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Nationwide Protests after Daunte Wright, Adam Toledo Killings; Minneapolis Braces for Verdict Fallout in George Floyd Case; Michigan Hospitals Overwhelmed as New Cases Surge Again; Communities Focus on Vaccine Hesitancy as Demand Falls; U.S. Airlines Prepare for Summer Travel Surge; Fire Rages on Mountain Overlooking Cape Town; A Mother's Fight Against the Klan. Aired 8-9p ET
Aired April 18, 2021 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
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DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASE: But on the one hand they want to be relieved of the restrictions, but on the other hand they don't want to get vaccinated. It just almost doesn't make any sense.
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PAMELA BROWN, CNN HOST: I'm Pamela Brown in Washington. Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. You are live in the CNN NEWSROOM on this Sunday.
And right now as we speak, hundreds are taking to the streets in Chicago. The culmination of a weekend of outrage and protests after the city released body cam footage showing police fatally shooting 13- year-old Adam Toledo.
CNN's Ryan Young is on the scene. So what are you seeing and what are you hearing from people there on the ground, Ryan?
RYAN YOUNG, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Pamela, you can see the crowd. You can see how many people are here. Look at all who have shown up today, that say the name, Adam Toledo. They are very upset about the treatment they feel that's in the community. The chants are actually kind of raw right now because they are still very angry.
I bumped into Jasmine as we were walking here in protest. Why do you think you have to be here for the protest today?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think it's beyond time for us to come together and definitely show that we are not waiting for handouts, we're going to take our city back. We're asking for justice. We're demanding justice. And we need people out here and it's not only today. It's always. And it's not only in protests, right? Like we need to sign petitions, we need to talk to our alderman, our alderman are the ones who accept Lorie Lightfoot's resignation for the board. There is a board. We need to get rid of this board. And we need to ask for it now.
YOUNG: How tough was it to watch that video of him being shot?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I mean, I don't think -- it's hard to say. I mean, I also want to acknowledge that as people we are becoming desensitized to violence. And it's hard to -- it's hard to process it. It's hard in a moment and then in another it's so surreal. Like it's a reality. So.
YOUNG: Thank you for sharing with me.
I will say of course that video showed several different clips, right. So the police isolated the fact that he had a gun in his hand. The freeze frame that's going around the world, of course is the hands being up. When you see this crowd and the swell that's been going on for hours. I should also say the mayor did an impassioned speech this week where she talked about the epidemic of gun violence in the city Chicago.
It is a very tough year especially when we think about the last few days, there's been another killing in this neighborhood, and just today, another child lost their lives. So in the city of Chicago, you think about it last year, more than 750 people were killed. It's the pain that comes from the people as you talk to them, as they're walking, they are so very upset. They're frustrated with the violence, the lack of gun control in terms of the fact that so many kids have access to weapons.
But this voice has been loud because they definitely want to see something happened towards the officers who open fire. But we should also remember something else. Chicago Police Department definitely said they thought their officer had to make a split-second decision. He even released a statement that says he feels terrible about what happened. He did try to render aid as soon as he fired that gunshot.
But let's turn this way, Pamela, and look at this crowd that stretches more than three city blocks. We're talking about a few thousand people here. It has remained totally peaceful as the city of course braced itself before. But the folks who are here say they wanted their voices heard. They don't want the message to be disrupted by violence.
Adam Toledo's family was even marching with this group. They just left. They asked us not to shoot video of the family as they were walking to try to memorialize their young son who was dead. But you could feel the passion from these protesters who've been going for several hours at this point. And they say they plan to continue going for at least another hour -- Pam.
BROWN: All right, Ryan Young bringing us the latest there from Chicago.
And as the nation grapples with police reform and gun violence, right now in Austin, Texas, a manhunt is underway for a former detective accused of shooting and killing three people. Police say the suspect is 41-year-old Stephen Nicholas Broderick and he is likely armed and dangerous. And we've also learned that resigned from the Travis County Sheriff's Office last year after he was arrested and charged with sexual assault of a child.
Austin Police a short time ago gave an update on the search.
