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Deadly NC Police Shooting Sparks Outrage, Few Details Released; Minneapolis Awaits Chauvin Sentencing As DOJ Probes City's Policing; Biden Declares Ottoman Massacre Of Armenians A Genocide; CDC Study: Nearly 70 Percent Of People Who Had Mild COVID-19 Cases Had Lingering Health Problems; Emotional Fallout Of The Derek Chauvin Verdict; Biden Calls To Cut U.S. Carbon Emissions By Roughly 50 Percent By 2030; CNN Gains Access To Frontline Of Fierce Battle That Could Mark A Turning Point In Yemen War. Aired 12-1p ET
Aired April 24, 2021 - 12:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN HOST: Tiger posting along with his photo, my course is coming along faster than I am, but it is nice to have a full rehab partner. Man's best friend. We wish him luck.
Hello again, everyone. Thank you so much for joining me. I'm Fredricka Whitfield. All right, we begin this hour with more questions and answers in that deadly officer involved shooting of Andrew Brown Jr. in North Carolina.
In the last hour Elizabeth City officials revealing that they still don't have any details about Wednesday morning's shooting. They also made it clear that the shooting and the warrants involved County Sheriff's Deputies and not the city's Police force.
The County Sheriff's Office has remained tight lipped about the shooting and not releasing any bodycam video of the pursuit of the 42- year-old black man, Andrew Brown and his shooting death. Meanwhile, calls for the release of the deputies' body cam videos are growing louder.
North Carolina's Governor in fact tweeting his support for the videos to be shown to the public as quickly as possible and on Friday, the City Council of Elizabeth City held an emergency meeting requesting the videos be publicly released. And today city officials revealed that that request formerly will be filed on Monday.
CNN's Natasha Chen is in Elizabeth City, North Carolina for us. Natasha, you were at the briefing last hour. It involved the Mayor, the City Manager, and it sounds like they to feel like they're in the dark about what happened.
NATASHA CHEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes Fred, they said that they have not seen the body camera footage. They have not seen any evidence from the case. In fact, the Elizabeth City Police Chief said that typically they work hand in hand with the County Sheriff's Department regarding search warrants like this. And in this case, in particular, neither he nor his command staff was privy to the details of any warrants that were executed on Wednesday. So again, they're making a clear distinction between city officials, city operations, and the county operations that resulted in the shooting death of Andrew Brown Jr.
The Mayor herself stated that, you know, this was really important to serve their citizens here and make sure that even though they were not party to this incident that this type of thing doesn't happen anymore. Here's what she said about that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MAYOR BETTIE PARKER, ELIZABETH CITY, NC: Elizabeth City is a microcosm now of what is going on across the nation. I see now that no city, small or large, is exempt. So, we are ready to do whatever we need to do to supplement what we're already doing to make sure nothing like this happens again.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CHEN: It's very personal for many of them who worked for the city. And there were actually a number of people in the community who gathered at this press conference and stood behind the media cameras, you know, recording with their cell phones, trying to seek answers as well.
There are a lot of people who are feeling this pain and some of them saying that they know the Brown family, some of them even asking why the sheriff wasn't here speaking alongside city officials, of course they operate very differently.
The Sheriff did tell CNN yesterday that the warrants being executed on Wednesday. One was a search warrant another was an arrest warrant issued by an Alcohol and Drug Task Force. The seven deputies involved in that incident are now on administrative leave. Two more deputies have resigned and a third has retired after this happened on Wednesday, Fred.
WHITFIELD: All right. Natasha Chen, keep us posted there from Elizabeth City, North Carolina. So as this North Carolina Community grapples with that police shooting, the City of Minneapolis now awaits the sentencing of Former Police officer Derek Chauvin following his murder conviction for killing George Floyd.
On Friday Attorney General Merrick Garland rather met with police leaders as the Justice Department launches a sweeping investigation into policing practices in Minneapolis. The probe is similar to a DOJ review that led to reforms in the Ferguson Missouri Police Department following the police shooting death of Michael Brown back in 2014.
