and the Bloods and the Black Guerrilla Family. These are killers. They are drug dealers. These are people who are not going to save Baltimore.
The Black Guerrilla Family, in particular, the story I wrote about them in "The New Yorker" illustrated how they took over the main jail in Baltimore, the Baltimore City Detention Center. They controlled it. They brought in drugs. They brought in cell phones. They made money off of it.
The idea that these gangs are doing anything for the public good or anything other than continuing their reign of terror over the city is laughable to me. And I think to the extent the city is trusting them or relying on them, they're going to have (UNINTELLIGIBLE).
BLITZER: You agree with this, Tom Fuentes?
FUENTES: Absolutely. And they're largely responsible for the more than 600 blacks killed in the last 27 months in Baltimore. And it doesn't seem -- everybody cares deeply about everybody, except those people that were just killed in the last two years.
BLITZER: What about that, Phil Banks? In New York City, you had to deal with a lot of these gangs, as well. Is it possible, as they claim today, they're trying to cause peace, as opposed to warfare on the streets of Baltimore? Or what's your reaction when you hear these kinds of comments?
BANKS: Well, I will say this, not knowing the politics of Baltimore, there have been gang members in New York City who have turned a different leaf, and everyone who in a gang is not there for the same reason. So, when you look at the definition of a gang, you had the hardcore leaders, the majority of them are followers, and they're looking for a reason to get out.
So, when they say that, I'm going to take them at face value, there could be some validity to them. Certainly, I wouldn't give them 100 percent trust because they are engaged in criminality. And the mere facts of the actions of the gang, they have done murders, they sell drugs, committed violence against a host of people. But there are large contingents of gang members that are looking for a way out, and I think that needs to be explored.
BLITZER: Cornell, do you have confidence in the mayor of Baltimore? Do you have confidence in the police commissioner of Baltimore? Do you have confidence in the governor of Maryland?
CORNELL WILLIAM BROOKS, PRESIDENT, NAACP: What I have confidence in the process of engaging a community. In other words, when information is made available as quickly as possible in as a transparent a process as possible, when we're very clear about the process of an investigation and this ongoing engagement with the community, I'm confident that that and those set of steps can maximize the opportunity to keep the peace.
And so, the point being here is this is not a matter of a parade of personalities -- the mayor, the governor, whoever. The fact of the matter is we all -- community groups, the NAACP, the mayor, the governor, the chief of police, the commissioner -- we all have a collective responsibility as the president has said, to address this problem.
And so, this is not a matter of did the governor get it right or did the mayor get it right, but rather do we get it right? Because the fact of the matter is, we're concerned about the violence in the wake of these protests. We're concerned about the violence that led to the death of Freddie Gray. We're concerned about the violence that leads to the death of so many young people in cities like Baltimore all across the country.
So, we've got to be confident in ourselves, in our collective ability to address this problem. That's the big question here.
BLITZER: Let me go back to Brian Todd.
Brian, what's the latest over there?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, we're marching toward downtown Baltimore, a little bit more toward the inner harbor area on Pennsylvania Avenue. We do not know where this protest is going. This is much like one protest march we were involved with last week when they started at about 5:00. And they marched for four hours. We hiked for about five miles with those guys and we never really quite knew where they were going. They may not know where they're going.
But one thing that they have done this evening, what they did last week, that they blocked intersections. They will on occasion stop at an intersection, sometimes sit down in the middle of it, block traffic. That's the way they think they can make their statement. Usually, they quickly pick up and move on. Now, they've got some traffic moving along with them and people joining in honking horns, Wolf.
BLITZER: Do these people know there is going to be a curfew in about three hours from now, Brian? Is that curfew going to hold?
TODD: Wolf, word has gotten around on the street that there is going to be a curfew. I can't imagine anyone around here who does not know there is going to be a curfew. But, you know, they're out here. And again, where this goes and when it ends, we don't really know.
The one thing we can say about this crowd tonight, and about some of the crowds last week, they've been largely self-policing. Someone has gotten out of hand, if someone has jostled a policeman or a member of the media, others have come in and said let's tamp it down. Let's push back a little bit.
They've been largely self-policing. That's what's happened here today, the opposite of what happened last night. We're seeing that again today. And we're going to see where this takes us, Wolf.
BLITZER: All right. Stand by, Brian.
I want to get Joey Jackson to comment.
There has been an iconic image that a lot of us have seen now of a mother literally grabbing her son who was protesting and maybe going out to do some looting or whatever, Joey. You've seen the video. We'll show it to our viewers once again.