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INTERIM CHIEF JOSEPH CHACON, AUSTIN, TEXAS POLICE: At this point we have lifted the shelter-in-place order. We are telling people that they can go and come out of their businesses or residences in this area. But to remain vigilant and to be safe. At this point, I think it's proper for us to ask once again of our public, please help us. If you have information about where this individual might be, please call 911. If you see this individual, please do not approach him. Call 911 and let us know if you see him.
(END OF VIDEO CLIP)
BROWN: Well, police say the shooting was targeted and all three victims, two women and one man knew Broderick.
Also happening right now, the national spotlight focusing on Minneapolis and the trial of an ex-cop that may strongly impact the way policing is done everywhere in America. This is that now infamous crossroads in the city where George Floyd died nearly a year ago under the knee of a Minneapolis police officer.
Well, it's now a place of protest and anger and shared hope that the murder trial restarting in a few hours will bring justice to Floyd's family and spark monumental changes in police work across the U.S.
CNN's Omar Jimenez is in Minneapolis for us. So, Omar, we're talking about the murder trial of fired police officer Derek Chauvin and it enters a critical phase tomorrow. Tell us what's happening there in anticipation?
OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Pamela, for starters businesses are boarding up. The law enforcement presence is up. The public school system here is moving everyone to remote learning midway through the week. Even all the police precincts in the Minneapolis now have added fortifications. All of course in anticipation of the final stages in this trial. A process that's been nearly a year in the making.
Now to give you an idea of what we're going to see tomorrow, obviously will be closing arguments but then once those are complete, the jurors in this case will be sequestered or isolated, and it may take an hour, a day, a week. Bottom line they won't rejoin the normal world until they've made a decision in this very important trial here. And when you talk about the stakes in this, it maybe was summed up no better than the lieutenant governor here in Minnesota, Peggy Flanagan.
She put out a statement today reading in part that, "As a child advocate, I am grappling with the stark reality Minnesota is a place where it is not safe to be black." And that's the essence of emergency she feels Minnesotans are facing in this. And it is a sentiment that we've heard echoed from the George Floyd family as well, that they don't feel that it is just Derek Chauvin on trial here. They feel it is America on trial.
BROWN: Yes, that was a really strong statement. One town over from where you are is of course Brooklyn Center, Minnesota. People there are dealing with a different but equally frustrating case of a (INAUDIBLE) death at the hands of police. What's happening over there?
JIMENEZ: Yes, I mean, we've seen protests every single night since the shooting and killing of 20-years-old Daunte Wright at the hands of police. And usually it comes in the evening hours where hundreds of people will come and march, and at times tell stories and things are largely peaceful, then when we get into the evening hours, things get a little bit more contentious. We've seen curfews put in place by officials every night, almost every night, I should say.
And we've seen over 100 arrests come as part of these protests when police forcefully clear them out once we get sometime past these curfews. We have another one going into effect tonight at or around 11:00 p.m. local time. And so we will likely -- we will see, I should see, how that unfolds. But when you look at the presence that has been around them, it's the same sentiment, about the fears of being black here in Minnesota, the fears of being pulled over while black in Minnesota.
But then you also couple that with the tension we're seeing in the Derek Chauvin trial with an added law enforcement presence, National Guard very visible not just in Brooklyn Center but in many parts of the Minneapolis area. And you have this very tense situation one bleeding into another. And when you look at the anticipation with this trial, we also have the funeral for Daunte Wright scheduled for this coming Thursday.
BROWN: A monumental week ahead. Omar Jimenez, thank you so much for bringing us the latest there on the ground in Minneapolis.
And tonight a stark reminder that behind America's unfathomable gun violence statistics are lives cut short and families torn apart. You are seeing live pictures of a vigil outside Indianapolis. People are gathering there to grieve and mark the death of the victims of Thursday's mass shooting. It's a scene of mourning that has become all too common in America.
And also ahead this hour, half of all adults in the U.S. have now had at least one COVID vaccine dose. But younger people are proving harder to convince. I get a firsthand look at the effort to fight vaccine hesitancy in rural South Carolina.
And do not adjust your beach chair. An insane scene in Florida. Look at this, as the pilot of a World War II plane makes an incredible emergency landing.