Wesley Bell is the Missouri St. Louis County Prosecutor back with us. He was also part of the consent decree for the Ferguson Police Department which brought sweeping changes to policing in that city. Wesley thanks so much for sticking around. So what lessons do you believe was learned from what happened in Ferguson, and what kinds of reforms took place that could be a good blueprint, perhaps for Minneapolis?
WESLEY BELL, ST. LOUIS COUNTY PROSECUTOR: You know, I think coming into this as a good faith broker and oftentimes these processes can be naturally adversarial. But I think it's important to come in with an open mind because the federal government has so much access to research and national trends, that it can help individual cities that that may not otherwise know, you know, have access to that type of information.
But it's a tedious process. It's a time-consuming process is, as my uncle would say it's not a prayer meeting, it's a bear meeting, oftentimes
BELL: And but I think cities can come out on the other side of it, have serving their residents better by embracing this process. But again, it is a very tedious and time-consuming process.
WHITFIELD: So, explain this consent decree that took place in Ferguson, and what improvements came from that.
BELL: So, the consent decree and Ferguson, obviously, just as in Minneapolis, the federal government announced that they were doing their investigation. And one of two things can happen, either the parties agree in which a consent decree is created, or it is litigated and all other things that come with litigation, not only the expenses, the time, but also depositions.
And the bottom line is at the end of the day, when the federal government decides to investigate a particular department or city; they're going to find something, if not some things. And so, it's best to come into the process with an open mind, work with the government and give input in my experience is that the government will and the DOJ will listen to a certain extent. But at the end of the day, it's going to happen.
WHITFIELD: So, on one hand, you have really the discoveries that come from a DOJ investigation, and then you have what some might see as the potential promise that might come from any kind of national legislation, do you believe that there is a need for some sort of federal sweeping legislation that could help promote police reform that would bring some uniformity?
BELL: And that also brings me back to your last question, because I can kind of get you a twofer one here Fredricka is that yes, I think it's important - I think a lot of good can come from federal intervention, because we have over 8000 police departments, and many of them are doing different things and so some of them are doing it the right way.
Some of them are coming in trying to serve their residents. But you know, but unfortunately, many are behind the curve. And so, on Ferguson, we were able to - we were able to implement community policing, which was a first for Ferguson, some of the most broad court reforms at the time, at least in the region, as well as so many other forward leaning reforms that that push the city forward and served as a example for what other cities can do.
So absolutely, I think it's good when the federal government gets involved in, but also there needs to be a partnership. And that's how it needs to be viewed. And I think that it started off rocky with Ferguson. But that's ultimately where we ended up and I think the city is better forward.
WHITFIELD: Wesley Bell, St. Louis County Prosecutor Missouri thank you so much for joining us. Appreciate it.
BELL: Thanks for having me. Thank you.
WHITFIELD: And this just into CNN, President Biden declares the massacre of Armenians under the Ottoman Empire a genocide although it happened more than 100 years ago, in the middle of World War I, getting that declaration from the U.S. has remained a key priority for Armenians ever since. Joe Jones is traveling with the president joining us now from Wilmington, Delaware. So give us more?
JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: 106 years ago, in fact, Fred, and this statement just came out from the Biden Administration, it was expected. The significance of it in the first place is that the President of the United States actually uses the word genocide. So I'll just read you what he says at the top of the statement.
He says each year, on this day, we remember the lives of all those who died in the Ottoman era Armenian genocide and recommit ourselves to preventing such an atrocity from ever occurring again. And then down at the bottom of this long statement the president repeats the word genocide, again.
The American people honor all those Armenians who perished in the genocide that began 106 years ago today. So probably the most important point you want to make here. This is another opportunity for Joe Biden, the President of the United States to recommit the American government to leadership on the issue of human rights.
