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Justice Department Releases New Video from January 6 Attack; Survey: Many American Poll Workers Fear for Their Lives; Possible Tornado Damage in Alabama; Dangerous Heat, Extreme Drought Grips Much of Western U.S.; Tropical Storm Claudette Drenches U.S. Gulf Coast; Atlanta Suburb Moves to Separate from City over Rising Crime. Aired 4- 5p ET

Aired June 19, 2021 - 16:00   ET



JIM ACOSTA, CNN HOST: You are live in the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Jim Acosta in Washington.

The Justice Department has released new videos, terrifying images from the January 6th Capitol assault.

We want to show you these close-up raw moments, because today, more than five months after the attack, Americans are witnessing a far- right campaign to whitewash, gaslight and distort the events of that day.

The new videos may be uncomfortable. You're going to see violence and hear profanity. But it's never been more imperative to see it for yourself.

This bodycam footage shows officers being taunted and physically attacked by a violent insurrectionist.


ACOSTA: It's important to know this footage was released after CNN and other outlets requested the case. It's being used in the case against Thomas Webster, a former marine and a retired New York City police officer who has pleaded not guilty to all charges.

Here you see another insurrectionist stalking, screaming, and punching at law enforcement, an officer right outside of the Capitol building. And then there's scene, a wave a insurrectionist pushing their way through a tunnel, literally crushing the officers' line of defense there. You saw the violence, the vitriol with your own eyes, yet some Republican lawmakers would have you believe the exact opposite, casting the attack as peaceful, blaming Antifa or the FBI.

CNN's Marshall Cohen joins me now.

Marshall, a rally outside the Justice Department happened earlier today. And they attempted to completely rewrite the history of January 6th again. I mean, they just can't seem to accept the truth of what happened. MARSHALL COHEN, CNN REPORTER: They are digging deeper and deeper into

this conspiracy, Jim. This rally, a pretty small rally earlier today outside the Justice Department.

The headliner was Congressman Paul Gosar. You have mentioned him plenty of times on this show. He's really one of the Republicans who's leading the charge with the disinformation, the lies, and the false flag theories about January 6th.

I want to play a short clip what he said about Ashley Babbitt. Of course, she is the pro-Trump rioter who was fatally shot that day by a police officer inside the Capitol. Listen to what he said.


REP. PAUL GOSAR (R-AZ): They don't want us to know the truth about Ashley's death, but we do. Release the video. Release the investigative report. Give Ashli the dignity she deserves. Give Congress the self-respect and stop covering up the murder.


COHEN: Yeah, stop covering up this murder. That's what he just said. Now, he's actually right about one thing. The authorities could be more transparent about this whole situation.

They haven't released the officer who fired the shot, right? But he didn't tell the full story. Ashli Babbitt tragically was killed while she was breaking into the speaker's lobby, right outside the house chamber, while lawmakers were evacuating. That officer who pulled the trigger was the only guy between the rioters and Ms. Babbitt, and the lawmakers on the other side.

And maybe Congressman Gosar doesn't think that these rioters posed a threat or were dangerous, but all you have to do is listen to them on their own words. Jim, you know this, some of them said "hang Mike Pence," some said we want too shoot Nancy Pelosi in the brain.

Listen to one of the rioters we played his clip, Scott Fairlamb, listen to what he said shortly after he picked up a baton that he found on the ground right before he went inside.


SCOTT FAIRLAMB, RIOTER: We fucking disarm them, and then we storm the fucking Capitol. Fuck you.


COHEN: Yeah, so that's a rioter. He's got a baton in his hand, heading into the building, clearly that poses a threat, many people had makeshift weapons, lots of lies about the situation. We're giving you the truth.

ACOSTA: Yeah, and it makes you uncomfortable to listen to that kind of language and to see that video but when you have people engaging in these conspiracy theories and trying to create this alternate reality of what happened on January 6th to try to explain what happened to Ashli Babbitt and some other rioters, it's important to show all of this raw footage in all of its terrible just awfulness, no other way around it.