BROWN: Well, we are watching Minneapolis as the National Guard there prepares for more unrest after another police shooting and the upcoming verdict in the trial of Derek Chauvin.
And joining me now to share their perspectives, CNN law enforcement analyst and former Tucson police chief, Robert Villasenor, and DeRay McKesson, a civil rights activist and founder of Campaign Zero, which is seeking to end police violence in America.
Thank you both for coming on. There is so much at stake in the days ahead.
DeRay, I want to start with you on that. What is your reaction to what's going on in Minneapolis as America awaits a verdict?
DERAY MCKESSON, CIVIL RIGHTS ACTIVIST: So as you might remind people that the actually killed more people in 2020 than every year data we have except for 2018. And when we think about 2021, the police have already killed 300 people in this year alone. So I think that people are looking for some sort of accountability. But people are also looking to make sure that this violence from the police just ends. People want to move beyond policing.
Now when we look at the numbers, remember the highest number of convictions ever in a given year for police killings is 11. The police killed about 1100 people every year and the highest number of convictions ever is 11. So we'll see with this case. Remember that they only need one person out of 12. They don't need me or you or the chief. They need just one person in that jury and I'm hopeful that this time is different.
BROWN: All right, so let's talk about that. What do you think is going to happen, Roberto, if Chauvin is not convicted?
ROBERTO VILLASENOR, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: I think that that's going to be a very serious situation. I don't know exactly what's going to happen at that. And that's the beauty of the system that they hear the evidence, they come up with their verdict. But I think that if he is not convicted, there's going to be a very serious incident throughout the country because I think people's expectations are that he is guilty. I think that anyone who's watched that video has their own perception of what they saw and I think the majority of people are going to be very upset if he is not convicted. But that's the purpose of the trial, to determine guilt or innocence. And so we have to wait and see what that happens with.
BROWN: And the case against Derek Chauvin, DeRay, do you think that the prosecution has proven its case beyond a reasonable doubt? And do you expect Chauvin to be convicted?
MCKESSON: I think it is -- no uncertain terms I think that they've proven their case. I do expect a conviction. But I also think that the police also want there to be a conviction so that it can ease up the pressure off of policing. They are hopeful that a conviction here will make people think, you know what, the system sort of works some time. Right? Like you shouldn't be so upset at the system because here's a time where it worked. And I think that even with a conviction, people should still press
really hard. Right? Like we deserve something much better than what we have today. We can think about a system of justice and safety that doesn't need people with guns to respond to all these things. I think that's like a basic demand. We can reallocate funds, we can tighten it up. We can do all those things today. And a conviction doesn't stop the urgency.
BROWN: And one of the things that really stuck out about this trial compared to other police trials, Roberto, is the number of Chauvin's former colleagues on the force testifying against him during this trial including the chief of police. As you well know, there has been this tradition of silence among police officers in cases like this. How significant is it that these officers are testifying in this way?
VILLASENOR: Well, I think that anyone who (INAUDIBLE) to that video clearly understood that that action was wrong. I haven't talked to a single officer, a commander, who ever felt that any of the actions displayed by Mr. Chauvin were what was expected of law enforcement officer or (INAUDIBLE). So that in my mind he is guilty. So whether that is unique or not, I understand the feeling on that. But I think that this is not going to make things go away. And I don't think the police want all of the issues go away or naive enough to expect that they will go away.
There's a lot of work to be done in police reform and I think a lot of police want to do that. But I think that everyone wants to get this trial over because it is so blatant and so obvious and then move on with trying to enact some other effective reforms.
BROWN: I want to ask you, DeRay, as someone who has been on the forefront covering this, you know, as an activist, you see the scenes going on across the country tonight. We saw the marching in Chicago. We saw what was going on in Minneapolis tonight as we await the verdict. We've seen these shootings involving police just in the last few days. How would you describe the moment we're in right now as a country?
MCKESSON: And difference between now and 2014 when the protest begin after the protest in Ferguson, you know, at the killing of Michael Brown, is that in 2014 we were convincing people that there was a problem. I remember we left the street initially and we were going to places. We were helping them see, like, you know what, this is not just Ferguson, this is your neighborhood, too. This is not just Baltimore, this is your city.