And the Armenian Genocide, which did happen 160 years ago today in fact the beginning of all that an anniversary celebrated across the world numerous countries have in fact, already recognized what, happened there is genocide?
In fact, almost 30 countries, a lot of historians, but the United States has been reluctant to do it out of fear that the relationship between the United States and Turkey might be damaged.
JOHNS: Of course, it was the Ottoman Turks who were accused of this genocide that occurred there so many years ago. So now the statement is out. The question, of course, is how is this going to affect relations between the United States and Turkey?
The president did have a call with the President of Turkey, President Erdogan, one on Friday indicating to him that he was planning on doing this. That call was described as tense, not clear precisely what was said on the call, but we do know that apparently, President Erdogan did not like it at all Fred back to you.
WHITFIELD: OK. Well, maybe we'll get more details on the exact language later too, Joe Johns in Wilmington. Actually, we're going to be going live to Istanbul, Turkey later on this afternoon. And perhaps that's where we'll hear more of the President Erdogan's sentiments.
All right, straight ahead this hour pause lifted states are now preparing to distribute the Johnson & Johnson vaccine again after the CDC and the FDA allow the vaccinations to resume. Plus, emotions run high in several cities after a string of police shootings, the psychological toll it's taking on American communities.
WHITFIELD: The CDC Director is acknowledging the agency has some work to do around vaccine education after the Johnson & Johnson vaccine pause. Dr. Dr. Rochelle Walensky says outreach efforts are underway as officials work to explain the pause after determining that the benefits of the vaccine outweigh the small risk of developing rare blood clots.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DR. ROCHELLE WALENSKY, CDC DIRECTOR: With these actions, the administration of Johnson & Johnson's COVID-19 vaccine can resume immediately. That said, FDA will add more details to the healthcare provider and patient fact sheet including information about the risks that events have occurred in a very small number of people who have received the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: All right, joining me right now to discuss is Dr. Mike Saag the Associate Dean of Global Health at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, so good to see a doctor. So Dr. Walensky, you know, says the pause has inspired confidence in the vaccine safety system. How important was it for the CDC to be transparent, address the issue the way it did?
DR. MIKE SAAG, ASSOCIATE DEAN OF GLOBAL HEALTH, UNIVERSITY OF ALABAMA AT BRIMINGHAM: Well Fred, I think that is one of the key messages that come out of this. We rely on the FDA and the CDC to monitor for side effects as these vaccines are released. And that's exactly what they did.
I think it's important as well that they release the information immediately of what the panel looked at yesterday. And when we dig into the weeds a little bit, what we see is that overall the safety profile is pretty good. The one cautionary note is among women aged 18 to 49, there were about 13 cases, out of the 15 that occurred in that group, that's a rate of about 13 per million doses given. So we need to watch that. But we need to keep a perspective here, for women on birth control pills is about 500 to 1000 clots per million. And if people smoke cigarettes are 1700. But most importantly, if people get COVID 165,000 people will develop clots per million. And that's really what we're trying to prevent here.
WHITFIELD: Oh, it's fascinating that you underscored that the pre existing conditions also, you know, makes a difference in some of the candidates there. So this recent CDC analysis shows that resuming use of Johnson & Johnson's vaccine would save hundreds of lives and results in at most a few dozen cases of rare blood clots. But what would you tell a patient?
I mean, I guess those pre existing conditions, among the things you might be asking a patient as they make decisions, but what do you tell a patient - what do you equip them. What kind of information you equip them with when they try to choose which vaccine if they're in that position to choose?
DR. SAAG: Well, that's exactly what we share the data, like I just told you. Plus, we want to look at the ease with which they can get to the vaccination. Those people who have to travel a long distance or it's a hardship, the J&J is a wonderful option.
It also was very helpful when the vaccine has to be carried over a long distance traveled, because the cold chain storage isn't quite as important. And as you talked about in an earlier segment today, as we reach out globally, having the J&J as an option is really important as we try to reach into areas of the world where cold chain, keeping things cold as they're shipped is very difficult.
