Is Dallas a turning point in the race and policing debate?

If any good is to come out of the tragedy in Dallas, it is the expanded national conversation on the need for police reforms. There signs of some progress, but all sides agree much more must be done. Judy Woodruff talks with Rev. Jesse Jackson of Rainbow PUSH Coalition, Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, Julian Zelizer of Princeton University and Black Lives Matter activist DeRay Mckesson.

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    Now we get several views about this moment, some of the dividing lines and calls on all sides for change.

    Kasim Reed is the mayor of Atlanta. He has been dealing with protests throughout the weekend. The Reverend Jesse Jackson, he's founder and president of the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition. He's one of the country's most well-known civil rights leaders. DeRay McKesson, he's an activist co-founder of Black Lives Matter. He was arrested and released after protests in Baton Rouge this weekend. And Julian Zelizer, he's a professor of history at Princeton University. He is the author of "The Fierce Urgency of Now," a book about the battles over civil rights and the Great Society.

    And we welcome all of you to the program.

    Let me start with you, DeRay McKesson.

    Listening to Lieutenant — we just heard from Lieutenant Tom Glover in Dallas. How divided is this country, based on what you have seen there in Louisiana over the weekend? Where are we right now?

  • DERAY MCKESSON, Black Lives Matter Activist:

    So, I don't think that any of the division or the tension is new.

    What is new is that we're finally having a public conversation about this stuff. So when we think about the protests over the last 22 months, they have forced these issues of race, racism, criminal justice to the forefront, specifically focused on police violence.

    I'm hopeful that more police officers and more police chiefs and police unions will come out acknowledging that the culture of the police departments are broken and that there has to be change, that the police don't get to operate under a shadow justice system and that we can live in a world where the police don't kill people.


    And, Mayor Kasim Reed, you were dealing with protesters, as we said, in Atlanta over the weekend. What did you see? And do you see these conversations going on across the country and in your city making a difference right now?

  • MAYOR KASIM REED, Atlanta:

    What I saw was an expression of grief and pain and frustration that needed to be addressed.

    And I saw that people's First Amendment rights needed to be respected. We had 15,000 protesters since Thursday evening through today. And I couldn't be prouder of our law enforcement officials, the Atlanta Police Department and the Georgia State Patrol. We have had peaceful protests. We have had minimal damage to property.

    And I think that we have had respect on both sides of the conversation. And we have had less than 25 people arrested. We take great pride in Atlanta in being the home of Dr. Martin Luther King and a number of other civil rights leaders in the United States, like Ambassador Andrew Young and Congressman John Lewis. And that's the way we approached the protests.

    And I think that it made all of the difference in how the weekend turned out.


    Reverend Jesse Jackson, from the perspective that you have from going back to the civil rights movement of the 1960s, how do you look on these protests of today and how much progress do you see having been made?

  • REV. JESSE JACKSON, Rainbow PUSH Coalition:

    Well, the protests are very legitimate, because we're saying that we matter.

    When Trayvon Martin is killed and the killer walks away, when Rodney King is beaten and is own camera and those who beat him walk away, when Garner is killed and they walk away, it's not just the act, but the lack of consequences, when violence occurs upon our people. And that's a pattern.

    There's a combination here, not just police. Police — federation are police who control the discipline, as well as states' attorneys and judges, and now prisons for profit. The whole judicial system has come down on us and it's not right, it's not fair. And the protests are legitimate.

    I will only say that violence takes away our moral authority. We have the moral high road, and keep that high road.


    Julian Zelizer, you are watching all this as well. You have written about this a great deal.

    Do you see the country coming together in any regard at this point? Or do we still have a long way to go before that happens?

  • JULIAN ZELIZER, Princeton University:

    We have a long way to go.

    We're in a very divisive, political moment right now, and one of the possibilities is that the response to this is not to find solutions to the problems of policing that we have seen, but to move in a very different direction. 1968, Richard Nixon pushed the country toward law and order, rather than reforming the criminal justice system, and there is a possibility we see the same thing happen today.

    So I think the divisions are real, they're deep, and I think it's not unlike some of what we saw in the late '60s.


    DeRay McKesson — go ahead. Were you just speaking?


    I was about to make a point here that…


    Reverend Jackson, go ahead.


    … it's not just policing poverty.