Now I think people generally understand. Whether they saw the video or not, they sort of get it. I think people want to know like what's the change? We know that it's not training. The research is clear. The training might change the police officer's attitude, it doesn't change their behavior. Body cameras. The research is clear. It might change police officer attitude, it doesn't change their behavior.
Imagine if you were at a job with the worst you did, the worst consequence was going through a training, you do whatever you want. So this is a time to do what Maryland did. Maryland, the most aggressive, scaled back of no (INAUDIBLE) in the United States. The most aggressive discipline system, they just did it. It matters. New Jersey, the most aggressive use of force policies in the United States, right?
These are the things, but what you see in Missouri is about to pass the officer bill of rights. I was about to make their bill stronger. Georgia passed the bill of rights after they killed Rayshard Brooks. We've got a lot of work to do and it's all structural. People should be mad at their mayors, their governors, their legislators, their city council people. I think that's what this moment gives. This moment is saying time is now for transformational change.
BROWN: And what do you think, Roberto? What do you think meaningful police reform looks like?
VILLASENOR: Well, I'm not too far off. I don't think there is one single element that's going to change things. I do think the training has an impact. I do think body worn cameras will have impact. And I also do think accountability needs to be improved. I think that the issues where you have had, you know, unions fight strongly against any type of accountability has hamstrung some of the police executives out there. But it's also not just police. It's legislation.
It is all the things that help build the whole system. And accountability is one of them but it also has to be based upon true and accurate reflections of all the elements of an event, not just a single clip or a single photograph.
BROWN: All right, Roberto Villasenor, DeRay McKesson, thank you, both.
VILLASENOR: Thank you.
BROWN: And tonight I am learning new details about how the Biden administration will make it easier for any adults who want a COVID-19 vaccine shot to get one. Stay with me, you're in the CNN NEWSROOM.
BROWN: Well, tonight more than 50 million vaccine doses are just sitting there waiting for Americans willing to take them. That's what senior White House COVID adviser Andy Slavitt told me tonight. And with all U.S. adults eligible to get the vaccine beginning tomorrow, Slavitt also told me this, 90 percent of Americans live within five miles of a vaccination site.
Not just people, tonight we're getting word that the otters -- I said that, right? Otters at the Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta tested positive for COVID-19. This comes as Michigan posts its eight weeks of surging cases, exhausting healthcare workers and leaving hospitals with little space to treat the sick. Sounds familiar, huh?
CNN's Polo Sandoval has the latest. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)
POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Monday is the day when the Biden administration wants states across the nation to open up COVID-19 vaccine eligibility to all adults. But vaccination efforts have slowed. CDC data showing a drop in the number of vaccines administered. The drop was not unexpected due to allocation issues, but now, distribution of J&J's vaccine is on pause due to concerns about blood clots.
The nation's top infectious disease expert is expressing hope that the J&J option will soon return albeit with conditions.
FAUCI: I don't want to get ahead of the CDC and the FDA and the advisory committee, but I would imagine that what we will see is that it would come back and it would come back in some sort of either warning or restriction. Again, I don't know, I don't want to be ahead of them.
SANDOVAL: About 40 percent of Americans have already received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine. A quarter of the U.S. population is fully vaccinated, according to the CDC. It's getting easier in some parts of the country to secure a vaccine appointment. Walk-up options are being offered across the country for most, including at Atlanta's Mercedes Benz Stadium, where you don't need an appointment anymore.
In Ohio, vaccine supply has outpaced demand in some parts of the state, forcing the closure of several drive-through locations. There is perhaps no greater need to get people vaccinated than in Michigan, where the test positivity rate is now over 12 percent.
GOV. GRETCHEN WHITMER (D), MICHIGAN: Fifteen months of this and people are tired and dropping the protocols.
SANDOVAL: COVID-19 patients in the Wolverine State are once again lining in some hospital hallways, says the state's top health authority. And in Beaumont Health, the Detroit area's largest health care system, frontline health care workers are struggling to keep up with this third surge.