WHITFIELD: A new CDC study shows that nearly 70 percent of the people who had mild or asymptomatic forms of COVID-19 had lingering health problems for up to six months after their initial diagnosis. So how concerned are you about the long term impact that COVID-19 has on some people?
DR. SAAG: Very concerned. I think even if the pandemic stopped today, we're still going to be dealing with hundreds of thousands of people in the United States who are going to be dealing with longer consequences of COVID. And we need to study that. We are studying that--
WHITFIELD: And what are some of those consequences?
DR. SAAG: Right. So it's either brain issues where people have trouble thinking, their pulmonary issues with breathing problems, there are also issues that we find with heart rates. So some people just standing up to go take a shower or go to the mailbox, their heart rate spikes up to 150.
And their reason for that is seems to be linked to the COVID illness, but we don't know much of how to manage it right now. So these are plaguing people. And when people say it's no big deal if you get COVID well, it is a big deal especially in the long term.
WHITFIELD: While still so mysterious. So nearly 75 colleges and universities now have announced that they will require students to be vaccinated before they return to campus for the fall semester and where you are the University of Alabama Birmingham is encouraging vaccinations but not requiring them.
So in your view, should all campuses, colleges, universities be requiring vaccinations of the student body?
DR. SAAG: I think all of us should be vaccinated. And then Thor's requirements I think there's a technical difficulty with that having early use authorization status, I think once it moves on to full approval, which I hope is very soon, I think all colleges and universities will end up requiring this and that's good news.
This vaccine is our ticket to ride. This is our ticket to freedom of returning back to normal life as we knew it before the pandemic. So all of us should want to get vaccinated this is our way out of this. And I encourage everyone to do so.
WHITFIELD: All right, Dr. Mike Saag. Thanks so much always good to see you. Stay well.
DR. SAAG: Thank you. Thank you, Fred.
WHITFIELD: As the City of Minneapolis tries to heal from the wounds of the George Floyd murder, one Minnesota couple has unique perspective on policing and race in America their story next.
WHITFIELD: Former Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin will be sentenced on June 16th. His conviction brought some relief at a very tense time in that city. But the conversation around race and policing there continues. Adrienne Broaddus reports on one household with a unique perspective.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MAURI FRIESTLABEN, MINNEAPOLIS SCHOOL PRINCIPAL: I've never been able to watch any of them.
ADRIENNE BROADDUS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Mauri Friestlaben won't watch the video of George Floyd's final moments. She leans on her husband to view viral videos of police killings. She trusts his perspective.
FRIESTLABEN: Like he'll tell me honestly that it might be hard to watch that one. But as a police officer, I don't have a problem with that shooting.
BROADDUS (voice over): But this time, the officer in the video was wearing the same uniform her husband, Former Minneapolis Police Lieutenant Mike Friestlaben wore before he retired.
FRIESTLABEN: So he watches it comes back in, gives me the phone and he says I think I just watched a murder.
MIKE FRIESTLABEN, FORMER MINNEAPOLIS POLICE LIEUTENANT: The optics is no different than slave optics 200 years ago with hangings and burnings and things like that. It's just different technology different weapons.
BROADDUS (voice over): Mauri is the daughter of a white mother and a black father. She was working as an elementary school principal when she met Mike in 2016. He called her school to tell them to lock down. A gunman was in the area. He came by in person and made sure everyone was safe. There was chemistry between Mike and Mauri they married the next year.
FRIESTLABEN: This is our little family room area.
BROADDUS (voice over): These veterans have law enforcement and education say both systems are rooted in racism, but can work together to become better.
FRIESTLABEN: I don't feel like schools plant the seed of racism, but I feel like we water it and we fertilize it and it grows in our midst.
M. FRIESTLABEN: I don't think you can even out racism or get rid of it. If we're not willing to give up power and understand and learn other cultures other things other opinions.
