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U.S. Shootings Soar As America Faces A Violent Summer; $1.2 Trillion Bipartisan Infrastructure Plan Gains Steam; U.S. Preparing More Russia Sanctions: New DOJ Videos Of January 6th Insurrection Released; Experts Warn About Impact Delta Variant Could Have On Olympic Games; GOP Targets Critical Race Theory As America Celebrates Juneteenth. Aired 2-3p ET

Aired June 20, 2021 - 14:00   ET




JESSICA DEAN, CNN HOST: Hi. And good afternoon to you. And thanks so much for joining me.

I'm Jessica Dean in for Frederica Whitfield this afternoon.

And we begin this hour with gun violence gripping the country. The U.S. seeing a rash of shootings this holiday weekend from coast to coast. Violence is soaring.

We're monitoring several shooting investigations right now, including several new mass shootings. We are now nearing 290 mass shootings for the year.

In Houston, a deputy's apartment was ambushed overnight. That shooting leaving his wife and stepchild wounded.

We have team coverage tracking all the latest developments.

We'll get to CNN's Camila Bernal for more on that Houston shooting in just a moment. But we start first with CNN's Evan McMorris-Santoro who's watching this escalating violence all across the country.

And Evan, what are you seeing this afternoon?

EVAN MCCMORRIS-SANTORO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well Jessica, we've been tracking these numbers all weekend. And the story has just become absolutely staggering -- 375, at least, shooting incidents this weekend.

That's all we know of so far and data is still coming in. And of that 375, seven are what we call mass shootings which here at CNN we define as four or more shot, excluding the shooter.

Just absolutely huge numbers. It can be hard to put those numbers in context because they seem bad, but I can tell you they actually are very bad. They are 41 percent higher than they were at this point in 2020, and nearly 70 percent higher than they were at this point in 2020 -- I'm sorry -- in 2019.

Let's go through some of these things. What we are reaching the point is unfortunately, when you see people gathering in America, you can expect that some shootings will follow.

And yesterday was a day of celebration all over the country. A new federal holiday, people gathered for it. And there were some shootings that went along with that.

In Flint in broad daylight, authorities say, a police officer running traffic stops at a Juneteenth parade. A person rolled up on him, fired at the police officer, the police officer returned fire. The suspect is in the hospital. The police officer not injured, nobody else was injured.

That's not the true -- unfortunately that's not the case in Oakland where police say a 22-year-old man was killed and five other people ranging from 16 to 27 were injured after gunfire erupted at a Juneteenth celebration at Lake Merritt there. Police said they've arrested two people and are currently looking into that shooting as well.

There were several shootings across Philadelphia that we can't directly tie to any particular gathering. But the police commissioner in that city said they sullied the day -- a day of celebration in Philadelphia.

And among the victims in Philadelphia was a victim was a three-year- old who was shot, and his father was killed. So a three-year-old losing their father right there the day before father's day.

These are horrible, horrible stories and you may be wondering at home why are we covering this, why are we showing you this? We're doing it because these numbers are growing. And this is actually a major crisis that people in America needs to start thinking about, Jessica.

DEAN: Some good words there in terms of how to kind of take this in, contextualize it. Evan Morris-Santoro with those staggering numbers, thanks so much for that update. We appreciate it.

And right now in Houston, detectives are trying to figure out why a gunman forced his way into a deputy's home and shot his family.

CNN's Camila Bernal is here now and what more do we know about this case, Camila?


So there are a couple of things that are very concerning for law enforcement in this case. First, the fact that the shooter is still on the loose. They have not been able to find him.

Then you have to take into consideration that this was the home of an off-duty deputy. And that the shooter was able to hurt both his wife and his four-year-old stepdaughter. Now, according to police, we know that this all happened at around 2:20 in the morning Central Time. And the shooter was able to get to the home, tried to get in. He was wearing all black. And according to police, he was carrying a shotgun and some sort of assault weapon.

He shot into the apartment several times and that's when he was able to hurt the wife. She was hit in the leg. Thankfully, she is ok.


