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Videos Show Ocean City Police Kicking, Tasing Teens Stopping Them to Enforce a Boardwalk Vaping Ban; NAACP Demands Investigation of Ocean City Incident; GOP Representative Apologizes for Offensive Holocaust Comparison; California Reopens with Some Restrictions. Aired 3:30-4p ET

Aired June 15, 2021 - 15:30   ET



VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN HOST: A couple of alarming videos have surfaced on social media showing the violent arrest of black teenagers in Ocean City, Maryland. In one a 19-year-old is repeatedly kneed as he's held down by a group of officers. His initial offense was vaping on the boardwalk. We're going to show you the video now and I have to tell you that it is disturbing.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm not resisting. Will you tell me what you're arresting for?






BLACKWELL: Moments later another young man in the group is tased after he gets into an altercation with officers. Watch this one.




BLACKWELL: Both young men were taken away in handcuffs, they were later released on their own recognizance. According to Ocean City police officers, the officers there attempted to stop the group for vaping when they quote, became disorderly and began yelling at officers and threatening to kill them.

A statement from the city says, quote, our officers are permitted to use force per their training to overcome exhibited resistance.

Well, today the mayor of Ocean City announced an investigation into the incidents. Willie Flowers is the president of the Maryland State Conference of the NAACP. Mr. Flowers, thank you for your time. First, your reaction to what we are seeing in these videos.

WILLIE FLOWERS, PRESIDENT, PRESIDENT, NAACP MARYLAND STATE CONFERENCE: Good afternoon. My first reaction is as a father, as a person who has had these types of challenges in the past with the police was just my concern for the young people, teenagers who are going to experience a very high amount of trauma, probably until the day, you know, for the rest of their lives. That's my first focus on the injustice done to them.

But then, you know, as a resident of Maryland, as a person who, you know, loves this state, lives here, it's very unfortunate and sad and shameful that a tourist can come to a destination city for graduation, for whatever young people do and be treated like this. It's an insult to everyone involved and it's a very unfortunate day for the city of Ocean City and for the state of Maryland, quite frankly.

BLACKWELL: So let me ask you, you talked to me as a father. You talked to me as a resident of Maryland. Let me ask you as the head of the state conference there, your statement, this incident along with other videos shows a consistent pattern of assaults on African-Americans and sends a message that African-American tourist dollars are either not respected or wanted. The NAACP has called or boycotts before. Is that something you're considering?

FLOWERS: Well, I mean we don't have to use the word "boycott." We can use the collaboration, the hope of collaboration with the authorities, the Ocean City mayor, the police there, in order to look at this as an opportunity to craft something that would make policing in a tourism city look like -- not look like forced, aggressive policing which insults everybody in the world.

But you know, to create an opportunity for the police to be ambassadors that welcome people, that use civility, that create an atmosphere for the businesses to make money, for the state to be remembered for what it is, and not for this type of embarrassing activity that shows injustice in its face of young people. These are teenagers --


BLACKWELL: Well, the state of Maryland just did that. Right, I mean the state house just passed massive policing reform over the veto of Governor Hogan in which they say that force can only be used, quote, to prevent an imminent threat of physical injury.

That man who was on the ground, the 19-year-old was being held by two men while he was being kneed in the ribs and this still happens. You say that there can be something that comes from this, some collaboration. What's the indication of optimism here considering the law is changed and now we see this?

FLOWERS: Well, we have to take the law from being macro to micro, and in this case, the law hasn't unfolded yet, but there should be some intentional effort to follow those to make those laws mean something, because you can pass laws all day, but if there's no management particularly at the grassroots level to guide this type of conversation about the expectation.

So you're right, it's unfortunate that there's no attention to that from in places like Ocean City, unfortunately, but so the next step is to make it possible for the community, law enforcement, government leaders, grassroots people to get nestled into and every jurisdiction. Ocean City is just an example today but every jurisdiction should be concerned about it, making these laws mean something and not just something to say that we passed them.

BLACKWELL: Willie, you said in your statement the messages that African-American tourist dollars are either not respected or wanted. I'm from Maryland. I am a Marylander through and through, was home over the weekend eating blue crabs, listening to Baltimore Club music with my family.

But I've never been to Ocean City and my mother and my uncle have never been to Ocean City. Because when they were children, black people weren't allowed to go to the beach in Ocean City. And then eventually there was one day that was called colored -- it's called "colored excursion day" after Labor Day, and then black people couldn't stay in the hotels.

