tv Velshi Ruhle MSNBC August 19, 2017 9:30am-10:00am PDT
as we hit the bottom of the hour, welcome back. i'm alex witt. we're giving you a look at things on the ground in boston and from the air as there are two tremendous rallies scheduled. they are going to meet in the boston commons and that is when police have some concern about what could happen next. speaking of you next, those of you tuning in to watch "velshi & ruhle," we're going to stay with our breaking news and it will be rescheduled at another time. let's bring in jim cavanaugh right now, msnbc analyst. jim, you were with me last weekend as we talked based on your background and your work with police and profiling and all of that. we talked about what happened in charlottesville and while there were police on the scene there, let's put it this way to put it mildly, their efficacy was pretty poor until it was too late. it would seem like boston has taken a cue from that and said we are not going to let that
happen here. we keep hearing about 500 police officers there, and everyone with whom i've spoken this last half hour has said it seems to be in control at this point. talk about what happened then and what is happening today and the difference, and how police departments go about making that difference. >> right, alex, a great question. well, there's a couple of big differences. one is the size of the force. the charlottesville force is much smaller, maybe 130, 150 officers. of course they were backed up by the virginia state police. boston pd, 2,000, sometimes up to 2500. i don't know the current number. and much more used to dealing with large mass gatherings, as most big city departments are. but for charlottesville as well, different problems. 3% militia men walking up, any government extremist with assault rifles lining the avenue. everybody with sticks, disguised
as signs, helmets, mace, shields ready for battle. boston, you can't carry assault rifles to a rally. the gun laws are much too strict. and they have banned sticks, bottles, mace, et cetera, so they can at least keep it down. it's not that some protesters can't sneak it in, but they are keeping it down, so you've got two different atmosphere to start with. now, charlottesville pd was criticized a lot for not having enough officers there. i think they had enough officers there. some of their tactics i'm sure you know they want to improve. too many officers in soft clothes. when the klan comes to town and they're ready to battle, there's no reason you don't have your officers in helmets and vests and tactical gear. the officers need to be suited up. they need to be suited up. >> jim, common sense tells you that. what you're saying, i feel like we need to put an exclamation
point behind that. of course that makes sense. what would have gone -- i mean what was wrong with charlottesville police department ideology to not have that sort of a presence, everybody standing there, riot gear, fully prepared for what might come? >> well, you know, when you're in the police and you're in law enforcement as long as i have, no matter what you do you're going to get severely criticized. so if you're out there in your tactical gear, there's going to be people saying they're militarized police and they're trying to start a problem. if you have enough people, a good way to do it is like cleveland did during the convention up there. a lot of soft officers, regular patrol division, bike officers, motor cops in regular uniforms. but close by, enough of a tactical force to move in immediately. you can't -- what charlottesville did, i think, is they wanted to go have those officers go change into tactical gear. that takes -- even at the best time 30 minutes. you don't have 30 minutes. so if you want to put soft
officers out, which sometimes is a good strategy, i mean soft clothes, then you have to immediately have the force half a block away that's geared up to move in. put the thin blue line in, alex, is what we didn't see in charlottesville. the thin blue line between the demonstrators. but i think people are very critical of charlottesville. some of it is justified and some of it is not. boston is a larger force, used to larger demonstrations and a completely different atmosphere, especially with the guns. >> right. >> so they're going to have more control. and also, you've got -- look at this, 20,000 people. what a statement for america that right now are all peaceful. now, there could be a very few black bloc or antifa people who want to commit violence, but as far as being antifascist, all of america was antifascist in world war ii. everybody in america was antifascist so that's not a bad
label to be defense fascism or neo-naziism. but it's how you behave out there today. this is so commendable and i think so powerful right now. >> can you see, jim, what was happening? i don't know if my director, will, can put that back up there left of screen there. we were talking with evan allen from "the boston globe" who's at one of these checkpoints and evan was telling us people are being let in literally one by one to this area. when you look at 20,000 people, obviously not everybody is going to get into the actual rally itself unless things get out of control. but they are searching people, they are -- she said they are making sure people turn out their pockets. you can't bring back packs. there's nothing. i'm looking at the boston pd release for the kinds of things that are prohibited. firearms, knives, weapons, sharp on jekts, shields, fireworks, pop-up tents, canopies, cans, glass containers. premixed beverages, wagons, pull carts, coolers. the list goes on and on and on.
