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Protesters Demand Answers in Freddie Gray's Death; Iran & U.S. on a Confrontation Course Over Yemen; Hundreds of Rescued Migrants Arrive in Italy; Storm-Battered Cruise Ship Docks in Australia. Aired 6-6:30a ET

Aired April 22, 2015 - 06:00   ET



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We want peace! We want peace!

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We want peace! We want peace!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We want peace! We want peace!

[05:58:42] UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The Justice Department has now launched a civil rights investigation.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I heard the young man screaming, "Get off my neck, get off my neck."

STEPHANIE RAWLINGS-BLAKE, MAYOR OF BALTIMORE: We're going to figure out what happened.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: The U.S. is now conducting manned reconnaissance missions in the waters off Yemen.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're not sending them obscure messages. We sent them very direct messages about it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A hundred million dollars for that primary campaign.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CO-HOST: Could this be the most expensive election in history?

SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R-FL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: That's a lot of Chipotle, my friends.

ATHANASIA GEORGOUDAKIS, PASSENGER: I've been on a cruise before, and I've never had this experience.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Over 2,000 passengers stranded on a Carnival cruise ship.

GEORGOUDAKIS: I thought I was going to die last night.


ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Chris Cuomo, Alisyn Camerota and Michaela Pereira.

CHRIS CUOMO, CO-HOST: Good morning. Welcome to your NEW DAY. It's Wednesday April 22, 6 a.m. in the east. And the headline this morning is that Baltimore is in crisis. Hundreds taking to the streets, protesting the death of Freddie Gray. You will remember he died a week after being taken into police custody, but it's what happened when he was in custody that is driving this outrage.

Answers are short. Complaints are long. We still don't know what happened inside that prisoner van leading to several spinal injuries that took his life.

CAMEROTA: Baltimore police finally releasing the names of six officers involved, now suspended with pay, as the number of investigations jumps to four, with the Justice Department opening a civil rights probe into Gray's death.

We begin our coverage this morning with Suzanne Malveaux. She is live for us in Baltimore. Tell us the scene there, Suzanne.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN CORRESPONDENT/ANCHOR: Well, Alisyn, we're outside of city hall. And this is where we expect protesters, people in the community, the family of Freddie Gray to gather on Thursday to really try to figure out to get some answers from this government, from city officials.

They are extremely frustrated here. It has been ten days since Freddie Gray was actually taken into police custody. Three days since he has died. And we know very little.


MALVEAUX (voice-over): The voices of demonstrators united, making their point clear. Baltimore is fed up. The Baltimore Police Department lined with barricades and officers, protesters standing firm with their demand for justice.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How do you take a man, put him in handcuffs and then feel as though you want to hurt him then?

CAPTAIN ERIC KOWALCZYK, SPOKESMAN FOR BALTIMORE POLICE: We hear the frustration of the community. We hear the angst and the hurt in the Gray family. And we have an obligation to make sure that we are as open and transparent with this investigation as we can be.

MALVEAUX: Freddie Gray's mother shielding her face, overcome with grief Tuesday, still unable to lay her son to rest. Police have yet to turn over his body. The family plans to conduct a second private autopsy.

"The Baltimore Sun" quoting the family as saying, "Before he died Gray underwent surgery for three fractured vertebrae in his neck."

RAWLINGS-BLAKE: I don't know at what point Mr. Gray suffered the traumatic and fatal injuries. I don't know. But I'm determined to get to the bottom of it. MALVEAUX: The Department of Justice says it's now launching

their own probe to determine if any civil rights were violated.

And this week Baltimore Police Department releasing the names of all six officers who were directly involved in the April 12 arrest. Five men and one woman, their ages ranging from 25 to 45. Four of them relatively new to the force. The other two have at least 15 years of experience with the department. All six suspended with pay.

Authorities stressing that the actions taken against them in no way implies any wrongdoing in the arrest.


MALVEAUX: The Baltimore Police Department is promising to have their investigation wrapped up by next Friday. They're going to turn it over (AUDIO GAP)...

CAMEROTA: Thanks so Suzanne for that report.

