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Growing Calls for Hate Crime Charges in the Atlanta Murders as Police Still Work to Name a Motive; Some Insurrectionists from Jan. 6 Could Face Sedition Charges; Desperation Across Brazil as Coronavirus Spreads Rapidly Through the Country. Aired 10:30-11a ET

Aired March 22, 2021 - 10:30   ET




POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Growing calls for hate crime charges in the Atlanta murders as police still work to name exactly the motive, but what we know is the undeniable fact that in this rampage that killed eight people, six of them are Asian women. There were nationwide protests this weekend as more people joined the call to stop anti- Asian hate.

It's the same hate that my next guest warned us all about more than a year ago after this racist attack on an L.A. subway.


UNKNOWN: Disease has ever came from China. Everything comes from China. Those are (inaudible) disgusting.


HARLOW: And still one year later, her fear. Watch.


TANNY JIRAPRAPASUKE, VICTIM OF ANTI-ASIAN HATE INCIDENT: This is where I grew up. I don't feel safe right now. I'm exhausted from worrying about my mom and my aunt every single time they step out of the house.


HARLOW: Joining me now is Tanny Jiraprapasuke, who is, as you saw, and was a victim of this anti-Asian hate. Tanny, thank you for coming on the show.

JIRAPRAPASUKE: Thank you for having me.

HARLOW: You know, when we heard from you talking about that fear that lives in you still a year after that verbal assault, that was before these murders of six Asian women in and around Atlanta just last week. What are your thoughts today as we learn about the women killed? JIRAPRAPASUKE: I like to say that I was surprised, but I really wasn't. You know, initially when I heard about the murders, I just kept thinking we're here now. This is exactly what we all thought was going to happen and it has happened.

I was outraged. I was outraged because this is something that we all saw coming. You know, I - like you said, I spoke about this a year ago, and consistently day-after-day we would see in our newsfeed that more and more Asians were being attacked, and each attack, you know, as time progressed so did the attacks. It got worse and worse.

It started out from with something that happened to me where it was a verbal assault, and then you build up to spitting in the face, coughing in people's faces. Then it was an in-person, in your face kind of verbal assault. Then it became shoving, and then we started to see pushing elderly Asian Americans and Asians to their death. And even that wasn't enough for people to do anything about it. And now here we are.

HARLOW: Yes, yes.

JIRAPRAPASUKE: Eight people have lost their lives.

HARLOW: Yes. Now here we are. You talk about the emotional exhaustion that you feel being so scared, worried for your mother, for your aunt. And you said I'm exhausted for the rage that I feel every day. I don't think that's something that if unless we are in your shoes we can fully understand, that exhaustion just from fear that this could happen to me again and to the people I love.

JIRAPRAPASUKE: Yes. I mean, imagine that you wake up every single day and, you know, as it is we're in a pandemic. We're in an economic situation where so many of us are having hard times finding work, and then to add to that we have to think about who's coming into our spaces. You know what are we interacting with as we walk out the door with our faces and our skin color.

And there's no rhyme or reason at least from my - I understand that there's a kind of hatred towards Asian Americans and Asians, but there's not a rhyme or reason that I can understand. You know, so then there's no way for us to try to even avoid it except for staying and hiding in our homes, and that's an impossibility. We still have to go out there and live.


HARLOW: There is this beautiful solidarity that we're seeing, and it was - it was laid out in the piece that my colleague, Heung Law (ph), did with you and with a number of activists, including Black Lives Matter activists. Can you talk about what that solidarity means in this moment?

JIRAPRAPASUKE: For me personally it's - it give me comfort. It gives me comfort that as I walk our the door, as my mom and my aunt, my friends walk out their doors that there are other people who stand alongside us, that people will step up and not let harm happen to us. It makes me feel like our community is being heard and seen for the first time.

HARLOW: I'm sorry. Very, very sorry for everything that you and your entire community have gone through, and you should not feel like just now you're being seen for the first time. I certainly could have done more as a journalist earlier on and I'm sorry that I didn't. Tanny, thank you for being here.