BERNAL: The four-year-old stepdaughter was hit in her arm. She did need surgery, but according to authorities she is in stable condition.

Meanwhile, the chief of police in Houston just saying there is still a lot of work to be done. Here's what he said.


CHIEF TROY FINNER, HOUSTON POLICE DEPARTMENT: We don't know anything, what's the motive OF this. We don't know if it was targeted or what. All we know is he forced entry.


BERNAL: Now, as you heard there, no motive at the moment, but we do know that the deputy, the off-duty deputy did exchange gunfire and he believes that he was able to injure the suspect.

Now, the focus is on finding this man and so police really just asking anyone in Houston and in the area to give them any information if they see anyone who has been injured or who they believe is involved in all of this.

But of course, that focus is on finding him, Jessica.

DEAN: All right. Camila Bernal for us, thanks so much for that.

And let's talk more about all of this. Joining me now is Tom Verni, he's a former detective with the NYPD and a law enforcement consultant. Tom, great to see you. Thanks for being here.

We just heard from Evan and Camila. These mass shootings are soaring, gun violence is way up. Shootings are up over 40 percent from the same time last year, 68 percent from 2019.

Why do you think we're seeing this rapid rise? And should people be paying attention to this?

TOM VERNI, LAW ENFORCEMENT CONSULTANT: Good afternoon, Jessica, and happy father's day to all the dads out there, especially Anderson Cooper, new dad.

So you know, look, we have a real problem in this country and we need to start paying some serious attention to it.

After Sandy Hook shooting, you know, 2012, unfortunately, I guess 20 first graders being slaughtered in their classrooms was not enough to get people's attention in Washington, to want to really throw some money -- some serious money, time and effort at this problem.

But it's not only just a Washington problem as far as closing some loopholes in gun laws. And listen, I'm a Second Amendment guy. I own guns myself, obviously being a retired, you know, detective. I just bought another gun last year, as a matter of fact.

You know, I'm ok with going through the legal process of purchasing a firearm. But we have a number of illegal firearms awash in our streets. We have gangs that are ruling some of our big cities.

But then you have states like New York where the governor lets anybody out now on the new bail reform law that he signed in. And you have the mayor who gives criminals free Mets tickets for being a good (ph) criminal.

So, you know, it's not surprising that we're in this predicament. It's unfortunate that law enforcement has driven down crime in New York City. You know, it took us a quarter of a century to from 2,000 a year of being -- 2,000 people a year being killed in New York City down to 300, 400 people -- but now that's on the rise as are shootings.


VERNI: So people have to decide where do we want to go with this. Do we want to take a serious look at our gun laws and who can get their hands on guns. Do we want to take a look at the mental illness situation in our -- not only in our cities but, you know, nationwide and take some time and effort and money to be put into that.

Do we want to have our kids -- especially inner city kids, you know, be able to handle their problems without resorting to violence. You know, we have to address this in a number of different ways.

DEAN: Well, and that's what I wanted to ask you about. I hear some of the ideas that you're saying could effectively address this because I think for a lot of people, you hear all these numbers and they're staggering. It starts to feel like the problem is so big, it's like too big to address. Like oh, how do you even effect change here.

But what do you think, I hear you saying, those different items can effectively drive change here, even on just the local level.

VERNI: Yes, I mean look, I don't think we -- no one would be surprised that -- especially our larger cities and communities of color that have been largely ignored for decades. You know, this can has been kicked down the road for so long.

I used to work, you know, with community programs that we had at the NYPD with youth, trying to get kids away from the gang influence and trying to keep these kids in school and trying to keep them out of jail and being either shot and killed or doing 25 to life by the time they turn 18 or 19 years old.

So I mean there are programs out there that police departments, especially the larger ones, offer. You know, there are community programs as well. There are community organizers. There are clergy. There's a lot of different people on many different fronts that want to help this issue. You know, the government right now is throwing on billions and billions of dollars for everything else. We have to start addressing these issues in our communities where violence is what kids will turn to first using a weapon instead of handling it in some other way.