so they want nobody in this area with anybody other than their person and their clothing, that is it. so to your point, it will hopefully make a considerable difference should things escalate into actually greater than war of words. >> right, alex, exactly. sometimes we have state legislatures that work against the police. you know, they enact laws that are hard for the police. open carry laws. a line of militia standing there with assault rifles. you know, we need to rethink this in america. that's not a good idea. if these rallies and this atmosphere of neo-naziism continues, i mean it's been around a long time but now it's strong and in the open. we could have a devastatingly vulgar event with all those guns there. >> all right, jim cavanaugh, thank you very much for being at the ready for us today as we watch things and as we listen to things just a bit, everybody, you can see people are certainly heated. that has been the description all along throughout this day. lots of passion on both sides. we'll take another short break here on msnbc and be right back
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approaching 40 past the hour. i want to give you an aerial look of things in boston. just because there's some empty space on that street does not mean things have calmed down at all. there are a number of anti-protesters, counterprotesters that are making their way to the boston commons where the free speech rally is scheduled to be held. it is a very slow process because they are massive in number. there is estimated to be upwards of 20,000 people in the counterprotest, which will definitely dwarf those that have been scheduled for the free speech rally, again in boston commons. i see my colleague, garrett hague. -- garrett haake. >> reporter: i'm here. >> all right, so where are you now relative to the boston commons? are you guys still on the move?
>> reporter: we are on the move. we're slowed down. we're at one of those choke points here, crossing over the highway. i think we're probably a few blocks away. i can see the helicopter in the distance up ahead, so we're closing in on it, alex, one of the things i want to mention as i was listening to some of the coverage here. if you don't mind me taking the baton for a second. >> sure. >> reporter: just the variety of different causes represented out here. the jumping off point for all of this was this free speech rally that people wanted to protest against, equating it to a hate speech. but talking to people out here that is not the only issue people are marching for. we've seen the black lives matter movement, rights for trans individuals. i've seen a ton of clergy from every possible creed out here represented. so a lot of folks seem to have taken this singular event as an opportunity to come out here and unite around all these different diverse sort of issues that they feel like aren't being properly addressed or aren't being
properly paid attention to in particular by the folks back in d.c. so it really is an interesting group, particularly where we are now in the back half of the protest. these are folks by and large folks who do not come out and do this every saturday. they felt particularly motivated by the events of the last week or what they have seen on television or read about charlottesville and the state of the country. to come out, drop their kids off at soccer practice or camp and come be a part of this. some of the kids are out here too. i think that bears mentioning. while we have this one precipitating event that they are officially counterprotesting, there's a lot of different issues and viewpoints being represented out here today. >> what kind of day is it weatherwise? we can see the sun out. but if it's a terribly hot day and humid, i know you laugh but a couple of hours of standing outside in that as you're not able to move around like you wanted to freely, that can really get people a little bit more anxious, shall we say. so what's it like out there? >> reporter: absolutely.