JOHN FOX, CEO, BEAUMONT HEALTH: Thirteen months is a long time to be dominated by this one disease.
SANDOVAL: Dr. Joel Fishbain noticing this time, COVID patients are younger and many of them extremely sick. He says some of them have admitted to having gathered in large groups.
DR. JOEL FISHBAIN, EMERGENCY PHYSICIAN: I haven't seen my kids in well over a year. I get it. I really do. But if we don't stay diligent and really continue to follow the general simple practices that we started last year, we are going to potentially be doing this over and over again.
SANDOVAL: The doctor's plea to fellow Michiganders as some continuing enjoying aspects of pre-pandemic life.
Polo Sandoval, CNN, Detroit.
(END OF VIDEOTAPE)
BROWN: Well, younger Americans are the least likely to get vaccinated. So I went to rural South Carolina to get a firsthand look at the fight to convince skeptics.
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UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Right now our focus needs to be on our younger population. Today I'm noticing that we don't have as many in that age group coming in.
(END OF VIDEO CLIP)
BROWN: When COVID vaccines were first offered, people lined up for hours with slots filling up almost instantly, but now as more vaccine becomes available, demand is falling off. A new Quinnipiac poll finds vaccine hesitancy is a real thing especially among young people and for people in rural areas. Among adults under age 35. More than a third tell Quinnipiac pollsters that they don't plan on getting the COVID-19 vaccine.
Well, this week I went to South Carolina to find out what communities are doing to combat this hesitancy.
DR. THADDEUS BELL, FAMILY PRACTICE PHYSICIAN: Vaccine hesitancy is a major issue. Not only throughout the country but here in Charleston, South Carolina, too.
BROWN (voice-over): One of those reluctant to get the vaccine was Cal Lockwood, a barbershop owner here in the small town of (INAUDIBLE), outside of Charleston.
CAL LOCKWOOD, BARBERSHOP OWNER: Being at the barbershop, you get a lot of people who got their own, you know, different opinions about the vaccine.
BROWN: But with time, education and trusted guidance from community leaders to help him separate fact from fiction, he went from skeptic to advocate.
LOCKWOOD: You know if it's something that's going to save your life, you know, I mean, even though you're going to have the anxiety from reading all the negative, you just -- you got to go and do it. You getting vaccinated is helping everybody else.
BROWN (on camera): If this vaccine clinic wasn't set up by MUSC and community partners in a rural area, then people here, people who may have been hesitant to get the vaccine, would have to go about 45 minutes away to Charleston, South Carolina, or surrounding areas to get vaccinated. So by having these vaccine clinics in rural areas, that takes away a big hurdle in the fight against vaccine hesitancy.
SHARON WILSON, SOUTH CAROLINA RESIDENT: This right here in my backdoor. You know, they're making it easy for me. Why not go and get vaccinated?
BROWN (voice-over): Quentin Tompkins, the government affairs manager for MUSC, the Medical University of South Carolina, has been on the front line, setting up clinics and getting people vaccinated in the most rural parts of South Carolina.
QUENTIN TOMPKINS, GOVERNMENT AFFAIRS MANAGER, MEDICAL UNIVERSITY OF SOUTH CAROLINA: I just think we're hitting that wall of hesitancy at this point.
BROWN (on camera): How much is that because enough people have been vaccinated in the community and so that's why there's more appointments open versus people just being really hesitant?
TOMPKINS: I think we're into that wave of people who didn't really want to get it.
BELL: Now that a pause has been put on it, I think it also has been a setback regarding vaccine hesitancy in general.
BROWN (voice-over): And that's why community leaders are now stepping up their efforts. Appealing in person and over the airwaves. After the Johnson & Johnson's vaccine rollout after six out of more than 6.8 million people who received the vaccine in the U.S. developed rare blood clots.
BELL: You should not be alarmed that the Johnson & Johnson vaccines had been put on pause.
BROWN: Dr. Thaddeus Bell started connecting with minority groups about health disparities through his organization, Closing the Gap in Healthcare 17 years ago. Now he teams up with local churches to get the word out that vaccines are safe, effective and a much better option than getting COVID.