DEAN: Right.

VERNI: You know, this whole defunding the police narrative is ridiculous.


VERNI: And listen, I'll be the first one to say and I've said it a number of times on Don's show and other shows, where I know that we have some issues within the law enforcement community. I know we have some problems with children (ph) for sure and that needs to be addressed as well.

But that gets addressed by putting money at that into better and more active and concise training for those officers, but also giving officers, police departments, the tools to work more hand-in-hand with the communities to try to get these kids away from violence and away from grabbing at these guns that are so readily accessible to that.

DEAN: Yes. It's like a holistic approach.

All right. Tom Verni, thanks so much for your insight into this. We appreciate it.

VERNI: Any time. Thank you.

DEAN: And we have some breaking news now just in to CNN.

Ten people have been killed in a horrific crash along I-65 in Alabama. Nine of those, children.

We're going to have more details on that in just a few minutes.

Plus, just days after returning home from a high stakes summit with Vladimir Putin, President Biden is preparing to slap new sanctions on Russia. We'll be live at the White House.



DEAN: Some breaking news now to tell you about.

Nine children and one adult are dead following a van crash on Alabama interstate. Eight of the children who were killed were in a van carrying passengers from a ranch for neglected or abused school-aged girls. Those victims ranged in age from 4 to 17.

A 29-year-old man and his 9-month-old daughter were in another vehicle and were also killed. The driver of the van was pulled from the burning vehicle, but rescue personnel were not able to get to those girls. That's a according to the county coroner.

The accident happened during storms from the tropical depression that swept across the state.

This week will bring another round of critical talks on infrastructure on Capitol Hill. A group of bipartisan lawmakers have the framework for a $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill to overhaul America's roads and bridges among other key improvements. The president says he'll be responding to that proposal tomorrow.

But today Senator Bernie Sanders telling CNN it is urgent that Democrats work toward an infrastructure package with a larger price tag that also addresses climate change and other related issues.


SENATOR BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT): You know, I sometimes think we get boggled down in numbers and that's important. But we've got to look at what the needs are of the American people and what's going on right now.

And what's going on right now, so all that the president is doing, all I am doing is taking a look at reality for working families, understand their needs have been ignored for decades. Now it is time to create good paying jobs, millions of good paying jobs addressing health care, housing, infrastructure.


DEAN: For more on this let's bring in Suzanne Malveaux on Capitol Hill. Suzanne, there's been a lot of different proposals the last few weeks. Where do things stand today?

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We'll have a pretty good sense of where these negotiations are going to go in the next couple of days.

But Senator Bernie Sanders is in a very unique role right now. He usually is pushing a progressive agenda. He is not the person who is negotiating or a deal at the end of the day. But as the chair of the powerful Senate Budget Committee, that is what he needs to do in working with the president.

What he is pushing for is a $6 trillion reconciliation package. Democrats only, not with Republicans. And he argues that it goes beyond the physical infrastructure. So it's not just roads and bridges and water to address; but also climate change, Medicare, elderly care, immigration. Those are the kinds of things that he says this package has to address.

Now, as you can imagine moderate Democrats, some who have been quite outspoken say they cannot be on board with this. We're talking about Senator Joe Manchin. We've heard of him before, of course. But Senator Jeanne Shaheen and Jon Tester among them, say this is just too much money. The price tag too much to bear.

There is the bipartisan proposal, though. However, Jessica, we're talking about something closer to $1.25 trillion. That is something that moderate Democrats and other Republicans say they can get on board. But it is just the physical infrastructure that they are talking about.

And then finally, not only is the price tag, but how you pay for it, it's also whether or not you will have Republican support behind this infrastructure legislation. Those are the folks that talked to "STATE OF THE UNION" earlier today.


SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): I think the difference between this negotiation and the earlier negotiation is we're willing to add more new money to infrastructure in this package.

I would just say this. President Biden, if you want an infrastructure deal of a trillion dollars, it's there for the taking. You just need to get involved and lead.