She simply grabs him. She slaps him, and she says you better stop this. You better go home.
It's a powerful image. I think we probably need more of that.
But go ahead. When you saw that video, Joey, what went through your mind?
JOEY JACKSON, HLN LEGAL ANALYST: It really is, Wolf. It's touching, and it goes to show that the fabric of that community is strong, and the parents are concerned about their children and what's happening to their children, and their children are not devolving, and there you see it.
It -- just amazing, Wolf. You see the mother being so concerned about her son and about what she wants for him.
[18:50:02] And what she wants is the best, not for him to go out to loot, to engage in lawlessness, but to keep on message and keep on point, and to not dilute the message which we hope everyone gets to, which is, is over-policing the answer? Is what happened to Freddie Gray appropriate?
Now, law and order seemingly is being restored there, but the true test, Wolf, will be in what happens when the report gets released on Friday and what happens going forward. Will there be true justice? Will in fact the officers be held accountable for whatever transgressions they engaged in and for how he got in that particular position?
But certainly, Wolf, it goes to show a mother very concerned about her community. More importantly, her son, and that he gets the message and the message is law and order is the message of the day. That's what should be engaged in, not looting and other behavior, which is inappropriate and off point with what they're trying to do.
BLITZER: I think all of us can remember times when we're doing something our moms weren't happy, we were doing, our moms would come over and get directly involved, just like this mom. I think all of us can recall those experiences in our own lives.
Look at the live pictures coming in, Jeffrey Toobin, right now. You see what's going on. It looks like they're getting more and more people as they're marching, Brian Todd telling us, towards downtown.
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: But this, these are protesters. These are demonstrators. These are not criminals. This is a crucial distinction that has been very important over these past few days.
These people are protesting. They're yelling, screaming. This is what freedom of speech is about. This is what political protest is about. There's absolutely nothing wrong with what those folks are doing.
The problem, of course, yesterday was when not protests, the problem was criminals. The problem was looters. I think that distinction is central and there's absolutely nothing wrong with what these folks are doing now.
BLITZER: Phil Banks, one of the inspirations supposedly for the young people going out after school yesterday to start protesting was a film involving what's called "The Purge", the idea of a period of hours, 10 hours, 12 hours, or whatever, where they could do whatever they want, lawlessness, and it would be legal to go ahead and do that. It went out in posters, went out in social media.
And presumably, at least if you listen to the police chief and others, it inspired some of the violence that took place. It's an awkward phenomenon, isn't it?
BANKS: It is awkward and it's very dangerous. And it's something that needs to be looked at very seriously because what starts in Baltimore will manifest in other places as well. So, it is something that -- and it is very dangerous. It is dangerous to law abiding citizens. It's dangerous to the law abiding protesters and it's dangerous to the police officers. That's something that needs to be looked upon.
But, Wolf, if I can comment on the mother briefly who was using some discipline to stop her child. Shortly before I left, we did a project in Staten Island where we identified 30 or 40 gang members, and these were children that were under the age of 16 years of age. We knocked on the doors to speak with their parents. And 90 percent of the parents were saying they needed help. That they realized they had lost this particular child, and they did not know what to do.
So, that some symbols of what the parent was doing, that's all across America. And when law enforcement and government doesn't help, they, too, in fact, lose confidence in the criminal justice system and they start protesting as well. So, there's a big, big problem.
And once again, I'll say is that law enforcement and government has to stop using the strategies from 25 years ago. There are people in law enforcement that have those strategies and we have to stop that playbook from 20 years ago because they won't work in the future.
BLITZER: You know, Cornell, it's fortunate that that young man had a mother who was so passionate, really wanted to get involved and save her son from committing some lawlessness, committing an act of looting or arson, whatever that would have sent him to jail, presumably, for a while. But, unfortunately, as you know, as Philip Banks just said, some of the young boys out there, they're gone for all practical purposes. They're not going to listen to a mom or a dad.
BROOKS: Yes, but many do and will. And we have to focus on those.
And, Wolf, I like to just make a comment about "The Purge". When we talk about social media and "The Purge", think about this -- we have young people who use social media in constructive ways, to use their mobile devices and their cell phones to transmit images from Ferguson or Baltimore to take a local instance of injustice and turn it into a global call for civil rights and criminal justice reform. That's important. We need to commend the young people who have done that.