There was one, a little down the shore, and then when black people started to get jobs -- we learned this from the NAACP -- that they got jobs in the kitchen, but not, they weren't allowed to serve. They weren't allowed to be seen. There's a legacy in Ocean City for black people. How much of that is still there?

FLOWERS: Obviously when you pass a law to make vaping illegal in certain places on the beach, and it appears you intentionally are profiling a certain demographic, not much has changed. Again, the laws can change. The times can change, but if we're not intentional about trying to create the atmosphere particularly in a tourism destination area, to say that we welcome people here, and everybody's on the same page with that, then you might not get the change in spirit that you need. But you know, have to be hopeful. I hope that you are hopeful that these altercations can be made --

BLACKWELL: Always hopeful.

FLOWERS: Yes, we got to be, but there has to be collaboration and we can't create barriers based on crisis. We should see the crisis as an opportunity to collaborate so that we can all grow together. The state of Maryland deserves better, and regardless of this reality of the spirit of police in Ocean City, I think that Ocean City deserves that and the businesses after what we've all gone through, through the last year, we certainly need an opportunity to make money and to welcome people to the county. BLACKWELL: That is true. Willie Flowers, I got to wrap it there,

president of the Maryland State Conference of the NAACP, thank you so much for your time, sir.

FLOWERS: Thank you.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN HOST: Really interesting. I didn't know that history.

BLACKWELL: Yes, yes.

CAMEROTA: After Labor Day. Black people were allowed to go.

BLACKWELL: And weren't allowed to go to the beach. I mean we've talked about the swimming pools that have been emptied but you can't go to the ocean as a black person in parts of the state. There are a lot of people who have not been to Ocean City because of that relationship.

CAMEROTA: Of course.

BLACKWELL: And I still haven't been and I don't think, I don't know anybody in my family who has been to Ocean City.

CAMEROTA: I'm going to take you to the Jersey Shore and you're going to love it.

BLACKWELL: Let me check that history first.

CAMEROTA: All right, this evening Vice President Kamala Harris will host a group of female Senators for dinner. At least two Republicans have accepted this invite. We have details on what's in store.



CAMEROTA: With President Biden working on international diplomacy oversea, Vice President Kamala Harris is doing some domestic diplomacy here at home. The vice president has invited all 24 women Senators over to her place at the Naval Observatory for dinner.

BLACKWELL: So the invitation to the 16 Democrats, 8 Republican female Senators is a show of bipartisanship in as we know deeply divided Washington and it comes amid a tense moment in negotiations on so many of the Biden administration's biggest agenda items.

CNN senior political correspondent Abby Philip is with us now. So this is about more than -- you know --

CAMEROTA: A girl's night.

BLACKWELL: Yes, it's more than that. There's a lot to talk about. Do we know anything about the RSVPs though?

ABBY PHILIP, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it sounds like there have been -- I think we can probably expect most if not all of the Democratic Senators to attend. The big question is what happens on the Republican side and it sounds like according to "The Times" two Republicans, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Susan Collins of Maine have accepted the invitation.

That's not entirely surprising. Because those are the two who are most likely to play ball. They come to the table when it comes to negotiations on bipartisan bills, and it's not surprising to me at least that you'll see them at this dinner.


But it will be interesting to see who else does accept this invitation. Because there is a history in the Senate, in particular of women Senators, playing a deal-making role being able to reach across the aisle and it seems this is an effort on the Harris team's part to try to facilitate that or cultivate that culture especially in this time of incredible polarization.

CAMEROTA: And you know I'm not trying to trivialize it by calling it a girl's night. I find on fun girl's nights that there's a lot bonding and there are real issues that are discussed. So if you say no to going to the vice president's place, that means you don't want to engage in that kind of bonding and those real issues. I mean I have to conclude.

PHILIP: Yes, I mean, I think that there's -- the vice president's office did not say that there was some sort of legislative agenda attached to this dinner. It's intended to be kind of a social gathering, a get to know you, a girl's night out, like you said, Alisyn. And so not being willing to do that, I mean it would just be a symptom of this sort of culture of, you know, I can't even spend time, you know, casual time with people across the aisle because things are so polarized and I have an "R" next to my name and you have a "D" next to your name.

BLACKWELL: All Right, so hopefully we'll figure out how -- will find out how many attend.

So let's move on to Marjorie Taylor Greene. She's apologizing for her comparison of the Star of David used during the Holocaust, to wearing masks during the pandemic. She says it's something that's been on her heart for several weeks. She wanted to apologize now. Let's listen to the Congresswoman.