SEN. ROB PORTMAN (R-OH): I think we're absolutely committed to it. And I think there's a number of others as well oh both sides of the aisle.

Last week, I heard from a lot of my colleagues saying I just need to look at one other issue, you know, can you do this, can you do that? But there is a lot of interest in having a bipartisan proposal.


MALVEAUX: And Jessica, so fanning out over all the networks this morning, those lawmakers are taking a firm stand on this. and what we have also heard from the co-chairs of the Problem Solvers, a bipartisan group is they are optimistic. They actually believe that perhaps you will get that bipartisan proposal through Congress in the weeks ahead, Jessica.

DEAN: Well, we'll see. This week will be critical.

Suzanne Malveaux for us on Capitol Hill. Thanks so much.

And just days after returning home from a high stakes summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin, the Biden administration is now preparing to impose additional sanctions on Russia over the poisoning of imprisoned opposition leader Alexei Navalny.

The U.S. and its European allies already issued a number of sanctions on Russia back in March over the treatment of Navalny. And Biden warned Putin during their meetings of devastating consequences for Russia if he were to die in prison.

For more on this development, let's bring in White House correspondent Arlette Saenz who's at the White House.

Arlette, what more can you tell us about these new sanctions on Russia?


ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Jessica, the White House is still working out those final details of what this next round of sanction will look like. As the White House is aiming to take more and stronger action against Russia in response to the poisoning and imprisonment of opposition leader Alexei Navalny. This will be the second round of sanctions that would be implemented after the U.S. and the E.U. coordinated on sanctions back in March.

But the president is under significant pressure to act and to act quickly. And today the White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan talked to our Dana Bash about what exactly they are looking at and trying to calculate as they're preparing this next wave of sanctions.


JAKE SULLIVAN, WHITE HOUSE NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: We are preparing another package of sanctions to apply in this case as well. We've shown all along the way that we're not going to pull our punches, whether it's on Solar Winds or election interference or Navalny when it comes to responding to Russia's harmful activities.

It will come as soon as we have developed the packages to ensure that we are getting the right targets. And when we do that, we will impose further sanctions with respect to chemical weapons.


SAENZ: Jake Sullivan did not outline any time frame for when these sanctions might come, but lawmakers up on Capitol Hill have been urging the president to act. In fact, Senator Bob Menendez, the chair of the Senate Foreign Relations, earlier in the month said that sanctions needed to happen now.

But this all comes on the heels of that high stakes summit between the president and Russian president Vladimir Putin. And the administration has really said that though they didn't leave with any tangible deliverables from that summit, they believe that any progress that would be made and any change in Putin's behavior would be coming in the coming months.

DEAN: All right. We shall see. Arlette Saenz at the White House for us, thanks so much.

In Florida some scary moments at a Pride Parade after a truck hits pedestrians. We're going to have the latest on that just ahead.

Also coming up, inside the insurrection, CNN talks with one of the men who stormed the Capitol.


(COMMERCIAL BREAK) DEAN: More disturbing videos of the January 6th Capitol insurrection were released last week. They were released by the Department of Justice as part of their cases against several of the suspects. Right now the Justice Department is building cases against hundreds of accused rioters.

CNN reporter Marshall Cohen and senior investigative correspondent Drew Griffin join me now. Great to see both of you.

Marshall, let's start with you. Tell us where things stand with the investigation and all of these charges. I know you've been following them all carefully.

MARSHALL COHEN, CNN REPORTER: Yes, that's right, Jessica. Good afternoon.

It is a massive investigation. More than five months after that terrible day, about 500 people have been charged. It's a massive number. The DOJ is putting significant resources towards this.

As I mentioned, about 500 have been charged. We'll probably hit that number within the next week.

Here is an incredible piece. About 10 percent of them have military ties. Many of them are veterans. Some of them were actually in the military on January 6th when they walked inside the Capitol.

It's a huge part of this story. I'm sure you'll hear more about it from this documentary that we've done on it.

But guilty pleas -- a few of them have moved on to guilty pleas. We're expecting a few more of those later this week. Maybe even one person will get sentenced this week.

