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THE SITUATION ROOM
Protests in Baltimore. Aired 18-19:00p ET
Aired April 29, 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 want to welcome viewers around the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You are in THE SITUATION ROOM.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
BLITZER: We are following breaking news, new protests under way in Baltimore right now, about 48 hours after parts of the city erupted in rioting.
We are also standing by for a news conference coming momentarily. The Maryland governor, Larry Hogan, getting ready to answer reporters' questions. He says Baltimore turned the corner overnight after several thousand troops and police officers were deployed and a curfew was imposed. The curfew resumes about four hours from now.
Also breaking tonight, Baltimore police say they will give the state's attorney the raw findings of their investigation into Freddie Gray's arrest death. But they won't issue a public report.
We have our correspondents, analysts, and newsmakers standing by as we cover the breaking story.
Let's go to Brian Todd first, though. He is marching with the protesters in Baltimore.
Tell us where they are, Brian, and what's going on.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, we are still on Saint Paul Street, working toward City Hall. I can tell you just from covering these marches over the past week, this is one of the biggest, one of the most energetic marches that we have covered. We can't estimate crowd size. It's very hard in a situation like this to do that.
BLITZER: He is just starting to speak. Let's get an update from the governor.
(JOINED IN PROGRESS)
GOV. LARRY HOGAN (R), MARYLAND: We are going to let General Singh and Colonel Pallozzi provide you with an update on police and National Guard operations around the city.
But, first, let me just say that we are very encouraged by what we have seen over the past 24 hours. I started the day at...
BLITZER: Looks like we lost our connection with the governor. We will try to reconnect with him and get an update. You heard him say that they are encouraged. Here he is. He's back.
HOGAN: From the Maryland State Police, from the city, from all across our state and even folks from all around the country.
And these men and women are working incredibly hard along with the National Guard. I want to thank them, including those from out of state. After we hear from -- after we left this morning from the command center, we went to Sandtown, which is the neighborhood where Freddie Gray was from.
We met with residents. We walked the neighborhoods. We met with neighborhood leaders and leaders of the NAACP at their new headquarters, which has just opened yesterday. And we got a chance to talk with some people who are among the worst affected by the civil unrest.
I can tell you, they were very thankful for the efforts of the National Guard and the Maryland State Police. They were happy that they were there protecting them and keeping the city safe. But I was also encouraged by the optimism that I saw there and by the number of people that were out helping in the community.
We then went to Maryland Emergency Management Agency. We held a cabinet meeting to ensure that every single state agency was trying to provide as much assistance and as many resources as they possibly could to the situation here in Baltimore and to helping people who were most in need.
Every single state agency is fully focused on this crisis and they're providing a number of necessary services and a lot of help that is very much needed in the city. Let me just also say that the Maryland Emergency Management Agency is doing a fantastic job of helping to coordinate all of our critical resources. State, city, and allied police along with the National Guard are working effectively together to ensure that Baltimore's streets are safe.
Today, children were back in school in Baltimore. People were back at work, and city residents were cleaning up after Monday night's disturbances. But we're not out of the woods yet. The state continues to utilize law enforcement assets from every corner of the state and from other states.
BLITZER: Looks like we lost our connection once again with the governor. But there he is. I think he's back.
HOGAN: We have in place approximately 2,000 members of the Maryland National Guard and over 1,000 State Troopers and other allied law enforcement officers, including officers from Montgomery Anne Arundel, Howard, Prince George's, Harford, County, as well as many others.
This combined force will not tolerate the violence or looting which has led to the destruction of property and put innocent Marylanders at risk. There are some peaceful protests happening tonight, and we want to make sure that individuals can exercise their First Amendment rights and express their legitimate concerns.
But we also want to stress and remind everyone that there is a 10:00 p.m. curfew in place in the city, and I urge everyone in Baltimore to get off the streets tonight at 10:00. When the streets are clear, police and the National Guard can do their jobs. And the vast majority of people in the city are being extremely helpful and cooperative. People are picking up bags and brooms and cleaning up.
Parents are keeping kids at home and off the streets, and community leaders, who have been so helpful to us in keeping the peace and urging people to protest in a peaceful, nonviolent way, have been urging people to head home before the curfew.
Across Maryland, we're seeing the work of people who are urging another quiet night like we had last night. The Governor's Office of Community Initiatives and the Governor's Office of Service and Volunteerism organized 2,600 volunteers, people from all across Maryland who love the city of Baltimore and wanted to pitch in and help.
We have launched MarylandUnites.com, where people can get information on state services and on how they can volunteer and contribute and donate to various charities that are helping in the effort. We're all working together, and we will continue to be here until the threat of violence ends.
Our primary mission is to maintain order and to begin to repair the damage inflicted by the violence and looting from earlier in the week. Baltimore families deserve peace and safety in their community, and we are working together very hard to ensure that.