HARLOW: You will want to watch tonight. Join my colleagues Amara Walker, Victor Blackwell, Ana Cabrera, and Anderson Cooper for a look at all of this, the violent acts against people of color. What are the solutions? The special is called "Afraid: Fear in America's Communities of Color", and it all starts tonight at 9 o'clock Eastern.



HARLOW: The federal prosecutor who initially led the criminal investigation into the January 6 insurrection at the Capitol says he believes some suspects could face sedition charges, a serious crime obviously. Listen to what he said.


MICHAEL SHERWIN, FORMER ACTING DC U.S. ATTORNEY: I personally believe he evidence is trending towards that and probably meets those elements.

SCOTT PELLEY, CBS NEWS HOST: Do you anticipate sedition charges against some of these suspects?

SHERWIN: I believe the facts do support those charges, and I think that as we go forward more facts will support that, Scott.


HARLOW: That was Michael Sherwin who until just days ago was the lead prosecutor in what has become the largest criminal investigation in U.S. history. Our Whitney Wild has been following all of this from Washington. Good morning to you, Whitney. Explain what sedition would mean in terms of sedition charges, which he make sound like are forthcoming.

WHITNEY WILD, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. And so, just loosely it's speech or conduct that incites others to basically rebel against a government. So you look at the totality of what happened on January 6, and people out there watching might wonder why haven't sedition charges actually been filed? And as you point out it's a really high bar.

So right now we know, as CNN has previously reported, prosecutors have recommended sedition charges. However, that has to get run up the chain at the Justice Department. Senior officials have to sign off on that, Poppy. HARLOW: OK. What I also thought was interesting is what he said about former President Trump and the role that he - at least that they're looking into in terms of the role that the president may have played in all of this.

WILD: Absolutely. And so, what we know, again, CNN first reported this is something that the former U.S. Attorney for D.C. echoed, Michael Sherwin saying that prosecutors are looking at everything. They are looking at the full field of facts, of people of responsibility, and the question has always been was the president culpable? Was the president criminally liable?

Michael Sherwin said that the former president I should say was the magnet that brought everyone to D.C. Here's what he said, though, about the varied interpretation among defendants in this Capitol riot case seeming to interpret his words and actions a little bit differently. Here's what Sherwin said.


SHERWIN: But we have soccer moms from Ohio that were arrested saying well I did this because my president said I had to take back our house. That moves the needle towards that direction. Maybe the president is culpable for those actions, but also you see in the public record, too, militia members saying, you know what? We did this because Trump just talks a big game. He's just all talk. We did what he wouldn't do.

PELLEY: In short, you have investigators looking into the president's role.

SHERWIN: We have people looking at everything, correct.


WILD: Through a spokesman, the former president I should say has denied responsibility. Poppy, the other big headline that came out was where does this case with the death of Officer Brian Sicknick stand? We know that prosecutors have always said that the goal here was to get murder charges.

However, we know just about a week and a half ago two men were only charged with assault in that case, and Sherwin talked a little bit about that in his interview with Scott Pelley. He said that the fact is they are not ready to determine, at least say publically what the cause of death in that case is, so that is really the missing link here to try to actually bring these murder charges and get justice for the family of Officer Brian Sicknick, Poppy.

HARLOW: Right, if they conclude the bear spray as the cause of death, that would lead to murder charges. And if not the question is well then what will the charges be? Whitney, thank you very much for that reporting in Washington.

Ahead, wait until you see this reporting out of Brazil, a country on the brink, COVID cases skyrocketing, hospitals overwhelmed, and vaccines incredibly hard to come by, especially for the most vulnerable. Reporting you won't want to miss, next.



HARLOW: There is desperation across Brazil as coronavirus spreads rapidly through the country. The nation reported Sunday at 25 of its 27 states have reached an ICU capacity at 80 percent or above, with the more transmissible variant reeking havoc and vaccines still a long way off for so many. There appear to be really little relief on the horizon.

Our Matt Rivers is in Rio de Janeiro this morning. Good morning to you Matt.


There is a fear that inaction across Brazil could become a threat to the entire world.


MATT RIVERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's exactly right. I mean, what's happening here in Brazil is not going to stay in Brazil. The more these variants circulate unmitigated amidst the population the better chance that it can spread and create new variants, go all across the world.