Marshall, when you talked to people outside the justice department earlier today did they come to grips with reality with this, is this video helping them understand what happened on January 6th, that they know that this was an attack that these pro-Trump insurrectionist carried out on the Capitol that day?


COHEN: Yeah, Jim, I'd say there were a few dozen people there. You could hear people shouting from the crowd, they said these were patriots. They said that they got some of these people did nothing wrong. So, Jim, I think they're kind of drinking the Kool-Aid.

ACOSTA: Yeah, it sure sounds like it. And we're going to continue to show more videos, they're coming, I assume, thank you for you, Marshall Cohen, and your colleagues for bringing it to life. Thank you so much. We appreciate it. Marshall Cohen, thanks.

Congressman Gosar is not the only Republican trying to rewrite the insurrection. There's also a new conspiracy aimed at the FBI.

CNN's Brian Todd has that story.


BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Some conspiracy theorists are going to town on a crazy false story about what was behind the January 6th attack on the Capitol, circulating the narrative that the FBI orchestrated the assault.

PROF. CYNTHIA MILLER-IDRISS, AUTHOR, "HATE IN THE HOMELDAND": Really reaching into disinformation sources trying to undermine, plant a false flag and just distract from the real actors that were responsible for the insurrection, is really quite a stretch.

TODD: It started with an article published on Monday by Revolver News, a right-wing website. The article was a weave of inaccurate, whack out assertions based on court filings in the January 6th investigation.

The crux of the theory that indictments against some rioters accused of planning the attack with extremist groups include references to unindicted co-conspirators who the article claims could actually be under FBI informants or undercover FBI agents. Those operative, the article claim, could have infiltrated right-wing groups, help plan the attack and then storm the Capitol.

As nutty and untrue as the theory is, it's gone viral, partially because it was promoted by Fox News host Tucker Carlson show on his show on Tuesday.

TUCKER CARLSON, FOX NEWS HOST: FBI operatives were organizing the attack on the Capitol on January 6, according to government documents.

TODD: And some Republican lawmakers have gotten in on the act.

REP. LOUIE GOHMERT (R-TX): We don't like to see government agents stirring up trouble. This is not only third-world stuff but this is like Putin-kind of activity.

TODD: Representatives Marjorie Taylor Greene and Matt Gaetz tweeted calls for an investigation. Gaetz sending a letter to the FBI and inexplicably, one GOP congressman actually entered the article on the crazy theory into the congressional record this week.

REP. PAUL GOSAR (R-AZ): I'd like to enter into record the report from Revolver News regarding infiltration and incitement of the January 6th protest by federal officials.

TODD: Again, there's no evidence that anonymous co-conspirators named in the January 6 indictments worked for the FBI, even though some might have cooperated with the bureau afterwards.

HARRY LITMAN, FORMER DEPUTY ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL: An FBI agent or confidential informant cannot be -- cannot be an unindicted coconspirator. Their obvious way to see is they haven't agreed to an unlawful purpose as conspirators have, on the contrary. They are trying to foil the unlawful purpose.

TODD: Still monitors of extremist groups are worried about the potential for violence that this false theory could insight among those who buy into it. An FBI spokesperson declined to comment to CNN about the theory.

Brian Todd, CNN, Washington.


ACOSTA: I want to bring in CNN's chief media correspondent and anchor of "RELIABLE SOURCES". And also joining us is CNN counterterrorism analyst, Phil Mudd. He's also a former CIA counterterrorism official.

Brian, let me start with you first.

These dangerous conspiracy theories about the Capitol insurrection is just nutty and they're only getting more strange and louder by the day and people like Fox's Tucker Carlson we're just talking about in the last hour echoing them to millions of people, how dangerous and irresponsible is this?

I think the answer to this. But tell us, Brian, why is this so dangerous and irresponsible?

BRIAN STELTER, CNN CHIEF MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: My fellow Brian laid it out really well, the way these ideas move from fringe websites to Fox News primetime in a matter of hours. You know, no longer do ideas trickle out on the dark corners of the Internet and take months or years to reach the mainstream. Now, they get to mainstream right away. This is an inside job conspiracy theory with absolutely no basis and what it really does is soften the ground for this "choose your own reality" version of America. Where if you're a Tucker fan, you can choose your own reality.