FRIESTLABEN: Being married to Mike, during these difficult times makes me believe that there is hope and there can be hope. I'm not hopeless.
M. FRIESTLABEN: This has opened up my eyes a little wider. It's been helpful.
BROADDUS (voice over): About one mile from their home protests between the community and law enforcement kept them awake at night. And less than 24 hours after Derek Chauvin's murder conviction, the Department of Justice launched a full investigation into the Minneapolis Police Department's practices, the Friestlabens embrace the investigation.
M. FRIESTLABEN: Can it be fixed, absolutely. But you got to start changing the way you play suit. You do have to know your community?
FRIESTLABEN: I think to myself there have to be more mics around and if there's more mics around, then we can do this.
M. FRIESTLABEN: We all swore. We swore to protect other people before ourselves.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: Adrienne Broaddus, thank you so much for reporting and bringing us that couple from Minneapolis thanks.
Riana Elyse Anderson, he is an Assistant Professor at the University Of Michigan School Of Public Health. She's joining us right now Professor Anderson, so good to see you.
So, I mean, clearly, this is an emotional time, you know, for so many Americans in so many ways, but particularly people of color. So what does this kind of repetitive trauma that we're all experiencing? What is it doing to our communities?
RIANA ELYSE ANDERSON, ASSISTANT PROFESSOR, UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH BEHAVIOR & EDUCATION: Absolutely. So we know for both adults and youth, the increase of exposure to these types of incidents leads to an increase in anxiety, trauma and depression. And even though this week felt like a mixed bag, there was some quote, relief.
It's still just one guilty verdict in a mountain of cases, which is kind of like climbing, one rung on a ladder. But that system of injustice is what holds the ladder in place. So it's not quite something that can alleviate that anxiety, depression or trauma as much as people may have hoped.
WHITFIELD: Right. So then a lot of people feel kind of trapped in their emotions, you know, and they're really not sure how to manage their emotions. What is your best advice on so many things that people are feeling, you know, there's a common thread of the tension that comes with the race issues, many raise issues in this country. But then there are so many different ways in which to handle it or deal with it or process it.
ANDERSON: Yes. So I think the thing to be most mindful of is that emotions aren't necessarily a bad thing. Emotions let us know how we're feeling internally. So it's kind of like a thorn, right? When you see a beautiful rose, if you pick it up, there's a thorn that acknowledges that there's something going on with your thumb, there's a reason that your thumb is feeling that way.
And so in this way, the thorniness, that feeling that we get when we watch these cases, that sickness that just ease when we're watching this lets us know that something is wrong. So in a lot of ways, it's good that we're feeling this, that we're not so used to it that we don't think about it, don't get sick from it.
But what it requires then is radical self-care. What that means is that we need to be able to restore to persist. It's impossible if we continue to feel this way to keep going, to keep moving. We don't take that time to sit back to really process what would that require for us.
For some people, it might be cutting the TV completely off. For others, it might be talking to people. But the main thing to acknowledge is that it requires community for us to make progress. It's impossible for one person to continue to do this to persist if they're not resting.
So why not let someone else take the baton? Why not stay in your lane, do the work that you can do and acknowledge when it's time for someone else in another lane to do it. So collective orientations, connectedness, and restoration are important.
WHITFIELD: Yes. So no one prescription for everyone. You really have to kind of listen to your instincts. So then, you know, even in the midst, you know, of the Derek Chauvin verdict, we, as a nation, are still seeing black people killed in view on videotape, Ma'khia Bryant by police, Andrew Brown Jr., by sheriff's deputies in North Carolina.
So it really is a whiplash of emotions. Here we are again, you know, people are on the edge of their seat on pins and needles trying to figure out what happened why, and why did that have to happen.