Well, this is not the first time that the Baltimore Police Department has been accused of excessive force. An investigation by "The Baltimore Sun" found that, since 2011, the city of Baltimore has paid out close to $6 million in court judgments or settlements to victims of police abuse.

Let's bring in the reporter behind that "Sun" investigation, Mark Puente, and pastor of the Empowerment Temple Church, who marched with the protesters last night, Rev. Jamal Bryant. Gentlemen, thanks so much for being here.

Reverend, I want to start with you. We understand that more than 1,000 people turned out to protest, and it was very emotionally charged. In fact, we hear that Freddie Gray's family also came out. His mother became overwhelmed at one point. Can you describe what the whole experience was like?

REV. JAMAL BRYANT, EMPOWERMENT TEMPLE CHURCH: It was overwhelming not just for his mother but for Fredrika (ph), which was his twin sister. To feel the heaviness of the reality being outside of the precinct, knowing that these six officers are essentially on a paid vacation while we have to pull money together for a funeral. It's a grave inequity, and it's a slap in the face to say it's a mystery. It's not a mystery; it's a murder. And those six officers need to be held accountable for it.

CAMEROTA: Mark, we talked about the investigative pieces that you've done for your paper, "The Baltimore Sun," in which you looked at excessive force in the Baltimore Police Department. What did you find?

MARK PUENTE, REPORTER, "THE BALTIMORE SUN": Well, our investigation found that since 2011, Baltimore police officers have been sued countless times. In 102 cases the city either settled or a jury awarded damages to suspects who eventually became plaintiffs in those lawsuits. And what stood out to us is that, in nearly all the cases, the

individuals were charged during questionable arrests and charged with disorderly conduct, resisting arrest and assault on a law enforcement officer. The charges were later dropped by prosecutors and judges. Many of the individuals had broken arms, broken bones, black eyes, other injuries. And the city paid out damages.

And they didn't track these cases. They had no way to know that multiple officers had been sued multiple times for similar accusations.

CAMEROTA: Mark, that's incredible. Those findings are just incredible, that the people who were originally arrested, it turned out that there were no -- there was no rationale to charge them criminally. And that they came out of it with all of these injuries. Were you able to determine if Baltimore is worse than other police departments? Is something going on specifically in Baltimore?

[06:05:07] PUENTE: Well, we looked at Dallas as a comparison as a similar size department. Dallas had 26 claims and paid about the same amount of money. Would have saved Baltimore residents millions of dollars. The state has a cap, and it caps the damages, $200,000 per case. Had that cap not been in place, the number could have been significantly higher.

CAMEROTA: Reverend, one of the most infuriating things to the protesters is that the Baltimore Police Department has not been able to provide any answers about what happened to Freddie Gray once he was in custody or even why they pursued him to begin with. Last night a spokesperson for the Baltimore Police Department came on CNN and spoke to Erin Burnett. And his answer was stunning in its basically lack of awareness. I want to play this for you.


KOWALCZYK: We're going to follow the facts where they go. The deputy commissioner said that no force was used. All of the evidence that we have at this time indicates that there was no force used. There was no bruising. There was no indication of any sort of broken bones. However, that investigation is still ongoing.


CAMEROTA: Reverend, he says that all of the evidence shows that no force was used?

BRYANT: Yes. And when you look at his spine is 80 percent severed, it shows a pattern of quite (ph) negligence. And for the mayor and for the police commissioner and that precinct captain needs to be held accountable.

Three different things. No. 1, they still don't have probable cause as to why they even arrested him. No. 2, they cannot give accountability for their lapse in time. And No. 3, never in the history of respiratory illnesses has an asthma attack led to your spine being broken. And I think that the police department is, in fact, as somewhere between hallway patrol and lost in space to say that there's been absolutely no excessive force. And that's why the citizens of Baltimore are outraged, and we're going to city hall Thursday at 3 p.m.

CAMEROTA: Mark, you know, the mayor has come on NEW DAY, mayor of Baltimore, and she's also said that she can't get answers. Why can't they get answers out of the police department?