As colleague -- scholar Jay Rosen (ph) said this week, if you want to believe it was Antifa that attack the Capitol, you can believe that. You can find a source to tell you that.

And ultimately, this is a failure of Fox News as an organization, because if Tucker Carlson is spewing this nonsense as an opinion, he should back it up with the newsroom. The newsroom should go out and research it, investigate it, and find the proof. Of course, they're not doing that because the proof is not out there. It's just a bunch of gobbling gook.


But, you know, in a real news organization, it would back with evidence, and none of that is happening, which is a failure by Fox as an organization, Jim.

ACOSTA: All right. Not just Fox News, I mean, Fox television, hate to say it I know nice people that work at Fox television but it seems like an overall corporate failure to allow this irresponsible dangerous bullshit. I mean, I hate to use that word, I'm an old school guy, I hate to use that word. But it's just crazy nonsense.

And, Phil, I want to get your reaction to this, because these people are trying to blame the FBI for what happened on is January 6th and, you know, it makes you think you're just losing your mind when you watch this stuff. You're looking at this new video that was put out by the justice department, Phil, and I don't see any FBI agents, I don't see an Antifa.

And so, I just wonder -- how is it that people are -- how are they -- how are they processing this video and thinking it's somebody else.

PHIL MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: Leadership. The simple question is leadership.

You remember after 9/11 there was a lot of anti-Muslim sentiment and anti-immigrant sentiment. It was Republican leader George Bush who kept the lid on that, telling the American people, look, don't believe this conspiracy stuff. We're Americans, that's part of the fabric of America. That is immigration.

Remember all this stuff years ago, McCain versus President Obama, before President Obama won the election, all this stuff about President Obama as a Kenyan, he's a closet Muslim, the leadership -- in that case John McCain --- in the Republican Party said, we don't do this conspiracy stuff.

The problem is, in a lot of ways, the Republican Party has flipped and to ensure that they can win the base, conspiracies that would have died in the past are kept alive now. Leadership counts and if leadership persists with the message, people are going to believe it, Jim.

ACOSTA: And, Brian, Georgia Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene pushed this conspiracy theory on Twitter. She said we need the names and answers about the FBI who are involved in organizing and carrying the January 6 Capitol riot. I mean, this is a sitting congresswoman pushing these dangerous lies. She pushes crazy lies about the Holocaust, and then she apologizes, and now she's moved on to these other lies.

At what point does Twitter just take her off the platform?

STELTER: It's very interesting spot for Twitter because it's beyond fact checking in a way, and let me explain this. Think about my 4- year-old daughter, when I put her to sleep at night and she claims there's a monster under the bed, I can grab a flashlight, we'll shine it under the bed, we can see there's no monsters.

But this conspiracy is like there's a ghost in the closet, an invisible ghost, that it's impossible to know if there's actually a ghost in the closet. There's no way to actually debunk that, right? Except, I guess, down the road, Phil does better than I, years from now we will know I guess some day if there happened to be a single government contact in one of these militia groups that happened to be involved in some way.

It's just -- you know, Tucker will hold on to anything to try to basically say to his audience prove me wrong, prove me wrong. But it's a ghost in the closet. No amount of sunlight is going to disprove him or disprove his theory. And so, we're in a world beyond fact-checking. That's where the worst conspiracies thrive.

ACOSTA: It's just so awful.

And, Phil, Democratic Congressman Ruben Gallego tweeted this. It's true, some GOP members of Congress who are treating Capitol police like shit, his word, were the most scared on the floor. Jody Hice took apart a hand sanitizer station to make it into a club. Gosar and Biggs were the first to leave. Representative Clyde was screaming like a banshee. These are all his observation from that day.

You square that with Michael Fanone, who described a situation he had with the Congressman Andrew Clyde who is describe some of these insurrections as tourists. Let's listen.