At this point, I'm going to turn the podium over to General Singh, and then Colonel Pallozzi, who will provide some further details on the specific actions of today, and then we'd be happy to take your questions.
GEN. LINDA SINGH, MARYLAND ARMY NATIONAL GUARD: Thank you, Governor.
So, first, I would like to say I'm just getting back in from actually talking to a number of the support that we have out there. And that not only includes my soldiers that are out there, my airmen that are out there, but all the folks from the State Police, all the folks from Baltimore City, all the folks from all the jurisdictions and other states that have provided support.
And I'm going to tell you something. They are not only high speed, they are what I call hooah, hooah. Right? And in army terms, that means they are ready to stand tall, shoulder by shoulder to ensure that we are taking care of our city.
And so, when I think about here the (AUDIO GAP) here what Colonel Pallozzi and the Baltimore City team has put together and how they moved out with us in support, this needs to be a model that we continue to work on and refine for every other exercise that we need to do, for every other mission that we need to do, because the cooperation and the support that I am seeing here, that's the cooperation and support that we need in the communities within the folks.
That's the patience we need from the communities, so that we can get through this, get back to business and take care of the challenges that we need to bring to the table for a discussion.
I just hope that we remember that trying to change culture, trying to change habits does not happen overnight. It's not going to be solved overnight. We have absolutely a lot more work we need to do. And I'm asking you to be patient, protest peacefully, go to sleep at 10:00, because I would really like to go to sleep at 10:00 tonight, and let's get on with business.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you.
Colonel, Colonel Pallozzi.
COL. WILLIAM PALLOZZI, MARYLAND STATE POLICE: Thank you, General, Governor, Lieutenant Governor.
First of all, the law enforcement community has come together united, working together not just from the state of Maryland, but the state of New Jersey Troopers are here, these resources they brought in here last evening. Metropolitan Police Department brought in resources as well. And the resources of the National Guard to support the entire mission is huge for the State Police.
You know, we have kind of walked a gentle dance as we all coordinate this together, lots of moving pieces, Commissioner Batts, Deputy Commissioner Palmere, and Deputy Commissioner Davis, we worked through a couple issues moving through things, making sure we are all on the same sheet of music.
We are here to support them. They ultimately are the police department here. We realize that. But we are here to support them. An issue that grew to something that was bigger than what they could handle, and we started to help try to them move through the pieces.
We continue to follow and track the groups that move, peacefully protest. We appreciate that. And I cannot echo enough the governor's comments that at 10:00, please observe the curfew, go home. It is not our desire to arrest everybody or anybody.
Please, listen to the time, go home. We want peace in the city. We will continue to patrol the city until the determination is made that we are not needed anymore. Hopefully, that's sooner rather than later. But at the same time, we are here to support the city of Baltimore. Thank you.
HOGAN: Thank you, Colonel. Be happy to take any questions.
HOGAN: No. Anybody else?
HOGAN: Well, sure. We are concerned. Obviously, it could have an impact on tourism. Obviously, we are losing dollars every day. People are afraid to come into the city. Businesses are still closed.
I believe we have 200 businesses closed. The first lady tonight, by the way, is meeting -- at two different meetings. Nearly half of those 200 businesses are Korean-owned businesses. My wife is a Korean-American. She will be meeting with two different organizations of people that lost their businesses that were burned or completely looted, since many of them don't have insurance.
There are a lot of businesses that are hurt. We are losing lots and lots of money. The city's reputation has been hurt. We have got to work to fix that. We have got to give people the money they need, the assistance. We have got the insurance commissioner working to get those businesses money from their claims if they don't have it. We are working with the Small Business Administration to try to get them money.
People that need assistance in housing when their homes were burned down, we're taking care of them. Tourism is critical to the city. Baltimore is a beautiful, wonderful place. We are going to get back to normal. I saw some great things out there that people should be proud of in the city. And we are going to get back to the Baltimore that we all love.
HOGAN: Well, I would say this is not representative of the way things usually are in Baltimore. We are very proud of this city. We're proud of the people of the city.
It's going to take us awhile to restore order and to get things back to normal and get everybody comfortable again. But we are going to do everything we can to bring people back to the city.
QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) Do you have anything you can say about just the overall sense of having those troops on the ground in our city, giving up a little bit of freedom? (OFF-MIKE)
HOGAN: You know what? I was -- I have spent 48 hours not only, you know, handling this crisis and organizing all this effort, but in the community. I spent all day today and yesterday all over Baltimore City talking with people. All day long, nearly every single person I talked to thanked us
profusely. Thank you for bringing the Guard, thank you for bringing the Maryland State Police. Thank you for bringing law and order back to our city. If you remember on Monday night, the city was in flames.
Cars were being exploded. Stores were being looted, people's homes being burnt to the ground. People are pretty happy that we are here and that things are not like Monday night.
QUESTION: The other day you used the word finally when you said the mayor (OFF-MIKE) requested the National Guard be brought in. Have you had time to think about really whether the National Guard, whether she acted fast enough? And do you think that Monday would have happened if things happened earlier?
HOGAN: Look, this seems to be coming up a lot. I have said over and over again, for the past 48 hours, I have praised the mayor, I have thanked her for her efforts. And I thought she did a tremendous job.
It's just not worth arguing over what happened, what could have happened. I think they did as best job they could on Monday night. They were overwhelmed and undermanned. They couldn't handle it. That doesn't reflect badly on the mayor, doesn't reflect badly on the city of Baltimore. They just didn't have the manpower. They needed our help.
We didn't lose a single minute. It doesn't matter when a call was made or not. We were prepared and ready a week in advance. It usually takes eight hours to stand up the Guard. We got it done in three. If she had called at 3:00 the very first moment the first thing happened, we were still five hours early.
It doesn't matter. We didn't slow down. We didn't miss a beat. By the time we got in there around 9:00 or 10:00, things were pretty much calmed down. And last night, it was a dramatically different picture. We are working in conjunction, cooperation with the mayor. We are talking every day.
I have probably had 100 interviews where I have praised her actions and her efforts and that of a city. We are working as a united team. We are here to back up the mayor of Baltimore. We are here to support the police department of Baltimore.
And we don't want to waste a lot of time talking about personalities and feelings and who might have been concerned about what. I think it's an excellent operation. And we are all working together. And I'm proud of the joint effort.
HOGAN: Well, that was a decision that was made by the commissioner of baseball. It did not include us, didn't involve us. We didn't ask it to happen. Quite frankly, I am happy that there weren't tens of thousands of
fans there. In hindsight, and we look, things were peaceful. We had everything under control. But just like the curfew, we said earlier, we clear the streets, it helps us do our job. Having tens of thousands of people there at the stadium might not have helped with the job.
But that's a decision they made. We didn't make that decision. Anybody else?
HOGAN: Well, you know, we have spent -- yesterday, I called together, on our very first day on the job, in addition to getting the law and order restored, I met with faith-based leaders and community leaders from all over the state, I mean from all over the city, and asked for their input and asked questions and talked about how we can help.
Today, we went to Sandtown to meet with the very neighbors in the very neighborhood where this whole thing started and talked with them. I hugged them. I talked with them. I listened to them. I met with the NAACP. I met with church leaders.
There are issues that are bigger than what's happening today that have to be resolved. But as General Singh said, they are not going to be resolved immediately. You have got to be patient. After we get the initial crisis taken care of, there are a lot of people that need to sit down and talk about how we can bring our society together.
It's a problem that we have all got to work to try to come up with a solution to.
I spoke with the attorney general of the United States last night. I spoke with the president yesterday. I spoke with Valerie Jarrett at the White House today. We are in constant communication with the city, with other states, with our local county partners and with the federal assets as well.
I had a conference call last night with the entire federal delegation that represents Maryland and Washington. Everybody is cooperating. Everybody is helping. And everybody is very pleased with the success, so far, of this operation and the cooperation and communication we have had.
HOGAN: Well, that's a bigger issue that we probably don't have time to discuss today while we're facing this one, this crisis here in Baltimore. I'm going to focus on keeping Baltimore safe. And then we can have a discussion about society in general and problems in the United States.
QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) HOGAN: Well, we are hoping more peace and calm in the streets.
But we are going to continue to be careful about staying on top of everything that's happening.
We are going to continue to meet with community leaders. We are going to continue to make sure that we are out there protecting the city. We don't know what is going to happen. We know there are a number of protests tonight, a number of things different taking place. We are urging calm. We are urging peace. We want to make sure there's no violence.
But we are also prepared, if things do get out of control like they got out of control Monday night. You know, things could potentially flare up later in the week. We are just going to hope for the best. We're going to prepared for the worst.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Last question.
HOGAN: Well, my primary focus is economic development and trying to bring more jobs, more businesses, more opportunities and more jobs to Baltimore and to the state of Maryland. This doesn't help.
But it's something we are going to have to get past. We are going to have to continue to work and focus on the mission, the things the city needs the most. A job solves a lot of social ills if family has got somebody that is earning money.
So, we are going to focus on it. We are going to try to, first of all, take care of the businesses we have lost here in the city just on Monday night, and make sure we take care of them. We are going to try to maintain the businesses that are here in the city and make sure that they can be successful.
And then we're going to try to do whatever we can to rebuild the economy of Baltimore City and the state of Maryland. Thank you.
BLITZER: All right, so there he is, the governor of Maryland, Larry Hogan, updating us on what's going on, hoping for the best, but he says he's getting ready for the worst, if that were to happen.
This is the protest that is under way in Baltimore right now.
Brian Todd is on the scene for us.
Brian, where are you guys now? Because that protest has been peaceful so far.
TODD: It has been peaceful so far. We are now at the head of the procession. It has just arrived at City Hall, which was its destination.
We have been talking to some of the protest leaders. Now we want to talk to some oft rank-and-file marchers.
This is Mary Lanier (ph). She's a senior at Towson University.
Mary, you came out here. Look at this. I will ask our photographer to pan down. She has got a serious ACL injury. You tore your ACL. You're walking with the help of a cane. What brought you out here?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, those are my friends up there on the truck. And I feel like I have the luxury of still being here.
People in the ground that were killed by the police and killed by police brutality and white supremacy are no longer here. And so as long as I'm able-bodied and able to move, I will fight for justice for the rest of my life.
TODD: What kind of message do you want the community to take away from this when all of this over and the media and the crowds leave?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's a bigger picture. It's not justice for Freddie Gray, but justice -- it's about ending white supremacy, equality for all the nation. It's a bigger picture.
TODD: Thank you for talking to us, Mary.
Very spirited crowd, Wolf. They have reached their destination. We are not exactly sure if they're going to go to the main plaza in front of City Hall. They have stopped here. But I can tell you, it's a crowd of several thousand that extends back blocks. We can't really get over it right now. But you get a sense here of the dynamic nature of this crowd, Wolf.
BLITZER: Yes, a huge crowd in Baltimore. Brian, stand by.
We are also seeing that new protests are springing up in other major Northeast cities, bringing in some pictures from crowds in Boston, New York City as well.
Let's go to New York City.
CNN's Alexandra Field is at New York's Union Square.
Hundreds of people have gathered for a show of support for the people of Baltimore. What is their mission here? What are they saying, Alexandra?
ALEXANDRA FIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, this is a crowd that's grown really quickly. We are going to try and sort of make our way through to give you an idea of just how dense the crowd is.
It's materialized very quickly. It was advertised on social media. When we got here earlier this evening and we spoke to organizers, they said that this was going to be a place for people to come. They could gather to express both their outrage and their sadness. They have actually got a full program of speakers. That's what's going on in the background here.
They have got different people who are stepping up to the mike. You can hear the crowd shouting back to them at different points. It's a very controlled situation. A very respectful crowd. These are people who came to listen and also to be heard.
A lot of them holding up different signs saying black lives matter, no justice, no peace. We have been told that there isn't a planned march. This is really intended to be a gathering. But we have also been told that we could see the kind of marches that of course we have seen before in this city, that this is going to be something that is organic, that people are going to do whatever it is that they feel inspired to do.
But, Wolf, I do want to highlight the difference that I am seeing out here. Union Square, this is the same spot where we were with our cameras back in the winter, when protests erupted all over the city following the death of Eric Garner. At that time, we saw an environment where protesters came out here. They lined up and they actually faced off with police in a very verbal confrontation.
You had seen a line of officers and a line of protesters, the protesters having a verbal exchange with police officers. We are not seeing that out here today. So far, we have seen no verbal confrontations with police officers, no physical confrontations with police officers.
But we are seeing police employing something of a different tactic than what they did back in the winter. Even before this protest started, police brought vans out here. They set up a loudspeaker. They warned people if they walked in the streets and if they obstructed the sidewalks, that they could be subject to arrest for disorderly conduct.
That is not something we saw the last time around. In fact, they are even handing out these fliers, trying to, it seems, control or warn the crowd even before this gathering started this evening -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Their mission in New York, as in Boston, as in Baltimore, a lot of signs saying #blacklivesmatter.
Alexandra, we're going to get back to you.
In the meantime, I want to bring in the president and CEO of the NAACP, Cornell William Brooks, and the president of the National Urban League, Marc Morial.
Gentlemen, thanks very much for joining us.
Let me get your reaction, first of all, Cornell, demonstrations not only in Baltimore, but now moving to New York and Boston. What do you think?
CORNELL WILLIAM BROOKS, PRESIDENT, NAACP: I think this is a very powerful and encouraging development.
The fact of the matter is, the nation is saying not only that black lives matter, all lives matter. And our country and Constitution matter. And it matters so much, that we cannot allow young black men to lose their lives at the hands of the police on videotape across the country without us responding in a vigorous way.
So, this is a very encouraging development. But be clear. This is just one chapter in an ongoing national narrative, the likes of which we are going to conclude with an end to racial profiling.
This is in fact a movement. It's not a series of disconnected events. This is not merely a matter of disconnected events on social media. There's a real movement. There's a consensus that we have arrived at a point where enough is enough.
BLITZER: What do you think, Marc? It looks like these protests, they are certainly spreading, as they say, not just in Baltimore, but other major cities, New York and Boston and presumably elsewhere as well.
MARC MORIAL, PRESIDENT, NATIONAL URBAN LEAGUE: Well, Cornell is right. I think he's spot on.
This began 18 months ago or so, almost two years ago with the Trayvon Martin incident, that tragic incident. And since then, there have been 12 high-profile incidents involving unarmed black men and, in the case of Tamir Rice, a boy. And I think what you're seeing is people taking to the streets, exercising their First Amendment rights, and expressing a sense of outrage and a sense of it's time to change the way things are in a way we haven't seen, Wolf, in decades.
This is unprecedented. We support, encourage and associate ourselves with peaceful protest. But what we have to do is, we have to have a national anti-racial profiling law. What we have to see in Maryland is comprehensive reforms to the Baltimore Police Department. There's a role for the governor and the legislature to play. And that is the repeal of the Law Enforcement Officers' Bill of Rights.
So, these actions have to lead to concrete steps with respect to change. And I think that is why this is going to continue and I think it's going to continue to grow. Let's also, Wolf, not lose focus on the investigation into the death of Mr. Gray, an investigation that continues and an investigation for which there hasn't really been, if you will, an update on the status of that investigation.
I would hope that the officials in Baltimore and in Maryland would update the community, to the extent that they can, on the progress and how that investigation is involved, because, after all, at the heart of the matter, that is what many of these protests are about. That's where the outrage and the concern is, a man with a broken spine who is now gone.
BLITZER: All right. Stand by for a moment. Let me just update our viewers who may just be tuning in. Left
half of the screen, you can see the demonstration in Baltimore, a huge demonstration, moving from City Hall elsewhere, black lives matter. They're protesting what happened to Freddie Gray in Baltimore, a 25- year-old man who died in police custody.
Expecting a report from the police on Friday to the state's attorney. We will see if any of that is made public. Also, in New York, Union Square, a huge demonstration has developed there as well, similarly protesting what happened in Baltimore. They say, the organizers, they want to show solidarity with the people in Baltimore. In Boston, there's a demonstration going on right now.
In fact, I want to go to Miguel Marquez, who is in Baltimore.
You are watching this demonstration, Miguel. What are you seeing?
MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This is going to be a test for the city of Baltimore tonight, Wolf.
There are several protests, three, perhaps four protests that are planned, different starting times, different starting places, all focused on City Hall and the state's attorney's office. They want to hold the city and the state accountable for whatever happens on Friday, for whatever comes out of this investigation eventually. They want to keep their feet to the fire.
They also want to show the city that they can protest peacefully and with a strong voice, but they can take to their own streets, regardless of whether there's a demonstration. It does sound like they fully intend to be out of there by the time 10:00 p.m. comes around.
But this is clearly a lot more organization, a lot more planned, a level of organization that the city and the neighborhood here that we haven't seen in a long time. In fact, we are expecting possibly a march out of here as well on Pennsylvania and North Avenue that has seen so much activity. It has yet to materialize. But there is talk of one from here as well.
These things seem to be very well-organized on social media and then pop up very quickly, and they are off -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Yes, very well-organized, indeed, very peaceful, at least for now, loud, noisy, but peaceful, key word, peaceful.
Cornell William Brooks, you are the president and CEO of the NAACP. You listened to the governor of Maryland, Larry Hogan, at his news conference just a little while ago. You want to react to what you heard? Do you have confidence in the governor and what he's doing?
BROOKS: Well, what I have confidence in is that there is some equal --seems to be, we hope to be, an equal emphasis on security and free expression, allowing people to express the need for fundamental reform. That's encouraging.
We need to be clear here. This is more than -- it's more than just one evening's rest or one night of peace. The fact of the matter is, we see these demonstrations across the country. The NAACP has 2,000-plus units. We had those units on a phone call last night. We are organizing.
We must be clear here. The people on the streets, the people in communities all across the country are seeking fundamental reform -- body cameras, civilian review boards, the passage of the End Racial Profiling Act. A fundamental shift change, paradigm shift, if you will, in policing across this country.
If we think that simply deploying several thousand National Guardsmen will, in fact, bring peace to the country, we are sadly mistaken. We are grateful and appreciative that we've had a night of rest and quiet, and we hope that continues. But the way to ensure peace, long-term, is to ensure that we have justice in the short term and the long term. Critically important. And to do that, we have to bring about systemic, fundamental reform. Nothing less will do.
BLITZER: That's a long-term charge, obviously. It's not going to happen overnight, as all of us know.
Marc Morial, you agree that this -- this curfew should remain in effect, that National Guard personnel should remain on the streets, at least going into next week?
MORIAL: I think that there's no choice but to maintain the proper presence. It's a dual responsibility to protect the public safety, but also to protect those who want to peacefully protest, their constitutional rights.
But I also wanted to add, Wolf, and this is an observation. I saw the governor's press conference. I think the message would be stronger if the governor and the mayor were holding joint press conferences each day, because what that would convey is not just the words, but the action of a joint operation.
You know, one of the things that caused tremendous confusion during the tragedy of Katrina were the mayor and the governor not appearing to be on the same page. And I have tremendous respect. I don't know the governor. Tremendous respect and support for the mayor. But in these instances, everyone has to avoid even the appearance of politicalization [SIC], one-upmanship, a sense of taking credit for what the response may indeed be.
This is fluid. Today may be a better day, but there's tomorrow. There's the weekend. There's an ongoing series of activities. The protests you see, I think, are going to be a continuing set of protests until such time as there's a conclusion or decision with respect to the investigation into Mr. Gray's death.
BLITZER: Marc Morial, stand by. Cornell Brooks, stand by, as well. I want to check in with Brian Todd. He's right in the middle of a protest in Baltimore right now. Brian, what's the latest? TODD: Very interesting here, Wolf. They've stopped at the
corner of Lexington and East Gay Street. And this protest had taken on a different texture than most of the marches that we've seen.
Here, in the last hour, our cameraman is going to pan over here. They have stopped in their vehicles. First of all, there's a lead vehicle. We haven't seen a vehicle leading the protest, leading the march.
They have speakers that have come to the bed of this -- the bed of this truck here, just to get up and speak. And they're calling different people to get up and speak. This is a little bit different than what we've seen. It's really more structured and certainly larger. This is several thousand strong, extending back several blocks.
What a lot of these protesters feel is that the violence in recent days has taken the focus off the Freddie Gray case, has taken the focus off other cases. They want to keep attention on them: the Michael Brown case in Ferguson, the Eric Garner case in New York. They want to draw the attention back on those cases, back to Freddie Gray and back to Friday when the report comes out, the police give their report to prosecutors.
Now we know that local authorities here are trying to manage expectations that there may not be a lot of information coming out in that report. But you can bet the people are going to be out anyway, just looking for answers. That's what this crowd is all about. If these people don't get some answers on Friday, very likely some people will be coming out and organizing marches like this, Wolf.
[18:35:18] BLITZER: All right, Wolf. I want to go to Jason Carroll. He's also monitoring these protests in Baltimore. Jason, where are you? What are you seeing?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What time did it start at John Hopkins?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We started at 4 p.m.
JASON CARROLL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, so we're standing here sort of in the midsection of where this crowd is. You can see there are hundreds and hundreds of people right now in front of city hall, trying to make their way into the courtyard in front of city hall. They are students. We see members of Amnesty International. I'm told that this started at Johns Hopkins University not far from here, and they went over and marched to Penn Station. And now, they are here.
Give me a sense of what voice you want to be heard. What statement are you trying to make today?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Basically, we're just tired of injustice. We're not going to stand for it any longer. And I really want the fact that this is peaceful to be known. Most of these protests have been peaceful, and everyone's unified. They're giving out flowers.
CARROLL: How long do you guys plan to be out here today? Any sense of how long the demonstrators will be here?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Until it ends.
CARROLL: Until it ends. Until 10?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Curfew is at 10. We hear (ph) that.
CARROLL: So Wolf, these are some people here who are planning to honor the curfew. One of the other statements I want to make about being out here is I ran into one protester, who I saw in Ferguson and then saw again in New York City. He says he is here today. He says he will be out here tomorrow, and they will continue to have their voices heard -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Jason. We're going to get back to you. We're going to monitor the protests in Baltimore, in New York, in Boston. Much more of our special coverage coming up right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
[18:41:19] BLITZER: We're following the breaking news. New marches in Baltimore, just hours into the second day of a city-wide curfew. Police are saying they expect a large protest this evening. You're looking at these live pictures. You can see what's going on. A very large protest. Peaceful, so far. Let's hope it stays that way.
Our justice reporter, Evan Perez, is joining us from Baltimore right now. Evan, tell us what you're hearing about the investigation. Tell us what you're learning.
EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, you know these protesters out here are expecting answers on Friday. And the police are not going to provide any of those answers. They're going to turn over their investigation, the preliminary report to the state prosecutor's office. We don't expect that we'll know whether or not there's going to be any charges coming from this case for weeks, perhaps months, because the investigation is going to continue now.
What I'm told from talking to people who are close to the investigation is that there's no clear-cut case here. They're still reviewing the evidence. There's no clear indication that they can even bring charges against these officers that are involved here. So while these protesters are expecting handcuffs on police officers soon, we're a long ways away from that.
And so the question is, how is -- how are the streets -- how are the streets of Baltimore going to respond to that, Wolf?
BLITZER: We're going to see Friday when that report is made available, preliminary report to the state's attorney. Evan, stand by.
I want to bring in our FBI assistant director -- former, I should say, FBI assistant director, Tom Fuentes. He's our CNN law enforcement analyst. Also joining us, our justice correspondent, Pamela Brown; our senior legal analyst, Jeffrey Toobin; the community activist John Gaskin; and the former NYPD chief of department, Philip Banks.
You're in New York, Philip Banks. There's a protest in Union Square in New York. We've been watching the protest in Boston, a huge protest in Baltimore right now. This is a sensitive moment for law enforcement, whether police, National Guard troops in Baltimore. You want to show some presence, but you don't want to go overboard, right?
PHILIP BANKS, FORMER NYPD CHIEF OF DEPARTMENT: Yes, it's a real delicate balance, Wolf. And, you know, the unfortunate thing about this is that it seems like a few months ago, there was a series of protests in multiple cities.
And unfortunately, we could probably see that in the shortcoming future. So somebody has to figure this out pretty soon.
I'm so happy to hear the governor of Maryland talk about the protests thus far has turned peaceful. But certainly, it's something that we can't rest on our laurels. It seems like it's a potential to be a powder keg. And this needs to be country-wide. It needs to be settled.
BLITZER: Everybody -- everybody's got to be sensitive to that.
Tom Fuentes, you're there in Baltimore for us. What does it feel like? What is -- what's the sense you're getting about the situation? Because we don't want it to be a powder keg.
FUENTES: Well, I think it is a powder keg, even though we don't want it to be, Wolf. And this could possibly escalate each of the upcoming days, especially, as Evan says, Friday when there's no answers that please the public. Friday and Saturday could be very dangerous times here.
BLITZER: Well, let's talk about what the state's attorney is going to be getting, Jeffrey Toobin. There's going to be a report, a preliminary report from Baltimore Police to the state's attorney. She has to decide what to do with that evidence. She's got various options. She could file charges against some of the police officers who were involved in the arrest of Freddie Gray. She can send all of that to a grand jury to consider what to do. Or she might decide there's not enough evidence to do anything.
Talk a little bit about the legal process, because you know the community is going to be watching this very closely.
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, almost certainly, the prosecutor is going to say, "I need more evidence. I need a fuller medical examiner's report." In Maryland, the usual rule is 30 to 45 days for a medical examiner's report. So that may not even be complete yet. And that's probably the central piece of evidence in this case, how and why did Freddie Gray die. Experts may have to be consulted. Other eyewitnesses maybe consulted. This is obviously a very important case and the most important
thing that can happen is that the prosecutor get the right answer, not necessarily the fast answer. And the legal system, as we all know, often moves at a frustratingly slow pace, but, she has got to take her time, assign the right people, re-interview witnesses, perhaps put them in the grand jury and then decide whether criminal charges are justified.
This stuff takes time. And there's no alternative to doing it the right way, which is going to take weeks, if not months.
BLITZER: Well, let me just get Cornell William Brooks' reaction to that. You're the president and CEO of NAACP.
Cornell, you're also an attorney, you understand the legal process well. What do you think should -- what should we be bracing for on Friday?
CORNELL WILLIAM BROOKS, NAACP: Well, I think we should brace for a community that will be disappointed in terms of the expectation gap. But rather than simply brace for the worse, I like to prepare for a better outcome.
One of the ways that could be done is for the governor, for the mayor, for the Justice Department to explain over and over again through these community groups, through these organizations what the process is and what to expect and whatnot to expect. Simply share with the people in clear and unambiguous terms that it is better to have a thorough investigation rather than a fast investigation and is better to have questions answered as opposed to simply getting more information.
So, Friday should not be seen as some kind of deadline for justice. Friday should be seen as another step in the process toward hopefully getting a just result. We really need state, federal and municipal chief executives coming together with the community to let people know what to expect, how much to expect and when to expect it. If that is not done, this is a potentially dangerous situation.
BLITZER: All right. Cornell, I want you to stand by as well.
Joining us on the phone right now is General Linda Singh. She's the commanding of the Maryland National Guard. We have been seeing her with the briefings with the Maryland governor. You are senior military adviser to the governor.
How many National Guards troops have been deployed in Baltimore, General Singh?
MAJ. GEN. LINDA SINGH, MARYLAND NATIONAL GUARD ADJUTANT GENERAL (via telephone): At this point, almost 2,000 on ground in Baltimore. We can access to another 3,000 if we need to. And that doesn't include being able to access forces in our neighboring states that will provide us support when ever necessary.
BLITZER: What is their mission, General? SINGH: So, our mission is to help maintain and restore peace in
the community. We are in support of the police forces that are here and our goal is really to come in and help to protect property and ensure that, you know, we can ensure that the citizens are going to be safe and that, you know, we can get everything back to what I think is going to be a city that is getting back to normal business.
BLITZER: So, I guess, I have been covering the military for awhile. I guess the question is rules of engagement. Let's say this demonstration, we hope it doesn't, turns violent. What would -- what would the troops there, your troops of the Maryland National Guard, what are the rules of engagement? What would they do?