ANDERSON: I want to acknowledge that for many that collective sigh of relief that we had on Tuesday, that deep breath that people took was really because there was a fear of what may have come. We were sitting on a powder keg on Tuesday. And so I don't think that that deep breath, that sigh belief, or excuse me, relief, was that this belief that justice has been served, it was, oh gosh, we would have really been in some racial turmoil had that not gone that way.
In that way, the only breath that mattered that day was George's and he still doesn't have it. George is still not able to breathe. He's still not home, at the dinner table with his daughter, with his brother, with his loved one, and we are. And so, again, this question of as we're watching this, as we didn't have minutes to celebrate, didn't have hours the next day to celebrate --
WHITFIELD: Yes, because then there's this feeling of here we go again.
ANDERSON: Here we go again. And so, I think that's -- it's a crucial happening this week, Fredericka, because for some, they may have believed that this verdict was the thing that changed everything. And it was an acknowledgment, finally, that our system was corrected.
It was one incident in a mountain of cases, a mountain, a systemic problem that we have and again, indicated, not just with adults, with children. We're talking about a 16-year-old girl, a 13-year-old boy, we're talking about police officers seeing these children has more terrifying, threatening than they actually are. And that's based on stereotypes.
So we have a real problem in our community with stereotype. It's going to require policies, practices, and procedures, interconnectedly. Not just for police, it doesn't happen. Just take a policing job.
WHITFIELD: Yes. Sad reminders -- yes, sad reminders, still not there yet.
WHITFIELD: Riana Elyse Anderson, thank you so much. Appreciate it.
ANDERSON: Thank you.
WHITFIELD: We'll be back.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [12:38:38]
WHITFIELD: President Biden wants to aggressively tackle global warming, pledging to cut greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. by more than 50 percent by 2030.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We made great progress in my view so far. I'm grateful to all the leaders who have announced new commitments to help us meet the existential threat of climate change. This summit is a start, a start of a row that will take us to Glasgow for the U.N. Climate Change Conference in November where we're going to make these commitments real.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: Biden laid out his promise on the closing night of the leaders' summit on climate at the White House saying there are economic opportunities in climate action. Nathaniel Keohane is the Senior Vice President of the Environmental Defense Fund. So good to see you. Let me begin by getting your reaction to the President's plan to cut emissions in half by 2030. Is that realistic?
NATHANIEL KEOHANE, SENIOR VICE PRESIDENT, ENVIRONMENTAL DEFENSE FUND: Well, thanks so much. Yes. So first of all, this is a bold plan. Cutting emissions by at least 50 percent, that puts the U.S. in the top tier of countries globally in terms of ambition, and it's in line with what the science says needs to happen, and with what President Biden promised in terms of getting to net zero emissions by 2050.
WHITFIELD: It's the goal but can be met.
KEOHANE: It is achievable -- yes.
KEOHANE: So it is achievable with technologies we have. That doesn't mean it will be easy, it will require really a whole of government approach and it means President Biden needs to put climate at the center of everything he does going forward.
WHITFIELD: Do you agree with Biden's assessment and his argument that fighting climate change is good for the U.S. economy?
KEOHANE: Yes. What we're really talking about here is investments in a lower carbon clean economy. The way we're going to get to that 50 percent target, first, we need cleaner power, we need to clean up the electric power generation with a clean electricity standard that ramps up wind and solar power, we can cut emissions 80 percent in that area. And that means jobs, that means jobs building the new transmission grid, it means jobs building wind and solar power.
Another area is electric vehicles, cars and trucks. We can build them here at home, we need to retool the factory lines and the supply chains, and that means investment in American jobs, American manufacturing. And all of these things, by the way, also mean cleaner air and healthier communities, especially for some of the frontline and disadvantaged communities that have borne historically the brunt of air pollution. So it is good for the economy and good for jobs.
WHITFIELD: So the U.S. can't fight, you know, climate change alone. Do you believe this administration can get China, Russia, India, other major countries around the globe on board? I mean, as it pertains to China, and Russia, I heard Secretary Kerry last night on the CNN climate special say that the approach toward those two countries is going to be verify then trust.