BELL: About every week I'm on two or three Zoom calls church in Columbia, got in contact with me and ask me would I be one of the doctors to explain to the congregation some of the hesitancy issues that they had?
BROWN: And Dr. Bell's organization bases their work on data from one of their partners, ADOH Scientific that found black respondents in the southeast said they were less likely to get the vaccine compared to a similar national survey conducted in January. One of the organization's volunteers Craig Ascue says the trust Dr. Bell and other community members like himself have built up overtime is what makes the difference now.
CRAIG ASCUE, VOLUNTEER: In the past when we had other events like Hurricane Hugo and just all kinds of things, when you actually do what you say you're going to do then people trust you.
BROWN: Now, Ascue seeks out his neighbors to explain why the vaccine is safe and uses the family's truck to take them to clinics like this one at East Cooper Medical Center in the town of Mount Pleasant.
ASCUE: You got to get on your phone, you had to call their landline or call somebody that they know or even go door-to-door to get them out and let them know about where the shot is, what time it is, and kind of ease their fears.
BROWN: Dr. David Cole, president of MUSC Health, says combatting hesitancy matters because it impacts everybody in ending the pandemic.
DR. DAVID COLE, PRESIDENT, MEDICAL UNIVERSITY OF SOUTH CAROLINA: Part of the challenges is not just one thing. It depends on who you are, your perspective, your background, what your concerns are, what's your data, what's your information is, where it comes from? It's a complex issue.
BROWN: One of the biggest challenges in the fight against hesitancy is misinformation on social media.
(On camera): Tucker Carlson segment on, you know, why are we getting the vaccine and raising questions about it, it was the number one video on Facebook this week.
COLE: There you go.
BROWN: Millions of people looking at that.
COLE: Yes. Yes.
BROWN: And it's hard to compete with that, I imagine.
COLE: I am a physician, I'm a scientist, I'm very practical and pragmatic. I try to look at the data but I realized a lot of people's -- that's not how their minds work. Right? Or how they make decisions.
BROWN (voice-over): And Dr. Ruth Adekunle, an infectious disease specialist at MUSC, says how leaders like herself talk with anxious colleagues and patients alike is key.
DR. RUTH ADEKUNLE, INFECTIOUS DISEASE SPECIALIST, MEDICAL UNIVERSITY OF SOUTH CAROLINA: Having that conversation in a way that doesn't make them feel judged or shamed by having like any kind of concerns or hesitations. And that allows them to at least feel a bit more comfortable with it.
BROWN: Adekunle says the concerns can be rooted in distrust based on a history of bad treatment against minorities by health professionals, to fertility concerns, to not liking needles. She adds that one of the concerns she hears most about is a lack of long-term data.
ADEKUNLE: The MRNA technology that was used for the vaccine is not new. It's actually been around since the 1980s. Another thing is that there is such global collaboration that doesn't necessarily happen in our studies. Within a week and a half of us knowing about coronavirus, we already essentially had the genetic makeup of the virus.
BROWN: For Cal, the fear of waiting in line all day was part of his hesitancy to get the shot but he says the experience was much easier than he expected.
(On camera): What was the experience like compared to how you built it up in your head?
LOCKWOOD: I am thinking about it, you know, I'm thinking, I'm sitting, waiting in a long line, and you know, filling out documents after documents. I was literally in here for five minutes and I'm out of here. You know? So that was, you know, was quick. It was painless and you know I am ready to go back to work now.
(END OF VIDEOTAPE)
BROWN: Ready to go back to work. And according to the CDC half of all U.S. adults, 18 and older, have received at least one vaccine shot. Starting tomorrow, anyone 16 and older can get a vaccine if they want one. And senior White House COVID adviser Andy Slavitt told me tonight that 90 percent of Americans will be within five miles of a vaccine distribution site.
Well, much more ahead on this Sunday evening including this unbelievable scene on the Florida beach as the pilot of a World War II plane makes an emergency landing. Details when we come back.
