‘I Can’t Breathe’: AZ City Councilman Mocks Floyd’s Last Words To Protest Masks
The Washington Post reports that at a June 24 anti-mask protest event in Scottsdale, Arizona, Councilman Guy Phillips (R-AZ) took to the stage wearing a black face mask and said, repeating himself a few times, “I can’t breathe.”
As the crowd applauded and shouted for him to “take the mask off,” he removed the mask and appeared to roll his eyes and feign relief. “Insanity,” he said, describing the mayoral order for residents to wear face masks in most public areas.
- The Post describes “I can’t breathe” as “echoing the dying words of George Floyd that have become a rallying cry in nationwide protests against police violence.”
- The phrase has been “at the forefront of the Black Lives Matter movement since” 2014, when “Eric Garner repeated [it] 11 times” as a New York police officer held him in a chokehold before he died.
- Other public figures have criticized Phillips’s conduct and some have called for him to step down, including Governor Doug Ducey (R-AZ).
On Twitter, Ducey wrote,
Just flat out wrong. Despicable doesn’t go far enough. The final words of George Floyd should NEVER be invoked like this. Anyone who mocks the murder of a fellow human has no place in public office. Period.
Speaking to the Arizona Republic, Phillips insisted that he “did not mean any disrespect” and that “there was no connection” between his comments and Floyd’s last words. He said his words referred only to the mask, which was “hot and stuffy.”
Hours later, he issued a second statement and apologized to the Floyd family. He stated,
I am sorry about a comment I made today that was the same comment Mr. Floyd had made… I by no means was trying to make light of it by saying I can’t breathe in a mask. Please accept my sincerest apology and that goes out to anyone who became offended.
- Phillips and other politicians held the “Unmask Us” rally in response to Scottsdale Mayor W.J. “Jim” Lane’s (R-AZ) mayoral order for residents to wear masks in most public spaces.
- Ducey announced on June 17 that rather than issue a statewide rule, he would grant local leaders authority to issue their own mask mandates.
- The Post explains that Arizona “ has been experiencing an alarming spike in coronavirus cases, among the worst rates in the nation and far exceeding New York in new cases.”
- Arizona recorded more than 16,500 new cases since June 18, last week, and this week “reported record-breaking numbers for hospitalizations and single-day new cases since the pandemic began.”
- Public health officials are expressing concerns that Black Lives Matter protests may spread COVID-19. They also note that Arizona, and especially Scottsdale, has “seen persistent problems” with “large, massless crowds” at night clubs and bars since the state reopened on May 15.
- National Public Radio reports that some experts linke Arizona’s “rocketing” case count to the May 15 reopening.
Phillips said in his June 24 remarks that he would gladly wear a mask “out of respect for my fellow citizens,” but not as a government mandate. He also said,
You can’t open your businesses, but rioters and looters are allowed to ransack them… Now we all have to wear masks or we face fines or jail time?
After this, he asked, “Are we gonna stand tall, or cave to a socialist system?”
Video of his “I can’t breathe” comment spread quickly online. Lane Tweeted,
Councilman Phillips' comments at his anti-mask protest rally today at City Hall do not represent the values of our Scottsdale community. I share the profound disappointment expressed by many residents at the words Mr. Phillips chose—to use the phrase “I can’t breathe” during this moment in time was callous and insensitive. I sincerely hope he understands how wrong that was and offers a sincere apology.
See the video. Shared by Lorraine Longhi of AZ Central.