KEOHANE: That's right. So, first of all, the U.S. does need to lead. We are the largest historical emitter and we're still the second largest emitter globally. So we do have a responsibility here to take action. And as we said, that will make the U.S. more competitive. And as the President said, we need the whole world to come along.
We did see some good signs on Thursday, Canada taking on a more ambitious pledge, Japan as well. But we need China, the other -- than major emitter and the biggest emitter in the world. We need China to do more. There was good progress. A week ago, John Kerry went to Shanghai and came out with a statement that promised more cooperation between the U.S. and China. That's the kind of thing we need to see more concrete action and progress on over the coming months.
WHITFIELD: Nathaniel Keohane, thank you so much. All the best.
KEOHANE: Thank you.
WHITFIELD: All right, next, a CNN exclusive.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But pulling back from the front line, the commander felt it was just getting too dangerous. That exchange of gunfire was heating up. And it wasn't quite clear to him how it was going to play out.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: CNN's Nic Robertson takes you to the front lines of the deadly six-year conflict in Yemen.
WHITFIELD: In Yemen, fierce clashes in the internationally recognized government's last major northern stronghold could mark a turning point in the deadly six-year conflict. The oil-rich city of Marib is now at the center of a military escalation by Iran backed Houthi rebels attempting to extend their control further east with a devastating campaign of drone and missile attacks on both Yemen and Saudi Arabia. Saudi-backed government forces say President Biden's decision to
reverse former President Trump's widely criticized designation of the Houthis as a foreign terrorist organization has only emboldened the rebel group.
CNN International Diplomatic Editor Nic Robertson gained access to Maribs frontline, where the battle for control in the ancient desert city is raging on.
(SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)
NIC ROBERTSON, INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR (voice-over): Saif Abulwi (ph) writhes in pain, the 13-year-old hit by a Houthi missile in the Yemeni city of Marib. I can't breathe, I can't breathe, he cries. Still recovering a week later, he tells me what happened.
We were playing football, the missile hit, my leg was injured, I couldn't breathe. One of my friends was dead and the other looked like he was about to die.
In another ward, the hospital's deputy director shows me Saif's (ph) friend.
ROBERTSON (on-camera): And what's his condition?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE).
ROBERTSON (on-camera): Yes.
(voice-over): Under sedation, he is clinging to life.
(on-camera): He's in a bad way. How is it that you as a doctor that sees so many injured children come in from all these rockets after all this time?
(voice-over): An ophthalmologist by training, he says he has no words to describe the suffering. No choice, but keep trying to help and hope that the fighting will end.
But attacks of Marib's spike of the President Biden began pressuring all sides to end the war.
LIEUTENANT GENERAL MOHAMMED ALI AL-MAQDASHI, YEMEN MINISTER OF DEFENSE (through translation): The American administration holds the big responsibility for this crime. They removed the Houthis from the terrorism list. But there is no greater terrorists than the Houthis. They should support us.
ROBERTSON (voice-over): Once a fabled desert oasis, Marib is now wartime sanctuary to more than 2 million people, gateway to much of Yemen's gas and oil wealth and is the internationally recognized government's last major stronghold in northern Yemen.
[12:50:11] (on-camera): Marib is too important for the government to lose. It's vital leverage in any future peace talks. What happens here now is pivotal to the future of the country.
(voice-over): In Marib's many internally displaced people, IDP camps, life is lived in the balance. Nine-year-old Dua (ph) has been throwing up. Her mother tells us Houthi attacks are making Dua very afraid.
When we hear the missiles land close by, we're all scared, she says.
Around the city, tent camps of recently displaced are growing. Aid officials fear a Houthi offensive may force many here to flee again.