And they come from all across the country, Jessica, 43 states and Washington, D.C. I can tell you after reading many of these court documents, these people represent a true cross-section of America.

Among the 500 people facing charges, you've got college age kids all the way up to senior citizens. You have members of law enforcement or former members of law enforcement who were rioting alongside people that served time in prison and have serious criminal records.

You've got folks that flew in on private jets and also people that scraped together the money to pay for gas so that they could drive across the country to come to D.C. and see former President Trump speak.

So Jessica, it is really a cross-section of America. It's a dark side of America that we're now seeing in the forefront through all these criminal cases. Almost 500 so far. It is massive.

DEAN: Indeed it is.

And Drew, tonight on CNN, you have a documentary on the Capitol attack. It's called "ASSAULT ON DEMOCRACY: THE ROOTS OF TRUMP'S INSURRECTION". We've seen some clips. It looks fascinating. Tell us what your investigation found.

DREW GRIFFIN, CNN SENIOR INVESTIGATION CORRESPONDENT: Well, we went behind the numbers, behind the court cases, if you will, and actually talked to the people who are charged with storming the Capitol.

And what is stunning to me, Jessica and Marshall, is that even now, even facing tremendous charges, some of them even potentially going to prison for this, they don't feel any remorse. They don't feel they were in the wrong. And they believe they're not in trouble.

Take a listen to this one Proud Boy. His name is Josh Pruitt.


GRIFFIN: At 2:12 p.m. using a police shield, Proud Boy Dominic Pezzola (ph) breaks a window on the Capitol's west side and the mob starts pouring in.

Josh Pruitt jumps a railing and follows other Proud Boys through a now open door.

So what did you do?

JOSH PRUITT, PROUD BOY: Walk in through a front door being held open by cops that waved me in.

GRIFFIN: Now, you know that's not true.

PRUITT: No, I know that it is true. There is proof of it. There's video of it. And when I walked into the front door, the cops were at the door and they were standing to the sides of the door and they were waving people in.


GRIFFIN: Yes. the video I saw of that moment was a couple of cops overwhelmed by a mob.


PRUITT: Well, you didn't watch all the videos then.

GRIFFIN: I didn't? I think I did.

It was all caught on video. Here is Josh Pruitt walking through the door 70 seconds after the window breaks. It is almost the same moment rioters smashed windows on the east side.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They're attempting to break a window on the east front. The Capitol has been breached on the east side.

GRIFFIN: Armed with sticks, flag poles, riot shields, they had stormed past and overpowered police who could do little but coax and stare them away from lawmakers.

(END VIDEOTAPE) DEAN: Drew, walk us through why you think it's so important to hear about these rioters, about their lives and talk to some of these people.

GRIFFIN: Because these people are not only criminals themselves. They are victims. Josh Pruitt, by the way, says he's going to plead not guilty. He believes he did nothing wrong.

But these people have been the victims of weaponized misinformation and disinformation aimed at them for the past ten years or so, Jessica. This was not an accident. This was all deliberate.

It's important for I think all of us to understand where this came from, especially, I would hope that members of Congress would take a look at where this came from because a lot of this has come from some of its own members who are kind of steering this misinformation and guiding these people into doing these acts, which they believe are patriotic.

DEAN: Right. And I think that's what's so stunning about it to watch when you're talking to people. They are so sure in their facts, which are not true, right? But they seem so confident in what they believe, these conspiracy theories, these lies are correct.

GRIFFIN: They are spewing back exact talking points that are coming straight off of right wing radio, social media, and some other TV networks almost verbatim.

DEAN: Yeah. It's remarkable.

All right. Well, Drew Griffin, Marshall Cohen, our thanks to both of you.

And don't forget you can watch Drew's special "Assault on Democracy: The Roots of Trump's Insurrection." It's tonight at 9:00 Eastern and Pacific, right here on CNN. Really excellent work from Drew and his team.

We'll be right back.