OFFICER MICHAEL FANONE, DC METROPOLITAN POLICE: I greeted him, extended my hand. He stared at me refused to shake my hand. He said he didn't know who I was.

I introduced myself. I said, you know, my officer is Michael Fanone. I'm a D.C. police officer and fought to defend the capital on January 6th. I explained some of the injuries I suffered as a result of that. He just stared at me and turned away.

(END VIDEO CLIP) ACOSTA: This is so weird from the back the blue crowd. This is what's -- this is what it comes to. Republicans can't even be seen with someone who risked their lives protecting them? Is that what we're talking about here?

MUDD: I tell you, you hit somebody I've been pondering for a couple of years. You mentioned back the blue, the Republican Party used to be the party that says we're in national security, defense spending, for example, which was obviously high under President Trump.


Now we're into saying all these people are trustworthy. I don't know what to tell you, but you're going to persuade the American people that they can't trust people like me, that's not good.

ACOSTA: Yeah, I mean, I just for the like of me, when I watch that video, Brian, for the life of me, I cannot understand how that happened in the United States of America, and each new video that comes out. For all of the false flag people out there, there are more videos coming out. Brian, you know all these too well.

News organizations are pressing for more of these videos to come out. And as they come out, these false flag conspiracy theories are going to look more and more ridiculous.

STELTER: I think ultimately it's about shame, Jim. There's so much shame and embarrassment among some on the right. They attempt to come up with excused and new stories, alternative narratives about the riot.

But, you know, this version of this on 9/11, there's after 9/11, this inside job stuff crap that happened, it was obscure. You had to go and find it if you really, really wanted to read about it 20 years ago, almost 20 years ago.

ACOSTA: Right.

STELTER: It was not live on Fox News or MSNBC. That's what's changed in the United States in 20 years, the mainstream conspiracy thinking. That's what's so sad. And to your point about the videos, CNN is out there, other networks out there tying to get more of these videos, because the public deserves to see what's in court.

Fox News is not part of the coalition. Neither is Newsmax. They don't seem interested in digging deeper. I have a CNN attorney on "RELIABLE SOURCES" tomorrow to get into more that.

ACOSTA: All right, Brian. We'll be watching that.

And, Phil Mudd, thank you so much for being with us. We appreciate those insights.

And up next, they say they fear for their lives because of their work, some revealing that they even been threatened with physical violence, what's this dangerous job? Working at American polling sites, that's another big part of this. That's next.

You're live on the CNN NEWSROOM.



ACOSTA: Imagine feeling afraid for your life because you work to make sure America's elections are fair and secure and legitimate. I'm talking about a third of U.S. election and poll workers who believe there's a target on their backs and many others who say they've been threatened with physical violence just for doing their very important work.

The director of the election reform at the Brennan Center for Justice says this, it's one of the scariest parts of attacks on democracy. You can't have a democracy that functions if you don't have people who are unafraid to be administrators of elections.

And here's a man behind those words, Lawrence Norden.

Your center interviewed, Lawrence, hundreds of election workers and found a shocking number who say they don't feel safe. That is just very disturbing to hear that. Is it a general feeling? Is it because of specific threatening things that have happened? What did you find, Lawrence?

LAWRENCE NORDEN, DIRECTOR, ELECTION REFORM PROGRAM, BRENNAN CENTER FOR JUSTICE: Yeah, I agree with you, it's very disturbing and heartbreaking, really. This is very widespread.

To hear of things that election workers and officials have gone through around the country. You know, it's easy to forget, but these officials and these workers ran our elections during a pandemic. There was no vaccine. They really put their lives at risk.

In fact, a number of them got COVID to ensure that we can all vote, to count our votes. Some even died. To see what they have gone through in the weeks leading up to the election and frankly until now, the threats against their families, against themselves, having to in some cases flee their homes, very upsetting, very upsetting personally to see what's happening to them, and just very upsetting for our democracy, because it is a direct threat to our democracy.