PUENTE: That's a big question. It's not just us who are asking. Every person in this town is asking. The national spotlight's in this town waiting for answers. They're saying they can't give answers, because the law enforcement officer bill of rights allows a certain amount of days before officers are compelled to testify or talk to investigators.

And that's been a big issue we found in our investigation that the law favors the officers, and they tried to change that this year. And the mayor was down there fighting for that, but they couldn't overcome the Fraternal Order of Police lobbying it.

CAMEROTA: Reverend, what does Baltimore need to change? What do all the people who turned out last night for that protest want to see happen?

PUENTE: There's got to be a complete overhaul of the criminal justice system, not just in Baltimore but across the country. We're seeing a pattern of a hunting season on black men across America, from Ferguson to Sanford to Staten Island, now here in Baltimore. That's why it's so necessary for Loretta Lynch to be confirmed so that the whole area is fumigated and we start from the bottom.

CAMEROTA: Mark Puente, Reverend Jamal Bryant, thank you so much for your information this morning. We'll talk to you again. Let's get over to Chris.

CUOMO: All right, Alisyn.

Overseas, Saudi Arabia says airstrikes in Yemen are ending, because Operation Decisive Storm has achieved its goals. And yet, Yemen is an all-out battleground, as Houthi rebels are marauding through the southeast of the country. The sea as precarious as on land. U.S. warships now near Yemen, watching for arm shipments from Iran.

Let's get the latest from CNN's international correspondent, Fred Pleitgen. He is in Tehran, Iran. Fred, the latest from there.


And the skies are supposed to be silent over Yemen, but apparently, they are not. The latest information that we've been getting is that apparently the Houthi rebels attempted to overrun a base of Yemeni military in the town of Taiz. And when that happened, airstrikes were called in. The Saudis apparently struck those Houthi rebels and then pushed them back. So it seems as though, while that cease-fire, while the cessation

of bombardment seems to be happening in most of the country, there are still incidents that are happening.

Now of course, all of this is causing friction between the United States and Iran. For a very long time, of course, Iran has criticized the U.S.'s position on Yemen. And at the same time, you have the U.S. and Iran trying to improve their relations among things, with this nuclear deal that's going on.

I was able to speak to the top commander of Iran's ground forces. This is a man who normally never speaks to western television. And he says there is still a long way to go.

I want to read to you what he told me. He said, "At the moment, we consider the United States to be a threat to us, because the policies and actions are threatening to us. We would like the U.S. to change its rhetoric and tone of voice so that our nation could have more trust in the U.S. military leadership. We trust the American people, but the tone of the U.S. government and military officials is such that we would still consider the U.S. a threat."

[06:10:05] Of course, the same is true in the other direction. There is still a lot of fiery rhetoric coming out of Tehran, especially in regards to that standoff that's going on at sea between those Iranian vessels and the U.S. The Iranians are saying they have no desire to try and sail towards Yemeni waters. They say the only thing they want to do is try and provide humanitarian assistance to Yemen -- Michaela.


Let's dig a little deeper on that. President Obama is delivering a strong message to Iran about aiding those Houthi rebels as U.S. warships patrol the Gulf of Aden, ready to cut off the flow of arms to those rebels.

CNN's Michelle Kosinski has the very latest for us, live this morning from the White House.

Michelle, good morning.


The White House has made it clear that the U.S. is absolutely ready to physically stop Iran, or backup others from stopping Iran and getting any more weapons to the Houthis in Yemen.

The thing is the White House doesn't want to spell it out in those terms. They're really reluctant to do so. They've been reciting, almost as a mantra. I mean, 15 times in yesterday's briefing that the mission of U.S. warships in that region is to protect the free flow of navigation and commerce.

But they also said that the international community is resolute in enforcing a new U.N. resolution barring the transfer of weapons to the Houthis. And that the U.S. stands shoulder-to-shoulder in that goal. Here's what President Obama had to say about the situation.


OBAMA: What we've said to them is, is that, if their weapons delivered to factions within Yemen, they could threaten navigation. That's a problem. And we're not sending them obscure messages. We send them very direct messages about it.


KOSINSKI: And he said part of that message is clear to Iran, that they need to be part of the solution and not the problem -- Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: OK, Michelle. Thanks so much for that.