DEAN: An investigation is underway after a pickup truck hit two pedestrians at a pride parade near Fort Lauderdale, Florida, killing one of them, sending another into the hospital. We've got new video just in the newsroom showing the truck plowing into a nearby nursery before coming to a stop. We also know a third person was reportedly injured.

This happened at the Stonewall pride parade last night, just as it was kicking off, the driver and the victims are all members of the Fort Lauderdale gay men's chorus community. City officials say at this point it does not appear that this was intentional. If there wasn't already enough concern, cause for concern, rather,

with the 2020 Olympics set to start just over one month from now, a member of Uganda's Olympic delegation tested positive for COVID-19 after arriving in Tokyo last night. The unidentified coach has been asymptomatic and has been moved to a government quarantine facility. Officials say all members of the Uganda delegation are fully vaccinated and will have their bubble reassessed.

It's unclear if the coach will be allowed to stay or be sent home. This all coming as officials warn about the potential impact of the transmissible Delta variant could have on the summer games.

And joining me now is Dr. Anand Swaminathan, an emergency medicine physician in New Jersey.

Doctor, thanks for being here with us.

First, does this show that the protocols are working, what we're seeing with this Olympic coach?

DR. ANAND SWAMINATHAN, EMERGENCY MEDICARE PHYSICIAN: It's hard to say. And I think this is actually going to be really the first test for the IOC's test and trace initiatives they have in place. The best experts think that those systems are probably a little bit behind where they should be. They're not quite as robust as they need to be.

This is going to be the first test we see how well they do tracking down any other cases and it's a real concern when you look at Japan being under 10 percent of the population being vaccinated, bringing in possible other variants from other places. It could lead to a lot of cases within Japan as well as among the athletes.

And so there's a lot of different concerns here. I think it's great that they caught this case while the coach was asymptomatic. Hopefully, he's going to stay asymptomatic and he's not going to get any sicker, none of the athletes are going to be sicker. But we still have concerns about whether their system is really robust enough to catch all these cases as they come in. And I'm concerned about that.

DEAN: Uh-huh. And Olympic officials are set to make a final decision whether to let guests attend the games. And Japan's top coronavirus advisors says it would be safest if there were no spectators, no fans. Do you agree with that?

SWAMINATHAN: I think at this point that probably is true. I think the only way to have spectators in a safe situation is, one, for them to be fully vaccinated. Two, to have adequate ventilation within the arenas that they are using, and we know that neither of those things are really in place. So, it's not really safe to have a group of people gathered.

And again, I think this -- we have to look at the will of the people here. Most Japanese people are saying this isn't a good idea. So I think we probably have to pull away from having live spectators which again, is a shame. I love the Olympics. I feel for the competitors that don't get to have the experience. But we have to protect the people first.

DEAN: Right. At this point, it's about safety and their health.

The CDC moving away from the Olympics.


The CDC has recently posted interim guidance to help doctors better evaluate patients with these post-COVID conditions or even long hauler. But so much is still unknown about these lingering symptoms for long haulers.

What should we be looking for and trying to learn about?

SWAMINATHAN: This is going to unfold over the next six months, year, or even longer to really see what happens. It's really hard to get that long-term data.

The best data that we have from fair health just released last week showed that about 23 percent of people who got coronavirus infection had some kind of new symptoms or new diagnoses they didn't have before COVID. That was 50 percent in hospitalized patients and 19 percent among asymptomatic. Those are very concerning numbers for what long COVID can look like. Those numbers may even be underestimates.

Now, we still need again to see how long these symptoms are lasting, what portion of the population is affected. This is going to be a whole new disease process for us physicians to learn about, learn to identify in our patients and then try to figure out how to treat.

That's going to take a long time for us to figure out. It comes back to the same thing, which is the only way to avoid those long-term symptoms, the only reliable way is to not get COVID, which means we have to get vaccinated.

DEAN: Right. Get vaccinated.

And along those lines, this is really interesting. Early results of the small study found people who had COVID-19 that it may lead to changes in the brain. That some people may experience some loss of gray matter in their brain, and it's notably in areas that affect taste and smell. Of course, one of those key symptoms that people had.