ACOSTA: Some of these nice election workers are very wonderful senior citizens, elderly people who are doing this in their retired. There's always going to be people who are angry that an election did not go their way, but is there a different tenor to that anger now, would you say in this post-Trump era, this Trumpism era that we're in now?

NORDEN: No question, no question. This is on a whole other level, and, it's really part of a larger assault on democracy. It wouldn't be if it is what it is now if it weren't for the big lie, if there weren't people who are being fed disinformation and being told somebody is to blame for their candidate losing, and that that target has been directly put on the backs of election officials. And it's not just come from former President Trump.


Frankly, it's come from a lot of these new bills that are being introduced around the country that criminalize actions that election officials might take for technical infractions. It's taking their power away and their ability to help voters, so there's really a clear message, unfortunately, that's getting through to a certain segment of the public that election officials are to blame for election results, which really all they're trying to do is make sure that Americans can vote and that they're counting the vote fairly.

ACOSTA: I want you to hear from a registration and election official in the state of Georgia. He was on CNN this week. Perhaps you've seen the clip, but I want you to comment on it. He says he's genuinely afraid to the physical safety of the people who work in his office. Let's listen.


RICHARD BARRON, FULTON COUNTY, GEORGIA REGISTRATION & ELECTIONS OFFICIAL: We've started receiving calls over the last two weeks. It's like November is starting up all over again with the number of calls that we're getting. We received a call earlier this week saying that somebody is going to come down here and use his Second Amendment rights on everyone in the office. So, it's not letting up.


ACOSTA: What are you proposing, Lawrence, to address this? What has to happen so these election workers in Georgia and around the country feel safe? Do we need to have cops at these election sites?

NORDEN: Look, one of the biggest things we can do is start prosecuting the people who are making these threats. We're forcing election workers and election officials in some cases to flee their homes. And so, having -- treating this more seriously, having the Department of Justice create a national task force, where they were focused on this, and they prioritize and give resources to state and local law enforcement to make sure those people are prosecuted, that's a really big thing that we can do.

I also think we've got to start pushing back against the disinformation, and the best way to do that is promote accurate information about elections. Election officials are probably the best source for accurate election information about the elections they are running, so social media companies should be doing more to promote posts, give election officials free advertising. I do think one of the best ways to say combat disinformation is with truthful information. There's a lot more we can be doing on that front. So, those are just the couple of things that we could be doing.

ACOSTA: Absolutely. You're absolutely right about that.

All right. Lawrence Norden, unfortunately we have to talk about this in this day and age, but we're glad to have you on and offer those insights. We appreciate. Thanks so much for being on with us.

NORDEN: Thanks, Jim.

ACOSTA: And take a look at what's happening in the South right now. Suspected tornado striking Alabama, flooding in Alabama. Louisiana, meanwhile, temperatures out west soaring past 120 degrees.

A live look is next.



ACOSTA: We have brand-new video out of Alabama, possible tornado damage. Look at this. This was just unbelievable footage coming into us right now.

We're being told it's possible tornado damage, but it sure looks like it. Of course, we'll be following these developments to see if it can be designated an actual tornado.

CNN Meteorologist Gene Norman joins me now.

Gene, when you look at this video, just incredible stuff.

Show us where people are seeing the worst of these extreme weather systems. It looks really bad in Alabama.

But you're seeing the excessive heat out in the western part of the country as well.

GENE NORMAN, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Exactly right, Jim. We're tracking heat in the west, flooding and bad storms in the south because of a tropical storm. And there's even another threat in the Midwest.

But let's start with the heat. We are looking at over 30 million people under heat advisories for like the fifth or sixth day in a row.

Already over 100 degrees. Vegas, Phoenix, down in Tucson. In fact, Vegas at 110 right now. That's the sixth day in a row that they've heart that mark.

The drumbeat of heat will continue for the next couple days.

And the heat will start to spread boo the pacific northwest by the time we get to end of the week and the early part of Monday.

We could see at least two dozen more records set, perhaps even in places like Oregon and Washington.

Again, we're talking about temperatures 10 to 15 degrees above normal in places like Vegas, Bakersfield and Sacramento. So this is really bad and relentless.

Plus, you have the drought, which would compound things and add to the fire risk out in the west. Let's talk about what you were talking about earlier, the extreme

weather because of a tropical storm, the first one to make landfall. Right now, between the Mississippi and the Alabama border.

It's still bringing a lot of rain. And that's the big threat, rain and also isolated severe storms.

We've had some reports of tornadoes in sections of Georgia, as well as the Florida panhandle. But you see a lot of lightning also, a lot of heavy rain.

That severe weather threat in terms of tornadoes will continue until at least until 8:00 tonight. Although, they may extend this tornado watch. We'll be tracking that as well.

Also, they have heavy rain. An additional four to six inches is possible in the green-shaded areas, which stretch all the way from the panhandle up into the piedmont.

They may extend this watch, too, because the storm, once it moves across Mississippi and Georgia, it's going to head off the North Carolina coast. It would re-intensify by early Monday. Thankfully, moving away from the U.S.

But notice the west-to-east movement of the storm. That's due to a sagging cold front, which is bringing the possibility of tornadoes and extreme severe storms across the Midwest and the Ohio River valley.


So a lot going on, Jim, not a lot of it well on this Father's Day weekend.

ACOSTA: That's right, Gene. You'll be busy I suspect over the next 24 to 48 hours.

Thanks for covering all of that for us. We appreciate it.

Still to come, Atlanta's crime rate has become so concerning that one of the city's wealthiest neighborhoods wants a divorce. We'll have a live report, next.


ACOSTA: The U.S. is seeing a dramatic uptick in shootings. It seems like no state is safe from the violence.

Overnight, a mass shooting in downtown Anchorage, Alaska. Police say one person was killed. Four others were wounded.

This coming days after a very disturbing shooting in New York. You can see a gunman chasing a man and firing shots, in broad daylight.

Shots whizzing around, nearly hitting two children, a 5-year-old boy and 10-year-old girl. Neither one of them was hurt. The man who was shot is now in stable condition. Overnight, in Minneapolis, another shooting left five people wounded.

Investigators say none of the injuries there are life-threatening.


The crime wave that we're seeing across the country is behind an unusual move in another major city. In Atlanta, the affluent Buckhead neighborhood is looking to separate from the city all together.

This, as Atlanta sees a rash of homicides, up nearly 60 percent this year.

And CNN's Natasha Chen joins me from Atlanta.

So sorry to hear this about Atlanta, Natasha. What are you learning about this situation?

NATASHA CHEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Jim, the talk of Buckhead seceding has been happening for years. But recently, there's been so much momentum that the people who oppose have had to form a new group in the last month.

Still, this process could take a long time. First, the Georgia state legislature would have to approve it, send a referendum to voters. None of that can start happening until next year.

But if you ask the people there this weekend how they feel on the issue, they'll point to the recent crime, saying they're giving this idea some real thought.


NATASHA CHEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The city of Atlanta, like many across the U.S. right now, is experiencing an uptick in violent crime that has shaken the residents and left them wondering why.

TOM ABRAMS, WORKS IN BUCKHEAD: At the end of the day, people are in fear.

CHEN: Now some people in Atlanta's upscale neighborhood of Buckhead think they have the answer, breaking up with the city altogether.

The idea of Buckhead seceding from Atlanta is hardly a new one but it has caught steam in recent weeks as the violence unfolds.

The latest incident, two teens allegedly shot a security guard in an attempt to break into an Apple store last weekend.

ABRAMS: I really support this idea of people standing up to say, no, no, we have to fight for our homes here.

CHEN: Those homes account for only about 20 percent of the city's residents but they provide for about 40 percent of the city's tax base. SARAH SMITH-MOHAN, BUCKHEAD RESIDENT: I think it is good to have

control of our own roads and our own police force. I think it would be great to see our tax dollars staying kind of local and being -- being used here.

BILL WHITE, BUCKHEAD CITY COMMITTEE: We have been talking to all of our neighbors. They are all fed up.

CHEN: Bill White's group, the Buckhead City Committee, is gaining funding and traction as it is calling for cityhood with leadership stronger than what White has seen with Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms.

(on camera): Why not just help elect a new Atlanta mayor who could help the issues in Buckhead?

WHITE: That would make a lot of sense to try to work with whoever the new mayor would good.

The clinical definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.

CHEN (voice-over): No one disagrees there's a problem but there's a major rift in how to fix it.

Bill Torpy, a long-time columnist for the "Atlanta Journal- Constitutional," says a secession would set a bad precedent.

BILL TORPY, METRO COLUMNIST, "ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION": This is 1861 all over again in the city of Atlanta.

CHEN: And there are racial undercurrents. Atlanta is about 40 percent white while the Buckhead neighborhood is about 75 percent white, according to 2019 U.S. census data.

TORPY: It's kind of unsaid thing.

But also, I think, ultimately, I think the bigger picture is that it -- moving the people away, moving this big section of the city away from the city of Atlanta would just be a devastating impact.

CHEN: A financial impact that would bring uncertainty to the whole area, according to the man leading the campaign to keep Buckhead in Atlanta.

ED LINDSEY, (R), FORMER GEORGIA STATE REPRESENTATIVE: There's just a lot of little details that have to be worked out in this case.

CHEN: Ed Lindsey, a Republican, who represented Buckhead in the Georgia legislature for a decade, says, without clear specifics on the tax structure and what the police and fire services look like, and what to do with thousands of children in Buckhead attending Atlanta public schools, the better way, he says, is electing new Atlanta leaders.

LINDSEY: It is not a matter of simply carving it up. It's a matter of folks coming together and demanding better from our local elected officials.

CHEN (on camera): We did ask Bill White about those thousands of school children in Buckhead. He said he would negotiate for them to stay in the existing public school system.

Just one of the examples of things that could be complicated here.

And the opposition group also reminded us, it's more difficult and complicated to break off from an existing city versus creating a new one out of an unincorporated area like some other Georgia cities have done in the recent past -- Jim?

ACOSTA: All right, Natasha Chen, thank you so much for that report.

Coming up next, the fight over teaching critical race theory in schools.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Just because I do not want critical race theory taught to my children in school does not mean that I am a racist, damn it.



ACOSTA: Critical race theory is now the latest political lightning rod. It's supporters say it helps confront the nation's raciest past, while those opposed say it's a threat to America's way of life.

CNN's Randi Kaye travels to Missouri to take a closer look.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Just because I do not want critical race theory taught to my children in school does not mean that I'm a racist, damn it.


RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): A heated community forum outside St. Louis, Missouri, where the Rockwood School District has become a flashpoint in the national debate about critical race theory.


KAYE: These moms were preparing to protest at the District School Board meeting.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Sort of wave it around.


KAYE: Fighting for a more diverse lesson plan at Rockwood School District where their children go to school.


AMY RYAN, PARENT IN ROCKWOOD SCHOOL DISTRICT: The children, they want to learn all kinds of curriculum, all right. Is there implicit bias? Yes. Is there racism? Absolutely.

CHARITY IKPE, PARENT IN ROCKWOOD SCHOOL DISTRICT: To have my daughter say I want to have blue eyes, curly hair, long blonde hair, and white skin, like her teacher, let's start presenting our children with diverse curriculum.

GENEVIEVE STEIDTMANN, PARENT IN ROCKWOOD SCHOOL DISTRICT: People who were educated years and decades ago, they got a version of history that wasn't exactly right. That was whitewashed. And now, we're starting to recognize that and reconcile with that.

KAYE: Critical race theory teaches that much of America's history and policies are infused with systemic racism.

The district says it doesn't teach critical race theory. But it has been teaching a curriculum rooted in diversity, equity, and inclusion for years.

But this spring, the phrase became a lightning rod. And some parents began accusing the district of teaching Marxist ideology and liberal propaganda.

So, now lessons many hoped would bring the community together have created a chiasm.