Well, we have some breaking news this morning. French officials say they have foiled an imminent terror attack at a church. The 24- year-old Algerian suspect was detained on Sunday in Paris after accidentally shooting himself. Police found a blood trail leading to his car, where they discovered loaded guns. And they found more guns later in his home. The suspect had already been flagged as a security risk last year.

CUOMO: Also breaking, hundreds of migrants rescued in the Mediterranean Sea are now back on land this morning. This rescue came on the heels of a weekend disaster believed to have killed 800 migrants after their boat capsized.

Let's get right to CNN's Karl Penhaul. He's at the port in Sicily, where the rescue ship just docked. A little bit of relief, at least in this part of the story, Karl.


For the last hour we've been watching 446 migrants coming off that Italian naval vessel. They have been adrift by, according to early survivor accounts, for eight days in the Mediterranean since setting sail from the coast of Egypt.

Some of those survivors also say that they were transferred to six different vessels on their way here, because one gang of people smugglers would then pass them onto a different gang.

And as you look at those people coming off that boat, you just get a sense of how bad things really must be back at home, because we have seen women with babes in arms coming down the gangplank. We have seen toddlers so small that they seem to stagger along, taking their first steps towards a new life.

Now, there's a lot of Syrians onboard there. They're obviously fleeing the civil conflict there. There are Egyptians onboard, as well. Things, as we know, have turned bad there since the breakdown of democracy in Egypt. And a lot of sub-Saharan Africans from West Africa and from the Horn of Africa, as well, fleeing grinding poverty. The Italian police also on hand here, though they're going to be

combing through the passengers on that vessel to see if they can find any trace of the people traffickers.

Back to you, Michaela.

PEREIRA: Such a horrifying scenario. So good to see those people reach dry land. Thanks so much for that, Karl.

Meanwhile, a nightmare at sea of a different sort. A trip to paradise turns into a nightmare for some passengers and crew aboard a Carnival cruise ship off the coast of Australia. Thousands of vacationers aboard a Carnival cruise ship were caught in a once-in-a- decade storm, producing some 30-foot waves at sea. Passengers are grateful to be back on land and are now recounting that harrowing experience.

Our senior international correspondent, Ivan Watson, has more from Hong Kong with their tale -- Ivan.

IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Michaela. And you're right, one passenger called this a nightmare. Can you imagine these 2,000 people forced to basically ride out the storm aboard this cruise ship when the main port in Sydney had to close, because the storm was just -- was just so severe?

So these tourists, they got a lot more than they bargained for when they went out on this cruise.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Freaking rollercoaster of the year!

WATSON (voice-over): Horror off the coast of Australia. This is the view of over 2,000 passengers stranded on a Carnival cruise ship near Sydney. The east coast of the country slammed by a once-in-a- decade deadly storm. The waves up to 30 feet high, with winds surpassing 60 miles an hour, forcing the ship, packed with 800 children, to stay outside the harbor overnight Tuesday. Sydney officials say it was too risky.

[06:15:21] CAPTAIN PHILIP HOLIDAY, SYDNEY HARBOR MASTER: This is the first time I've had this close to port, and this is the first time I've ever refused entry to a cruise ship.

WATSON: Passengers back on land Wednesday morning describe a nightmare.

GEORGOUDAKIS: I've been on a cruise before, and I never had this experience in my whole entire life. I was -- I was petrified.

WATSON: The Carnival company are no stranger to stranded cruise liners. In 2010, Carnival Splendor was left off the coast of San Diego for three days due to an engine fire.

And in 2013, Carnival Triumph suffered a similar fate in the Gulf of Mexico, leaving passengers helpless for nearly a week.

But this time the massive storm whipping Australia's coastline, banging fishing boats against the shore and sweeping entire homes off their foundation, is the reason Carnival Cruise Line's vice president says this delay was unavoidable.


WATSON: Now, the passengers are back safe on dry land, but the Australian city of Sydney, the southeastern coast of Australia are still reeling from this storm.