So, there may be some who have used social media to call for unrest and lawlessness, but the overwhelming majority have done an extraordinarily commendable and profoundly American thing.
[18:55:01] That is to say they have used the technology that they have to protest, to march, to march, to exercise their First Amendment rights to bring about justice for a grieving family. I think that's incredibly important, and the fact that that mother chastising, disciplining her son on the street has been transmitted around the world, that, too, is an indication of what can be done through social media, to deliver a positive and constructive message.
BLITZER: Yes, there's no doubt social media can be very positive, can be very constructive. At the same time, though, unfortunately, it can be destructive as we all know as well. If, in fact, that film "Purge", if it inspires people to go out and commit lawlessness, acts of violence, that is pretty destructive and it could be damaging for the young people's lives.
Jeffrey, we have a new attorney general in the United States, Loretta Lynch. Her real first full day on the job today. What does she have to do right now given this crisis in Baltimore?
TOOBIN: Welcome to the big leagues, Loretta Lynch. This was -- this was a big change from just being the U.S. attorney in Brooklyn.
I think the real answer here is, when are there going to be prosecutions? When are people going to be held accountable for what happened in Baltimore yesterday? Obviously, it was an overwhelming situation. There is some possibility that the federal government can step in. They said they are monitoring the program.
But, you know, when it comes to crime in the United States, fairly or not, the buck stops with the attorney general of the United States. So, Loretta Lynch will be responsible in some way for stepping in and saying what the federal government is going to do about this really desperate situation.
BLITZER: Tom Fuentes, you're a former assistant director of the FBI. We know the ATF is involved in investigating the arson. I assume the FBI is involved one way or another in what's going on in Baltimore, right?
TOM FUENTES, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Right, they're working on intelligence on the gangs themselves and what they're doing, their interstate trafficking of guns and other criminal activity.
But the federal agencies can provide assistance, but street policing and the safety of preventing looting and preventing murders on the street, that's the police responsibility. Everybody, all the politicians talk about local authority, that it should be the city's involved and the state's rights, et cetera, it's not a federal government situation that they can really influence to any huge degree, not in this situation, anyway.
BLITZER: Evan Perez, you're our justice reporter. What are you hearing about the role of the federal government in Baltimore?
EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE REPORTER: Well, Wolf, we know we had the community relations service from the Justice Department here in Baltimore today. They were meeting with community groups.
The problem, Wolf, is that the people who they were meeting with aren't the ones out there committing mayhem. They're not the ones out there burning stuff. These are people going to be out there protesting and it's not clear that they're talking to the right people. The people that are doing all the damage are people who are not really going to be spoken to by the Justice Department.
We expect that the civil rights division officials are going to be here later this week also to meet with the police and the mayor's office, and also with the community groups, and we also expect the COPS office, the Community Policing Office to be also here this week to provide perhaps an update on what they have been doing with the police department. Again, not the people that are causing all the problems are going to be involved in any of those meetings -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Phil Banks, the curfew goes into effect 10:00 p.m. Eastern Time in Baltimore until 5:00 a.m. How do police enforce it?
BANKS: Well, tonight, listen here, Wolf. They put the curfew in order, and I'm going to make the assumption that a lot of thought process went into that. I certainly hope they didn't back themselves into a corner because you have a curfew and it's in place -- BLITZER: Hold on one second, Phil.
This is Eric Kowalczyk, he's the spokesman for the Baltimore Police Department.
CAPT. ERIC KOWALCZYK, BALTIMORE POLICE DEPT.: To enact a 24-hour juvenile curfew. He has the authority to do that. That has not been done. That is a decision that will be made if it is --
BLITZER: Looks like we lost our connection with the spokesman for the Baltimore police department.
I interrupted you, Phil. Wrap it up quickly.
BANKS: It's a strategic decision. Depending on what is going on in the street and the police chief should have the option to enforce it tonight or not enforce it tonight. Certainly, not making a decision not to enforce it because it could aggravate the decision is something that his management team needs to take and consider seriously.
BLITZER: Very, very quickly, Cornell Brooks, the president of the NAACP, should there be a massive police military presence on the streets at 10:00 tonight or not so massive?
BANKS: Well, at this point, the reality is, there is already a massive police presence with the calling up the National Guard, police officers coming in from other jurisdictions. So they're there. The issue --
BLITZER: I think we just lost -- unfortunately, we a lot of communications problems, but we're going to stay on top of this story, clearly, for our viewers.
I'm Wolf Blitzer.
CNN's live coverage continues right now with "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT."