Political Leaders Call for Reforms on Sunday News Shows Amid Protests Against Racial Injustice

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CBS News

Amid widespread protests against police violence across the United States, political leaders took to TV Sunday morning to call for reforms and grapple with the outbreaks of violence that have dominated news coverage of the demonstrations.

“We have a lot more work to do on not just how we hire officers, but how we allow chiefs to fire officers when we see across the country officers who were under investigation, officers who are proven to have acted in ways that [do] not befit our badges,” St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter told CBS News moderator Margaret Brennan on “Face the Nation.”

Carter appeared on the CBS News program the morning after the fifth night of protests sparked by the death of George Floyd, a Minneapolis man killed May 25. Derek Chauvin, a white Minneapolis police officer caught on video pressing his knee into a restrained Floyd’s neck until long after he became unresponsive, was fired and ultimately arrested and charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter.

Brennan on Sunday asked Carter about the fact that Chauvin had been the subject, prior to Floyd’s death, of 16 complaints, none of which ended in any disciplinary action.

“What we’ve seen when officers fall far below our expectations, police chiefs — it’s happened in St. Paul, it’s happened in Minneapolis, it’s happened across the country — who tried to remove those officers, who tried to terminate them, end up being forced to pull them back on the force through arbitration,” Carter said. “So our request for our young folks is to take this energy which has consumed our nation this past week. It’s a fire that could destroy us, but could bring us together in a way that we’ve never been together. Use it not to destroy our neighborhoods, but to tear down those laws, to tear down those legal precedents, to tear down those police union contracts that make it so difficult to hold officers accountable.”

Appearing on “Meet the Press” Sunday, Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison spoke with NBC News’ Chuck Todd about the so-called “suspicious behavior” of possible people from outside into the Twin Cities instigating violence in the protests.

“There’s been a lot of videotape taken by demonstrators of people who are very suspicious, who really did start breaking windows, particularly at the AutoZone and there have been other photographs and cars with no license plates, very suspicious behavior,” Ellison said. “But the real point is we do need to investigate it. Because you know the truth is nobody really knows. I’ve talked to people who are demonstrating. Some of them say they think some of those folks are from Minnesota, and they also say some people have come from out of town. What the exact political motivation is unclear at this point.”

Many in the Black Lives Matter movement and protesters involved in demonstrations this week have charged on social media that violence has been instigated by police and looting and property destruction initiated by white demonstrators. Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms told Brennon of demonstrations in her city Friday that led to violence at the headquarters of CNN, “It was a very different protest than we are used to having in Atlanta.”

She continued, “Obviously, we are the home of the civil rights movement. So we have a long history of protest in our city. But our organizers in Atlanta, many of whom don’t agree with me quite often as mayor, were very clear that this, by and large, after things turned violent, was not an Atlanta-based protest. It looked differently racially in our city than our normal protests looked. We don’t know who they were, but many of them were not locally based. I’ll say that.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, appearing on ABC News’ “This Week,” condemned the fact that it took four days for Chauvin to be arrested, that he was charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter rather than a higher crime, and that three other police officers present at Floyd’s death have not been arrested.

“I said right from the start that it was murder,” Pelosi said. “We saw an execution of a person on TV. We saw it happened, a knee to the neck. There are others there who witnessed it who would be considered, in other circumstance, accomplices to it. I have my own concern about a murder three charge. I haven’t seen a situation where there’s a scene of the crime and people haven’t been taken into custody immediately. But let’s hope that justice will be done as we go forward.”

Making oblique reference to President Donald Trump, who has on Twitter encourages law enforcement to respond to protesters with violent force, Pelosi said, “I think there were some unfortunate statements made that were provocative in terms of the outburst of concern that we are seeing.”

In a tweet last week, Trump wrote “when the looting starts, the shooting starts” — a phrase originally used by Miami police chief Walter Headley in 1967 during hearings about crime, and one that stoked outrage at the time among civil-rights leaders.

In response to Trump’s remarks, Pelosi said, “The president of the United States should bring dignity to the office that he serves. He should be a unifying force in our country. We have seen that with Democratic and Republican presidents all along. They have seen their responsibility to be the president of the United States, to unify our country, and not to fuel the flame, not to fuel the flame. Not to fuel the flame. And I think to take his bait time and time again is just a gift to him, because he always wants to divert attention from what the cause of the response was rather than to describe it in his own terms, sadly.”

Pelosi also touted several reform bills being put forward by Democratic members of the House of Representatives, including Hakeem Jeffries, Frederica Wilson, and Barbara Lee.

Appearing on “Fox News Sunday,” Minnesota Republican Sen. Tim Scott told host Chris Wallace that he had spoken with Trump about the president’s tweets, which have also called for the use of “vicious dogs and most ominous weapons” against protestors.

“Well, those are not constructive tweets, without any question,” Scott said. “I’ll say this, I spoke with the president yesterday morning, and he and I had a good conversation about what are the next steps. I told him what I’m going to tell you, which is, Mr. President, it helps us when you focus on the death, the unjustified, in my opinion, the criminal death of George Floyd. Those tweets are very helpful. It is helpful when you say what you said yesterday, which is that it’s important for us to recognize the benefit of non-violent protests. It is helpful when you respond to my request to have the Department of Justice, led by Attorney General Barr, have a commission and a conversation around race and justice in this nation. Mr. President, it is helpful when you lead with compassion.”