Police say that at least four people have been killed by this severe weather over the last two days. Police telling me that the most recent fatality was an 86-year-old woman whose car was swept away by a flood, by a river that flooded its banks. A top official in this state of Australia saying, quote, "this storm was much more severe than originally anticipated."

Back to you guys.

CUOMO: All right. Thank you very much for the reporting on it. The storm clearly more than just a Carnival cruise ship calamity.

CAMEROTA: That looked very unpleasant. Being trapped on that boat must have been so scary.


CAMEROTA: Do any cruise ships just come into port uneventfully anymore?

PEREIRA: I feel they do. And I know that you're going to go to the extreme, but most of them do, Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: They do.

PEREIRA: Yes, they do.

CAMEROTA: But we just don't report on those.


CAMEROTA: That's not...


CUOMO: You're say that you're not going to take a cruise now.

PEREIRA: I've never really been enticed by the idea being on a cruise, and now this kind of shuts it down for me.

CUOMO: One of the things you have to know, that as big as those cruise ships are, and they are -- they're like apartment buildings on their sides, like floating hotels -- the ocean wins. There is no ship that has any -- they're all -- we're all just corks on the water out there when Poseidon decides it's time to change fate.

CAMEROTA: I like your fisherman philosophy.

CUOMO: People are like, "Oh, this is the biggest ship. We'll never have to worry." It's never a match. It's never a match.

CAMEROTA: All right. Back to our news, our top news, which is that the Saudis announced an end to airstrikes in Yemen just as we get reports of new fighting. Is there a diplomatic solution that's possible?

CUOMO: The big question in Baltimore is what happened to Freddie Gray? Why was he arrested? How did his spine break? The longer the wait for answers, the greater the outrage in Baltimore. What could explain his obvious injury? We have a forensic expert to give the answers ahead.


[06:22:19] CUOMO: Welcome back.

Saudi Arabia says air raids in Yemen were going to end, because Operation Decisive Storm had achieved its goals. But it turned out to be less than decisive, because airstrikes are resuming shortly after they ended, as Houthi rebels continue to destroy the country.

So the focus now moves from land to sea. And remember those Iranian ships, the mystery cargo according to the allies. And what will happen when they meet the U.S. ships in the Gulf of Aden? Those are some of the big issues surrounding a situation that is ever-more confusing. We'll call it Yemen.

Let's bring in Hillary Mann-Leverette to help us understand. She's co-author of "Going to Tehran," a former State Department Mideast analyst under both Clinton and Bush. And Mr. Christopher Harmer, senior naval analyst at the Institute for the Study of War and a former deputy director for the U.S. Navy's 5th Fleet in Bahrain.

Thanks to both of you for being here.

Hillary, let's start with the top view of what is going on here. You say the U.S. isn't quite sure why Saudi Arabia started this conflict. I didn't even know that Saudi Arabia did start the conflict. They probably wouldn't agree with that. Why do you assess it that way?

HILLARY MANN-LEVERETTE, FORMER STATE DEPARTMENT MIDEAST ANALYST: Well, Saudi Arabia has been militarily involved and trying to manipulate political outcomes in Yemen for decades. The last time they did this in 2009, they lost militarily to the Houthis.

This time around, I think there's a lot of confusion here in Washington, both in terms of why the Saudis are doing this and what are their goals. Do they have any achievable goals here?

CUOMO: But I thought -- I thought this was about Iran. That Iran was funding the Houthi rebels and they destroyed the Hadi government, and now they're running roughshod all over the country and making it a terrorist hideaway.

MANN-LEVERETTE: Well, that's certainly the Saudi narrative, which many -- you know, many buy into in terms of the rhetoric. But there's very little evidence, if any. There's no public evidence of Iranian arming or doing any kind of significant arming of the Houthis in Yemen.

The Houthis have long been marginalized in Yemen. And they've long been a restive, rebellious population. They got a new lease on life during the Arab Spring in 2011, and the Saudis have been furious about that ever since, trying to roll back that outcome and install their puppet, the President Hadi, who has now fled to Saudi Arabia.

So this idea that that it's all about Iran is intended to get the United States involved in yet another war without end, yet another damaging conflict for the United States to help prop up Saudi goals, which are not in U.S. interests.