NAIMA TAHIR, SHELTER OFFICER, INTERNATIONAL ORGANIZATION FOR MIGRATION: Definitely because they keep moving now. Most, we have a lot of IDPs who've been displaced for the second and third, some of their fourth time. So, definitely, there will be a lot of other movements for people and then adding to the suffering.
ROBERTSON (voice-over): A Yemeni military trip to the front line reveals how precarious the city is.
(on-camera): Soldiers in the truck tell us that there's fighting around here every day for the past few months. The reason we're driving so fast, well, that's because of the danger. And the guy at the wheel, that's the army chief of staff.
(voice-over): On the way, he stops, greets tribal leaders, without whose fighters he can't hold the front line. And another stop, this time with his own troops, both he and the information minister trying to raise morale, promising troops they'll get the back pay they had do.
The front itself, a small dirt berm. Dust rises from Houthi vehicles and shooting starts.
GEN. SAGHEER BIN AZIZ, CHIEF OF STAFF, YEMENI NATIONAL ARMY: This car is for the enemy.
ROBERTSON (on-camera): You can see the Houthi?
BIN AZIZ: Yes, yes, see this.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE).
ROBERTSON (voice-over): His troops are losing ground, beaten off strategic mountain heights Houthis closer to Marib.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK, we have to go.
ROBERTSON (on-camera): We're pulling back from the front line. The commander felt it was just getting too dangerous, that exchange of gunfire was heating up and it wasn't quite clear to him how it was going to play out.
(voice-over): We stop near a ramshackle gun emplacement. Military hardware here is old, scattered and scarce. Nothing here that couldn't be overrun in a hurry. They're relying on Saudi coalition airstrikes which have already caused more than 18,500 Yemeni civilian deaths to hold the Houthis back and feel weakened by Biden's decision to end American military support for it.
BIN AZIZ (through translation): America's decision hurt us. And we hope that the American administration will go back on their decision.
ROBERTSON (voice-over): A State Department spokesperson says President Biden has made ending the war in Yemen a top priority. Adding, we continue to take action against those who threaten the peace, security and stability of Yemen. But adding, U.S. efforts alone are not enough. We need a unified international effort, particularly to press the Houthis to end their offensive on Marib.
(on-camera): So far, Biden's Yemen policy is raising the stakes for this city. Whether or not they can produce political compromise necessary to make peace remains unclear. Nic Robertson, CNN, Marib, Yemen.
WHITFIELD: Two Native American entrepreneurs are combining their passion for art with their skill for online commerce. Here's today's start small think big.
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ISABELLA JOHNSON, CO-FOUNDER, FROM THE PEOPLE: From the People as a native and woman-owned company dedicated to promoting native crafts.
CHASE MCNEIL, CO-FOUNDER, FROM THE PEOPLE: I'm Chase McNeil.
JOHNSON: I'm Isabella Johnson and we're the founders From The People. Chase and I met at Stanford University and we both have experience running Stanford powwow, the largest student run powwow in the country. A lot of different tribes come together to honor tradition and cultures. Because of the pandemic, a lot of art market events were shut down and people's livelihoods were at stake.
MCNEIL: That's when we knew that we have to rush to get this out. As an engineer, one of the most important things from the people's doing is that we're using tech to help our communities in a way that really hasn't been seen before.
KOLBI JANE, BEADER, FROM THE PEOPLE: I'm Kolbi Jane. I'm a citizen of the Cherokee Nation. I am a beader on From The People. I do traditional and contemporary beadwork mixed with resin. If you want to support indigenous art forms, you buy from indigenous artists and from the people allows our cultural art forms to continue on and to grow in new ways. JOHNSON: So all of our vendors go through a verification process where we learn of their tribal affiliation and all of the products are native made. We have indigenous artists represented from tribes across the United States and Canada.
MCNEIL: We try to make sure that as much money as possible is going back to native artists.
JOHNSON: I've been learning how to bead, to reconnect with my heritage like so many other indigenous people have as well. That's why I think it's great that from the people brings everyone together on the same platform.
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