no, i only laugh because i was certain you'd see the sweat stains all over my shirt. what started out as an overcast cool if a little bit humid day out here is turning out to be quite warm and quite sunny. i think the heat and humidity are as much of a danger as are any of the other issues we've been talking about. but again, to the community spirit of this, we've been passing a bunch of small businesses, restaurants and things like that. a lot of folks outside handing out free waters, trying to make sure people stay cool. absolutely, i think it is a concern you'll have people on their feet all day long. we're again in the march. we're not marching right now. we are completely stopped as we approach boston common so a lot of people out here chanting, singing, carrying signs and marching in the heat. so it's definitely a concern. >> well, let's hope that you're close enough that those checkpoints through which people are passing very slowly after pretty thorough inspections is what's slowing you down right
now. my very cool freiend, garrett haake, didn't notice a thing, you look great. we'll see you a little later as well. for all, a short break and we'll be back and speak with a professor at yale about the definition of confederate statues, their meaning in today's society so stay with us here on "msnbc live." my experience with usaa has been excellent. they always refer to me as master sergeant. they really appreciate the military family, and it really shows. we've got auto insurance, homeowners insurance. had an accident with a vehicle, i actually called usaa before we called the police. usaa was there hands-on
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47 past the hour, everyone. giving you a live look at boston common there to your right. you see a pretty heavy police presence just out of the screen right now but folks are walking it looks like almost single file as they make their way into the boston commons, which is a remarkable thing considering there are 20,000 or so ringing that area or at least on their way there to take part in a kou counterprotest as a result of the free speech rally scheduled inside the boston common. the aerial view gives you an idea of how things look on this hot and somewhat steamy day in boston. we'll cover all of this, stay on it and bring you live pictures as well. i want to have a conversation
right now about a new poll that shows that a majority of americans are in favor of confederate statues. 62% saying statues of leaders of the confederacy should remain as historical symbols. 27% say they should get them out of here. let's bring in john fabian witt. not a relative of mine. john, the debate that's under way right now, should it be about statues? do they have a place in our society, whether they're of historical significance, they could be teaching moments, or should we be talking about the real cause of the civil war and why monuments to confederate leaders are offensive to many in the first place? >> well, statues are really important ways in which we communicate as a collective, as a community, what's important to us and what we celebrate, what we commemorate and how we remember. so it's not surprising that we're living with live history
right now to me or to historians around the country, i think. >> okay. so look, we've seen what's happened in charlottesville and this is not the first time that there have been heightened emotions surrounding statues of the confederacy or other symbols that elicit tremendous emotion on both sides. do they belong in public places, john? is there a better place for them where historians like yourself, where professors like yourself, where people can learn more about them without using them as rallying cries? >> well, there are a lot of hard judgments to make. i think individual communities are going to make their judgments on their own. there's some guiding principles that we can think about, though, for making those judgments. we can remember our history without celebrating white supremacy. we can ask about what the person honored stands for, what their legacies are. we can ask why the monument was put up in the first place. we can ask whether the person was out of step in his or her
time. there are a lot of questions that we can ask and i think local communities will start asking those questions and those will produce really good conversations, i hope. >> here's a timing conversation here. the southern poverty law center made a timeline of when confederacy monuments were dedicated. the most notable spike came in the early 1900s and 1920. that's when the night riders were literally chasing black families out of almost 200 american cities, and again the spike in the 1960s during the civil rights movement. civil war ended in 1865. what does that tell you? >> well, it tells us that many of the confederate monuments were part of the building of the jim crow regime of segregation in the american south. that period of 1910, 1920 is a period of lynchings, public spectacle lynchings, huge amounts of violence towards african-americans in the south and the massive resistance movement of the civil rights era brought a new round of statue building and monument building. this is what critics are talking
about. this is what they're seeing in the meaning of those monuments. >> the president has described the monuments as beautiful and he argues that george washington and thomas jefferson were slave owners, might their statues be next. trump adds the removal of monuments amounts to the changing of history and culture. do you believe that? do you agree? >> well, there's a powerful argument out there about a slippery slope or a so-called powerful argument that if you remove a lee, you have to remove a washington. i think this is just wrong. there are lots of distinctions. we asked what do people stand for today, what do they stand for in their lifetimes and what did the statues stand for when they were put up. i think we can make really good distinctions among these different kinds of monuments. >> john fabian witt from yale law school. john, thank you so much, look forward to seeing you again and appreciate your time. quick break, everybody. we're keeping a close eye on things in boston. you can see the crowds, they are massive to say the least. we'll be right back here on "msnbc live." n you and life's beautiful moments. switch to flonase allergy relief.