Safe to say right now Brazil is the country dealing with the worse coronavirus outbreak tat this moment over the last two weeks or so, Poppy. Roughly 25 percent of all coronavirus deaths worldwide have been recorded in Brazil.

RIVERS (voice-over): There's a sense of desperation outside this Rio de Janeiro clinic.

UNKNOWN: (Foreign language).

RIVERS: She didn't get one says Sylvia Silvasontos (ph) walking out. My 77-year-old mom can't get a vaccine.

One of many that showed up that day waiting for vaccines that don't exist.

UNKNOWN: (Foreign language).

RIVERS: This woman says this is a disgrace. People waiting all day and night. Who knows if there will be a vaccine tomorrow.

And Brazil's COVID-19 situation has never been worse. Daily case and death records of the norm, ICUs nationwide are full and health systems are failing.

And despite health officials saying the program has been a success, vaccine deliveries are well behind schedule. Months away from making a big impact experts say. No supply means no shots today back at the clinic.

So all these 70 plus year olds behind me have been told there are no more vaccines left in this clinic. The weather app says it's -- feels like it's about 100 degrees outside, and they they're not willing to leave because they're scare that if they do leave and some vaccines show up they won't be here to get them.

They wait because they're scared of a disease that preys on the elderly. But in Brazil lately it's not just the old who are dying.

Maria da Penha da Silva Siqueira says she wasn't just a daughter, she was a friend and was everything to me. Her daughter Grassiani (ph) was only 28 when she died last year of COVID. He 4-year-old son lives with grandma now. Their family forever missing a member.

She says they called me that morning and said she was dead and I went into shock. The virus didn't let say goodbye. For the last two months multiple doctors across Brazil have told us they've seen more young people dying of COVID than before. In Brazil's largest state of Sao Paulo officials say 60 percent of ICU patients are now between 30 and 50. Something Rio de Janeiro Dr. Pedro Archer is seeing too.

DR. PEDRO ARCHER (through translator): He says we have patients now in their 30s and their 20s, severe intubated patients. I think maybe the virus has mutated, become a new strain.

RIVERS: There are new COVID variants here, but experts say there's no proof yet they're more lethal for the young. To explain it epidemiologist point more to scenes like this.

Social gatherings, this one a party from this month ramped up during the New Year and Carnival holidays. Younger people simply exposed more. In another video given to CNN this weekend, dozens can be seen streaming out of a party broken up by police. And that's just the illegal stuff.

In Rio bars and restaurants can be open till nine, many taking full advantage.

It is crowded out here and it just doesn't feel like you might expect, given that Brazil keeps setting new records for cases and deaths.

Where it does feel like that is the cemetery in Rio de Janeiro. Both young and old end up here. Today it's a funeral for 52-year-old COVID victim. There's a lot of services lined up this afternoon. So, the family only gets 15 minutes to mourn.


HARLOW: Wow. I mean, that last line says so much Matt, only 15 minutes to mourn because that's how many others who've lost their loved ones have to have a moment. Can you help us understand, since you're on the ground reporting there, how much of this vaccine issue in terms of not having enough vaccine even for the most vulnerable, is a leadership issue versus a global distribution issue? RIVERS (on-camera): Yes Poppy, there's doubt that Brazil is affected by the lack of global vaccine supply just like many other countries around the world. But, we would be remiss if we didn't point out that it is also a lack of leadership here.

I mean consider this fact, it was last August that the Brazilian Health Ministry had an opportunity to secure a contract with Pfizer for up to 70 million does of that vaccine. They declined that offer last year because of what they called contractual issues. They actually still defend that decision. Those vaccines would be incredibly useful at this moment.

They have signed agreements in the last week or so for up to 138 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson and the Pfizer vaccine, but what critics are saying is why did it take until a time when Brazil is unquestionably in the worse days of its pandemic so far to sign those agreements. Because now, Poppy, it's going to be months before a substantive amount of vaccines arrive here. It just doesn't look like it's going to get better any time soon.

HARLOW: They need help desperately right now. Matt Rivers thank you so much for that reporting for us live in Brazil. We appreciate it. And thanks to all of you for joining me today. I'll see you back here tomorrow morning. News from Kate Baldwin is after this.