That sounds very concerning to me. I'm not a doctor, you are. How concerning is that early data?

SWAMINATHAN: I think it's concerning, but again, we need more information here. This is very interesting from a medical standpoint. Maybe this has to do with how the virus is getting into the body, how it is getting to certain nerve areas.

Taste and smell not exactly the most important things. It doesn't link to function. Yes, the study shows there is reduced gray matter, but it doesn't tell us the functional capacity of the individual, if they're losing any real function. We'll have to see how that pans out overtime. But again, it discovers that long COVID. We know there are neuropsychiatric symptoms patients who have COVID can get.

And it just really stresses the need for us, one, to study this more, but also to avoid getting COVID. And I hate to sound like a broken record, Jessica, but to get vaccinated so this isn't a possibility.

DEAN: Right. Get vaccinated, you don't want this disease. There's no doubt about that.

Dr. Anand Swaminathan, thank you so much for being with us this afternoon. We sure do appreciate it.

SWAMINATHAN: Thanks, Jessica.

DEAN: Uh-huh.

Coming up, it is a flash point in the culture wars. Republicans fighting back against teaching critical race theory. Find out why the lesson is so controversial.



DEAN: As America recognized Juneteenth as a national holiday commemorating the end much slavery in the United States, for the first time this weekend, Republicans continued their crusade against critical race theory at a conservative conference in Florida.


MIKE PENCE, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Critical race theory teaches children as young as kindergarten to be ashamed of their skin color.

SEN. RON JOHHNSON (R-WI): They are giving propaganda to our children. They are turning our children away from faith and family and our founding principles and ideals.

GOV. RON DESANTIS (R), FLORIDA: Treating students based on their race rather than the content of their character is not something we should be putting taxpayer dollars towards. We banned critical race theory in our school system.


DEAN: At least nine states have enacted bans or limits on how teachers can discuss racism either through legislation or other avenues. That's according to Education Week.

CNN's Randi Kaye has more on the controversy around teaching children about systemic racism.


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.

These moms were preparing to protest at the District School Board meeting --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I 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: 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: Terry Harris is Executive Director of Student Services for Rockwood School District.

KAYE: 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: 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: 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: 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.

KAYE: Randi Kaye, CNN, Eureka, Missouri.


DEAN: Randi, thank you.

Meghan Markle, the duchess of Sussex, says she did not see diverse characters in books as she grew up. Hear how she's hoping to change that, next.

But, first, Zion national park was the third most visited national park last year, and in today's off the beaten path, we'll show you how to see its grandeur which avoid all the large crowds.


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

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Take breaks, take pictures.

ROWLAND: However, if you want come to up the scenic drive, you need to take our shuttle. We have e-bikes in town and available for rent.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Four is your most pedal assist. It helps out at about 20 miles per hour.

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

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right. It looks like we're all geared up. So let's start our canyoneering.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So, welcome to the east side of Zion National Park. We're actually outside the park boundaries. And we're in a place called a slot canyon, we're rappelling off high cliffs into narrow spaces.

We actually walk down through these convoluted curvy walls and enjoying the light and repel down into a deeper spot in the canyon. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Very good?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As you go down, you're touching your hands against the grains of sand of the sandstone cliffs.

The light of the sun is bouncing off the high canyon walls and down to the ethereal basin of the slot canyon. It almost feels like you're in this different world.



DEAN: The duchess of Sussex is speaking out about the lack of diversity she saw in books growing up and hoping every family will feel represented as they flip through the pages of her new children's book for Father's Day.


MEGHAN MARKLE, DUCHESS OF SUSSEX: Growing up, I remember how much it felt to not see yourself represented, or see your family or that kind of diversity or a mixed-race relationship or whatever it could be. So any child or any family hopefully can open this book and see themselves in it. Whether it means glasses of freckled or a different body shape or different ethnicity or religion, to really just feel like this story that I wrote for my husband and son could be your story also.