KENNETH ROSA, PARENT IN ROCKWOOD SCHOOL DISTRICT: A five-year-old in a kindergarten class is not responsible for their 17th generation great- grandpa's actions, even if that were in their family lineage 17 generations ago.

KAYE (on camera): But shouldn't they learn about it? What's wrong with them learning about it?

ROSA: Sure, they can learn about it as long as we're not targeting children to make them think that there's something wrong with them over how the history of the United States was formulated.

KAYE: So you say some children are being targeted or made to feel guilty?

ROSA: Correct.

KAYE: For things they didn't do?

ROSA: Correct.

KAYE (voice-over): Terry Harris is Executive Director of Student Services for Rockwood School District.

KAYE (on camera): Those who are complaining are saying, you know, they're painting us as racist. They're making us feel guilty. They're white shaming us.

TERRY HARRIS, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF STUDENT SERVICES, ROCKWOOD SCHOOL DISTRICT: No. So, in our district, we're not white shaming. We're not making anyone feel bad about being white or calling anyone racist. That's not what this is about.

We have diverse students in the Rockwood School District that show up in our school district every single day, students who desire to see themselves reflected in the curriculum.

KAYE (voice-over): A curriculum that includes lessons about slavery, but also about a black astronaut, and the African-American inventor of the traffic signal.

ROSA: For children of school ages, those are conversations that could be had at a later day, as opposed to trying to propagandize children in kindergarten and elementary in things of that nature.

KAYE (on camera): The district and proponents of this would just say, well, they're not propagandizing, they're just teaching. They're just asking them to think, not telling them what to think.

ROSA: No, I understand. But if that was what they were actually doing, then they wouldn't find a need to cover it up.

KAYE (voice-over): And that so-called cover up is a problem.

This whole controversy seems to have picked up steam during the pandemic when children were kept home and parents got a closer look at lesson plans.

This leaked e-mail from a Rockwood staff member advised teachers not to make everything visible about their race-based lesson plans on the platform, which parents can view.

The e-mail also suggested avoiding trigger words like "privilege" and "democratic."

The District told us that e-mail does not reflect the mission, vision, and values of the district. Adding, "Rockwood encourages transparency."

STEIDTMANN: The history is that white people have done things that are not great in the history of the United States. We've also done lots of great things. So, what I advocate for is just telling the truth.

ROSA: They are teaching divisive rhetoric to children that are too young for that type of understanding and psychology.


KAYE: But those protesting in favor of diversity teachings, say ignoring the history lessons, in what they call whitewashing history, is lying to children about the past, and that's harmful.

IKPE: Our kids need to know the truth so they can know how to navigate and do not repeat the past.


ACOSTA: And now this. Zion National Park was the third-most-visited national park last year.

Here's how to see the grandeur and avoid the grand crowds in this week's "OFF THE BEATEN PATH."


AMANDA ROWLAND, PUBLIC INFORMATION OFFICER, ZION NATIONAL PARK: Zion National Park is one of the most-visited national parks in the country.


ROWLAND: However, if you want to come up the scenic drive, you need to take our shuttle.

We do have e-bikes in town and available for rent.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Four is going to be your most pedal assist. It tops out about 20 miles per hour.

ROWLAND: The bicycle experience at Zion National Park is really unique. As you're pedaling, the canyon is kind of growing around you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: With this it makes it unbelievably easy, and cool, and fun.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, the nice thing is you can stop and see what you want to. You get to see so much more of the park.


MARK WADE, DIRECTOR OF MARKETING, EAST ZION ADVENTURES: All right, it looks like we're all geared up, so let's start our canyoneering.

So welcome to the east side of Zion National Park. We're actually outside the park boundaries. We're in a place called the Slot Canyons.

We're rappelling off of high cliffs through narrow spaces. We actually walk though this convoluted curvy walls and enjoying the reflected light we see down there. And rappel down into a deeper spot in the canyon.


WADE: As you go down through, you're touching your hands against the grains of sand, this sand cliffs.

The light from the sun is bounding off the high canyon walls and down into the ethereal basement of the Slot Canyons. It almost feels like you're in this different world.