CUOMO: And that takes us, Christopher, to one of the points of confusion here, which is that there was an allied military mission called Operation Decisive Storm, which I think today's the first I ever said those words, and that it achieved its goals.

[06:25:05] I want to put up the graphic of what those goals were, Christopher, and you tell me if any of these are even close to having been achieved, preventing takeover by the Houthis, protecting neighboring countries, neutralizing the Houthi military, preventing the flow of weapons, protecting Yemen's government. How can you say any of those have been achieved in this situation?

CHRISTOPHER HARMER, SENIOR NAVAL ANALYST: Well, you can't say any of those have been achieved in this situation. I think what happened here was the Saudis got caught up in a conflict. They really weren't sure why they got into it. They're not sure how to get out of it. I think they're just declaring victory and walking away, but they certainly did not achieve any of their -- any of their strategic objectives.

The Saudis are an inherently inward-looking military structure. They're mostly concerned about internal instability. They are concerned about Iranian influence. They are concerned about what happens in Yemen, but they are built to suppress internal dissent. They're not really built to conduct external operations. I just don't think they knew what they were getting into here.

And while they conducted some tactically spectacular airstrikes, blew up some buildings, it really hasn't had any significant effect on the ground in Yemen. The Houthis still continue to take their fight to the pro-government forces.

CUOMO: Spectacular meaning that they looked good but probably didn't achieve that much.

Well, Operation Decisive Storm we can certainly qualify that as what it's done to U.S. interests. Christopher, with your naval expertise, what do you make of this Iran interdiction on the waters? What do you think the chances are that they're carrying weapons this flagrantly into a possible scenario with the U.S. ships there? And do you think there will be any kind of conflict?

HARMER: Well, I'm absolutely certain that the Iranians are proliferating weapons to the Houthis in one way or another. I'm not certain that they are on these specific cargo ships.

And keep in mind, American policy is we do not interdict Iranian- flagged vessels. So if the Iranians have weapons on these ships, it would take a significant change in U.S. policy in order for the U.S. Navy to actually interdict, visit board search, and seize these -- these vessels.

Really, what we're doing here is sending a message to the Iranians that the United States Navy is keeping track of what the Iranian navy and the Iranian shipping lines are doing. I don't expect anything to come of this. I think this is really just showmanship on both parts, Iran and the United States.

CUOMO: Do we look bad here, the United States? Hillary, when I say we, I mean the United States. Because if we were doing a show of force. As Christopher suggests, the Iranians basically thumb their nose at us and say, "We don't care what you're doing. We're trying to be humanitarian. Why are you here?"

MANN-LEVERETTE: That's right. I mean, there are going to be two winners in this conflict in Yemen. One is going to be al Qaeda, which is strengthened by the Saudi action that we're supporting, so we're enabling the rise and the spread of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, one of the most brutal terrorist groups on the planet.

And Iran. Iran will be the other winner. Because they will come out of this having supported dialogue, diplomacy, humanitarian aid. And that's what we always miss about Iran. We focus on the armed component of their strategy, but the profound benefit of their strategy for Iran is the soft power strategy, where they politically empower these marginalized groups, whether it's the Houthis in Yemen, the Shia in Iraq, Shia in Lebanon, the Hamas in Palestine. That's what they do. They politically empower these groups, and that's where they get their real influence.

The train has left the station here. Iran's influence in Yemen is now solid. We've lost yet again in another battlefield to Iran in the soft power arena. In Yemen, Iran has won the soft power argument. And al Qaeda's won the military battle there.

CUOMO: Hillary, hard truth about soft power there from Hillary Mann-Leverette. The good news is both you and Christopher has helped us understand this situation better, but you have done miserably at giving us any confidence in the new operation, which is called Renewal of Hope among the allies. But thank you for helping us understand what's going on -- Mick.

PEREIRA: All right, Chris. Freddie Gray suffered what turned out to be a fatal spinal cord injury while in police custody. But how it happened remains a mystery. What can be learned from the autopsy? Well, a forensic expert will sift through what we know and what we don't, coming up next.