REP. MARJORIE TAYLOR GREENE (R-GA): What I would like to say is I'm removing that statement completely away from what I had said before. There is no -- now I just want to say there is no comparison to the Holocaust and there never should be and that's what I'm sorry for.


BLACKWELL: You can't remove it. You can apologize for it. I see you squinting in the side eye here, Abby. Do we have any idea why she's apologizing? PHILIP: Well, I think we know why she's apologizing now. I mean first

of all, let's just recall that after she made those statements, she was asked about whether it was really a wise thing to say given an opportunity to clarify, she refused to do so, she stood by it. And so now the idea that suddenly she just learned about the Holocaust which most people learn about when they're, you know, 14 is really beyond belief.

But it's happening to your point because Republicans are trying to pivot to the issue of Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, the Democrat who they want to kick off of committees, and label as anti-Semitic and in order to do that, they have to get right with Marjorie Taylor Greene. She has to apologize. They need to sort of neutralize that issue so they can move on to the issue of Congresswoman Omar. Whether that will work seems unlikely because I think this sort of play is fairly transparent.

CAMEROTA: But quickly, did Ilhan Omar apologize for her comments?

PHILIP: Well you know, she has said that she was mischaracterized and you see a lot of Democrats coming to her defense, so this is a live issue. I mean within the Democratic Caucus, Ilhan Omar's comments received a lot of pushback from Democrats. So there were Democrats who were saying to her that she should apologize not just clarify but apologize for her comments.

And you know, I mean I think that that's not something -- she believes she was mischaracterized or misunderstood and also you see a lot of her allies saying that this issue should have been handled privately. But on both sides of the aisle, both parties are trying to deal with controversial members in their caucuses.

BLACKWELL: Abby Philip, thank you.

CAMEROTA: Thanks, Abby.

BLACKWELL: So new today, New York and California are lifting their COVID restrictions as they hit some key vaccination milestones. We're live in Los Angeles as the governor is also handing out some money in a vaccine lottery.



CAMEROTA: The state of New York hitting a COVID milestone -- 70 percent of adults now at least partially vaccinated. The governor says most COVID restrictions will now be lifted.

BLACKWELL: Now the same is happening in California. The state, we know it was the first in the country to shut down, has also invested more than $116 million in incentives to encourage people to get vaccinated.

CAMEROTA: Nick Watt, CNN national correspondent, is in L.A. so tell us -- oh, I'm sorry to interrupt, Nick, you're --

BLACKWELL: Pardon us.

CAMEROTA: What's going on there?



WATT: All right. You came to me a little quicker than I thought. I am enjoying lunch in a restaurant for the first time in a very long time.

So the headlines, Alisyn, out of California right now, today for the first time, there are no social distancing requirements, no capacity caps on restaurants and stores. That's a big deal. No masks as well, pretty much gone from everywhere. Schools, public transport, still got to wear one. And here at Langer's, like Norm, the guy that owns the place, he's going to still ask people to wear masks when they're up and about. He says, you know, let's not go crazy, let's still keep everybody safe.

Now this dining room has been closed for 469 days. California, one of the first places to tell everybody to stay home. One of the strictest. So today, really a kind of celebration but also reflection on what we've been through.

Take a listen to what the governor had to say.


GOV. GAVIN NEWSON (D-CA): It's been a tough year for all of us, a tough fifteen months for all of us, all of the fear and anxiety that we have all had to work through and mindful of that stress still upon so many of you.


I recognize the incredible burden that's been placed on you over the course of the last year. But I want folks to know that the state has your back as we come back.


WATT (on camera): Now California can come back, because a lot of people are vaccinated. There have been incentives. The governor this morning announced ten winners of $1.5 million each. Anybody who was vaccinated was put in a lottery. So that helped us get to this place. Back to you.

BLACKWELL: So what's for lunch, Nick?

WATT: It is the number 19, the pastrami and coleslaw, and I am going to eat all the fries before Damir (ph), my photographer manages to sit down. We are sharing a plate. Good stuff. It's good to be back. Good to feel normal again.

CAMEROTA: That looks really good, Nick. Don't let us interrupt, please, keep going. WATT: Yes, all right, I'm done, bye.



CAMEROTA: That was great. Nick Watt, thank you very much. He really listened.

BLACKWELL: Yes, "THE LEAD" starts after the break.