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okay. 54 past the hour. we're going to discuss everything that's happening in boston and the political nature of all of this. jay newton small joins me as well as alieliza collins. all right, ladies, you've seen the pictures. give me your initial snapshot thoughts of what we're seeing and why we're seeing it to this extent. you've got almost 20,000 people walking in that counterprotest to the free speech rally. you know, it's made up of all sorts of people. it's not just one group. there's black lives matter and there's the anti-fascist movement and every other group you can imagine, they say. give me your thoughts on the snapshot of this. >> alex, i think this is part of a larger struggle that's been going on frankly in american culture for years. when i went down to charleston two years ago to do a "times" cover story on the massacre in the mother emanuel church of the
nine bible study church goers by a white supremacist, if you'll remember the confederate flag in south carolina then came down off of the property and that was what i think really began this debate about confederate symbols, confederate flags, confederate statues across the south. but that was a larger conversation of black lives matter, of trayvon martin, of freddie gray in baltimore, ferguson in missouri. i mean this is all part of the sense in this country of race, this big race debate, and also of this president. and so there's this outrage that's lingering over this week where the president has yet fully to close the book on this episode from charlottesville last weekend and really say that racism is unacceptable, that there's no moral equivalency between protesting neo-nazis and being a neo-nazi. so i think that's what you see is this sort of anger on a lot of different levels and a lot of different sides of this debate.
>> eliza, if jay is right that the dylann roof shooting there at the emanuel ame church was the catalyst or a resurgence of this kind of thought, do you agree that this presidency has only exacerbated it? >> i definitely think the way the president handled this has kind of sent out all these different feelers. some of these people on the far right, the white supremacists, nazis, those are not part of the far right, they're a separate group. they're feeling emboldened, they're here, having these rallies. the other people are angry and frustrated with the way the president handled this. they're frustrated that this got to this point. and of course heather heyer who was killed last week kind of became this point person. i saw photos of people wearing her face on them. so i think there's lots of anger, and it just mobilized. the way this has been handled, it's been simmering for a long time, like jay said, and it's just reached a boiling point. >> jay, what kind of impact do you think this entire week will
have on the trump presidency, a week that was started in charlottesville, that saw the departure of steve bannon, and then sees more than 20,000 people rallying in downtown boston? >> alex, i think you see this -- the rupture that is being played out in boston right now quite physically on the streets, but is the rupture that's within the white house as well. you saw that with the departure of steve bannon. yes, he's left the white house but that empowers him all the more to be a very vocal, very powerful voice of criticism on the outside with his breitbart news. and he said that he's going to go to war with people he called the, quote unquote, white house, the javankas as he calls jared kushner and ivanka trump. really to take on the republican establishment on the hill. so you see this party breaking apart, these fissures going to war with itself. as much as democrats stand back and say, hey, we have no part of this but it's almost become a three-way argument in washington. i think you see that more and
more this week more than ever in the trump white house. >> you know, it's interesting you mention the javanka. eliza, i want to ask you, are they off limits to steve bannon? this is the president's much-beloved daughter and her husband, two of the closest people to hi personally and professionally given their roles there in the west wing. they may not share his ideology completely, but i think if steve bannon goes after them, there may be some sort of backlash. what do you think? >> i don't think anybody is off limits to steve bannon. i mean we saw -- steve bannon and jared kushner have been kind of at war throughout this presidency, counterleaking with their allies. and so i definitely don't think they're off limits. i'd actually like to point out i was talking to a conservative aide last night about just bannon's departure and what this meant for conservatives and there's definitely concern about access to the white house now that bannon and even to some extent priebus were gone. they felt like those were their point people but they also saw
great power with bannon being outside with breitbart. while bannon is trump's ally right now, if he ever feels like trump starts to be part of that establishment, to kind of start agreeing with the gary cohns of the white house and john kelly, he doesn't think that bannon has any problem going against the president. he likes the ideas that trump represents right now, but at least this aide said he felt like bannon -- no one is off limits. >> eliza collins and jay newton small. ladies, what's going on in boston, we'll start the top of the hour there but i thank you for your time. for all of you a big welcome where it is 1:00 in the east, 10:00 a.m. out west. the stand against hate makes its way to boston. you are looking at some of the estimated 20,000 people marching in protest to a planned right-wing rally. welcome to all of you. i'm alex witt here at msnbc world headquarters. there are more than 500 police officers also on the streets. they are there to keep the peace. th'r