BROWN: Check this out, it's a World War II airplane making an emergency landing in Cocoa Beach, Florida, Saturday. The plane's engine failed and the pilot decided to land in the water instead of flying back to the airport. The pilot is OK. We are happy to report. No one on the ground was hurt. The plane's owner say it may take years to rebuild it and the FAA is investigating. But imagine just being there on the beach, enjoying the weather, and then suddenly a plane lands on the water. Can you imagine?
Meantime, with more states loosening coronavirus restrictions and more Americans now vaccinated, the air travel industry is getting ready for a busy season. But airlines are now facing the enormous task of getting their employees and planes ready to meet the demand.
CNN's Pete Muntean has the story.
PETE MUNTEAN, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The pressure is on at American Airlines Tulsa maintenance base. Here crews are preparing planes to meet the new surge in air travel. Hundreds of commercial airliners sat idle on taxi ways, ramps, even runways through much of the pandemic. Now American says all of its planes will be flying again by the end of the month. No easy task.
ROGER STEELE, AMERICAN AIRLINES: For many ways we touch the aircraft actually have more maintenance requirements on the aircraft that has been in storage or is in storage than we do with the aircraft is out actively flying.
MUNTEAN: Roger Steele's team of mechanics are spending 1,000 hours to revive just one plane here. Part of their work includes federally mandated inspections of the Boeing 737. It is the world's most popular airliner. American alone parked 300 of them because of the pandemic. The FAA said the plane sitting idle could cause a critical valve to fail, risking catastrophic dual engine power loss in flight.
ED SANGRICCO, AMERICAN AIRLINES: All of these things that could have been negatively impacted by the fact that it was parked have been identified, they've addressed, and they've been resolved. And so I can assure you 110 percent that these aircrafts are safe and they're ready to fly.
MUNTEAN (on camera): Planes have stored exclusively outside for months on end. And crews came out here about every 10 days to check things like the engines, uncover them and fire them up. Also check the landing gear, the tires, and the brakes, the crucial parts inside there. About 100 planes were stored out here at the peak of the pandemic but now there are only a few left.
(Voice-over): The latest data shows airline travels closing in on a recovery. Industry group say flights are now 75 percent full up from 60 percent just last month. New demand means the industry is bouncing back sooner than expected.
The newest jump in numbers means the Transportation Security Administration needs more help screening passengers. It is hiring 6,000 new officers to staff checkpoints, holding hiring events nationwide.
SUSAN TASHIRO, TRANSPORTATION SECURITY ADMINISTRATION: I think the big thing is for us we want to be prepared for the summer. We're clearly taking a lot of efforts to make sure that happens.
MUNTEAN: United Airlines just said it will hire new pilots for the first time in more than a year, while thousands of existing pilots will be coming back from pandemic time off. A CNN review of aviation safety records from across the country uncovered flight crews reporting rusty skills and inflight errors after returning to work. American Airlines says its pilots will be thoroughly rechecked in classrooms and simulators before coming back on the job.
SANGRICCO: There is a lot of pent-up travel demand and we really want to be there and be ready to move our customers to wherever they want to go, safely, efficiently, and make sure we're putting out a good product.
MUNTEAN: Pete Muntean, CNN, Tulsa, Oklahoma.
(END OF VIDEOTAPE) BROWN: Well, tonight there is a massive effort underway to battle an out-of-control wildfire at famous landmark in South Africa.
CNN's Michael Holmes has more.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're taking everyone out because there's a fire starting. There's fire already inside.
MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): An out-of-control fire that broke out in Cape Town's Table Mountain National Park on Sunday spread to the upper campus of the University of Cape Town.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Strange. We're just taking them out, out.
HOLMES: Students evacuated. UCT library, nearby restaurants and historical structures damaged, including Mustard's Mill, which was built in 1796. It was the only working windmill in Africa south of the Sahara.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's horrible, it's bad. It's worse than I expected.
HOLMES: Residents watched as the fire spread from the mountain to other parts of Cape Town.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm punching up the Devil Peak Mountain and the Table Mountain. Helicopters, too, bringing in the water to quench the fire.
HOLMES: A statement from Table Mountain National Park says an early investigation shows a fire left unattended by a homeless person might have sparked the blaze. And a Fire and Rescue officials says two firefighters were admitted to the hospital with injuries.