    We would ask for a White House conference on policing, but also on poverty, the racial disparity and the plan for reconstruction. Changing — if you have a size 10 shoe in a size 8 foot, it's not a conversation. You need a shoe that fits the foot.

    Our poverty is twice the national average, number one infant mortality, number one in short life expectancy, lack of access to capital and industry. We have not recovered from the economic crisis yet. We need reconstruction.


    Well, let me use that as an opportunity to turn back to DeRay McKesson and ask you, what is it that the Black Lives Matter movement, as you see it, is looking for?

    Are you looking for — specifically for police reform, and where does it fit on the spectrum between that and the much bigger goals that Reverend Jackson is talking about?


    So, Reverend Jackson is right that there are so many things that we need to focus on. I think that what is true is that what got people on the streets in August of 2014, when the movement was born, was the death of Mike Brown.

    And that — there is something visceral about the violence of the police, that it continues to be something that people organize around, and that is central. That does not mean it's the only thing that people focus on. People are doing incredible work around making sure that we close the racial wealth gap, on education, and that work continues.

    And that's the beauty of the movement in a sense, is that it wasn't — there's no one, two, or three founders of the movement. I'm certainly not a founder of any space, but I am one of many people doing work in the space and we see so many people right now finding their voice. We saw the protesters in Atlanta beautifully raising issues and being really clear about solutions, and in Chicago, Baton Rouge, and so many other places.

    So, I think it is rooted in the violence of the police right now, because the police kill nearly three people — have killed nearly three people a day in 2016. But there are people doing really good work around the racial wealth gap and education and so many other things.


    Mayor Reed, what we're hearing there is that the goals — that there's a long list of goals of many different kinds, and that — I think we're hearing about a movement that's more decentralized than what we saw during the civil rights movements of the '60s.

    Does that mean it's more likely to be successful or not?


    I think it's likely to be successful because, despite the fact that the country is in a tough time, we continue to make forward movement.

    So, for example, in the city of Atlanta, we have had our officers have bias training. So one of the issues that Black Lives Matter's members and others have raised is this bias that many of us are frequently unaware of.

    The population of our police department really mirrors our city's population. That's another issue that has been repeatedly raised. Last year, in 1.6 million interactions with the public, our police officers fired their weapons less than 10 times.

    Many of the changes and reforms that we have experienced is because we are actually listening to the protesters and to others and trying to respond. We have a citizen review board with subpoena power. So the point I'm making is, is that it is a very tough time, but leaders who are forward-thinking and want America to be a better version of itself are listening very closely and trying to move without having to respond to a terrible tragedy.



    I'm sorry. Forgive me.


    Let me just — just a second, Reverend Jackson.

    I want to ask Julian Zelizer, is there enough listening going on, though? Because there's a lot of conversation over the weekend about there are different conversations going on in the white community and the black community and together, but is there enough talking going on among people who may disagree and may come together as a result of what they're hearing from each other?


    Well, listen, the Black Lives Matter movement has made incredible progress in bringing these issues on to the table, combined with the realities people see through the social media.

    But we do live in a very fragmented political environment, where, before this issue, people don't listen to each other. They watch media that reflects their own positions, and they even commute — have communities with like-minded individuals, and the parties are very, very polarized.

    So I do worry about some of the limits that the movement might have. I will just add the Kerner Commission in 1968 put forward a lot of these issues, not only policing, but unemployment and segregation. The black power movement put these issues on the table. And, unfortunately, our political systems didn't respond. So, that's a warning for what could happen today.


    I want to ask each one of you in just a few seconds, how much — what do you want to hear from President Obama tomorrow when he goes to Dallas and how much difference will that make?

    Reverend Jackson?


    First of all, the killer didn't come out of the civil rights movement. That was a strategy alien to the way we functioned.

    Secondly, we need some real renew — there is a date, November the 8th. And Trump has thrown down his gauntlet, saying law and order, trying to imitate Nixon.

    We must choose reconciliation over retaliation and revenge. I hope President Obama will address, underline the police issue, the issue of jobs, jobs training and economic reconstruction and the race disparity. Race disparity is real. It is real. And it's growing.


    All right, we are, unfortunately, out of time. We hope to come back to all of you in the very near future.

    Reverend Jackson, Mayor Kasim Reed, DeRay McKesson, Julian Zelizer, we thank you all.


    Thank you.

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