SINGH: So, first off, the way we are using our forces, we are using them in terms of what we consider to be presence patrol and using them in static position. And when we say static position, that's protecting property and places that we have actually had either problems or escalations of community where, you know, they have asked us to step in and support. So, we are taking the direction, really of the police and they are deploying us in the places that they need us.
When rules of engagement are employed, right now, we are in support and we will not, however -- will not -- allow any of our forces to be harmed at any precaution. That the key thing is that, you know, we really do not want to have to get into any kind of violent situation. The police force doesn't want to get into a violent situation. But we would be the last force and measure and, you know, the key thing is, if we had to engage, we will engage with whatever force is appropriate based on the situation and there are rules for how we have to escalate and how we have to be employed.
[18:50:08] And we are following those very, very carefully. I think it's important that people know that. You know, right now, the police are in control and the guard is in support to protect property and people.
BLITZER: Very quickly before I let you go, General Singh, are your troops there deployed with mace, with tear gas, water cannon? Do they have lethal weapons? What kind of protection do they have?
SINGH: All right. So, first off, I'm not going to go through the specifics of the stuff that they have with them. But let me just say that our troops have the ability to employ nonlethal and lethal capability, basically means smoke and gas and things like that.
But we are not the first level of response. Everything that's happened thus far has been employed by the police department. And so, usually, we are not the ones that will be employing those tactics and methods unless we absolutely have to do so.
BLITZER: General Linda Singh is the commanding general of the Maryland National Guard. General Singh, good luck to the men and women of the Maryland National Guard. Hopefully, this will remain peaceful and all of you guys could go home. Appreciate it very much. Thank you.
SINGH: Absolutely. Thank you.
BLITZER: All right, thank you.
We'll take a quick break as we continue to watch these protests in Baltimore, in New York and Boston.
Much more right after this.
[18:56:l5] BLITZER: Protesters are on the move right now. Live pictures coming in from Baltimore right now. You see large numbers of protesters there. In New York, there's protests going on as well, in Boston.
There were also some protests last night in Ferguson, Missouri. Let's bring in John Gaskin who can help us better appreciate what happened in Ferguson.
It got sort of violent last night, didn't it, John?
JOHN GASKIN, COMMUNITY ACTIVIST: It did. Unfortunately, things got out of hand last night. And it's my hope that tonight and across the country, as people mobilize and are out in the streets, exercising their rights, that people will remain peaceful yet continue to lift this issue up.
This is a very positive moment. The images that we're seeing in New York and across the country and in Baltimore, standing in solidarity with that city as we continue to mobilize and talk about this very critical issue.
BLITZER: You know, you're a young guy, John. When you hear all this talk about whether or not it was appropriate for the president or the mayor of Baltimore to use the word "thugs" to describe the vie lent protesters, those who engage in arson and looting, and then the mayor apologized for that, explain to our viewers why that word thugs is inappropriate.
GASKIN: So often, we find ourselves overusing words in our vocabulary that have no business being there. Oftentimes, too often in this country, we're finding "thug" referring to young African- American men in our community.
Sadly, many leaders see that that's possibly the new equivalent of the "N" word. It's unfortunate that President Obama and Mayor Blake used those words. I believe they're better than that. They're quite competent leaders and very intelligent. And those words are far beneath who they are as people and who they are as leaders.
However, I do appreciate the fact that Mayor Blake was humble enough and intelligent enough to reconsider what she said and try to clarify that. But I certainly hope that they do not continue to use that type of language, especially other leaders who call themselves representing African-Americans, representing Americans in this country. BLITZER: All right. Jason Carroll, you're there on the scene at
this protest in Baltimore. What's going on?
JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, now this group here, this group of hundreds and hundreds of people that marched their way right in front of city hall, we're now in the process of marching back to Penn Station. They started at Johns Hopkins University. A very diverse group of people -- we met some students from Johns Hopkins, we met some nurses holding signs saying, nurses for healing.
The big common denominator here, Wolf, within this crowd, this huge crowd now moving throughout the city of Baltimore, is peace. They want a peaceful demonstration. They want to show that they can march, they can voice their opinions without resorting to violence like we saw in previous days.
In terms of what happens next, again, let me see if we can get our camera just to turn around here very quickly. You can see this huge group now. This massive group of demonstrators walking in silence for Freddie Gray, holding up peace signs, holding up signs that say "black lives matter", police brutality must go. They say they're going to continue marching.
They're also saying they plan on honoring the curfew. Some of the people that we spoke to. That curfew at 10:00 is still in effect, these people marching for peace.
BLITZER: Yes, the curfew goes in effect in three hours. Hopefully, it will be honored in these marches whether in Baltimore, New York, or Boston, will remain peaceful.
I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.
CNN's live coverage will continue right now with "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" -- Erin.