Michael Holmes, CNN.
(END OF VIDEOTAPE)
BROWN: And we'll be right back.
BROWN: The CNN's Original Series "THE PEOPLE V. THE KLAN" ends this weekend with back-to-back episodes. It's the true story of Beulah Mae Donald, a black mother who took down the Ku Klux Klan after the brutal lynching of her son.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The (INAUDIBLE) told me that I was getting too heavy involved in the Klan. And I was getting where I know too much. If anything ever happened and I wind up being the fall guy -- he took his hand and doing like that, said your (INAUDIBLE) will be paid with money, you'll never have to work ever again. But if you ever open your mouth about the Klan, you're going to die.
(END OF VIDEO CLIP)
BROWN: Joining us now is Cornell William Brooks. He's an executive producer of the series and the former president and CEO of the NAACP.
Good evening to you, Cornell. Great to have you on to discuss this. Beulah Mae Donald was facing enormous odds in her fight for justice for her son Michael but she persevered and was able to achieve her goal. Tell us what is so significance about her fight against the Klan?
CORNELL WILLIAM BROOKS, EXECUTIVE PRODUCER, "THE PEOPLE V. THE KLAN": FORMER PRESIDENT AND CEO, NAACP: What's so significant about her fight is we have an African-American mother who stands up for her son who was literally lynched by the Klan. She did so without protection. If you think about President Bush and President Obama facing down al Qaeda behind a wall of Secret Service protection. So number one, her bravery. Number two, she literally went to civil court and bankrupted one of the largest branches of the Klan in certainly in American history.
That's very distinctive. And she also went to criminal court and secured a death penalty conviction against a member of the Klan for taking the life of her son. So this is a story that speaks to her courage but also the courage of the African-American community in Mobile, a community of conscience of the black press, African-American (INAUDIBLE), to some degree the Justice Department, the Civil Rights Division.
So it's story that took place in the 1980s, that literally speaks to where we are in 2021. Why? Because, Pamela, many of us are trying to process what's happening in Minnesota, trying to (INAUDIBLE) happening in Chicago and asking ourselves, can we secure justice? This case or cases back then speak to what we can do now. The agency, the power we had in this moment. It is a very, very powerful film. A bit of history, a bit of her story and just a very powerful story.
BROWN: And you're right, in the context of what's happening in this country now. It really does bring to mind how big of a threat are the KKK and other white supremacist groups to people of color today.
WILLIAM BROOKS: That's right, and to our democracy. Just, you know, bear in mind, when we think about white supremacy taking the lives of black people, Jews, immigrants, this not merely a stain and a threat against the black and brown they, it is a threat to the multiracial, multiethnic democratic us. And so looking back gives us some measure of hope and inspiration but also real sober appreciation for the difficulties we face in this moment. So it's a story about 1981 and 2021.
BROWN: All right. Cornell William Brooks, we'll be watching. Thank you so much.
WILLIAM BROOKS: Thank you.
BROWN: All right. We want to end this show tonight by taking a moment to remember a special member of the CNN family, our colleague Rene Marsh always expected her 2-year-old son Blake to help her blow out the candles on her birthday cake. But just days before Rene's birthday this week, Blake passed away after battling pediatric brain cancer. Rene wrote a powerful message to her son on an Instagram post.
And I want to read part of it so you can learn a little bit about Blake in the words of someone who loved him so fiercely. Rene said, "In your 25 months on earth, you taught me how much strength I had stored up in reserve that I didn't know I had. In just two years, you mastered the ability to bring laughter and happiness into whatever room you were in. Your party tricks included telling me no. No matter what question I ask, hugging and kissing on demand, and your dance moves were topnotch. You loved humming classical music, your favorite was Mozart's Serenade Number 13.
"I didn't just lose you, Blakey, I lost all the dreams and hopes that a mom has lost has for a son. I lost my motherhood, and I'm mourning it all. Mommy, loves you, and I look forward to holding and kissing you when we meet again."
Rene's birthday wish is for donations made in Blake's honor to the Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation.