A city councilman in Arizona has drawn outrage after shouting ‘I can’t breath’ to protest mandatory wearing of face masks to slow the spread of coronavirus, seeming to reference the dying words of George Floyd.
Scottsdale councilman Guy Phillips, a Republican, made the remarks at a city hall rally on Wednesday to protest a city mandate that face coverings must be worn in public.
Phillips, wearing a cloth face mask, approached the microphone and shouted ‘I can’t breathe’ twice as the crowd yelled for him to remove the mask, before he triumphantly ripped it from his face.
The incident drew swift condemnation, including from Arizona Governor Doug Ducey, who tweeted: ‘Just flat out wrong. Despicable doesn’t go far enough.’
Scottsdale councilman Guy Phillips, a Republican, shouted ‘I can’t breathe’ at a rally protesting the mandatory wearing of facemasks, seeming to mock the death of George Floyd
About 200 people attended Wednesday’s rally, which was titled ‘Unmask Us’
‘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,’ Ducey continues.
Floyd, whose death on Memorial Day in Minneapolis sparked weeks of unrest across the country, was caught on video saying ‘I can’t breathe’ as a police officer knelt on his neck.
Scottsdale Mayor Jim Lane, a Republican, also blasted Phillips’ remarks, calling them ‘callous and insensitive.’
Following the rally, Phillips said the comment had no connection to Floyd, telling the Arizona Republic that his remarks referred solely to the mask. ‘It was hot and stuffy,’ Phillips said.
‘I did not mean any disrespect and there was no connection,’ he said.
Phillips, wearing a cloth face mask, approached the microphone and shouted ‘I can’t breathe’ twice as the crowd yelled for him to remove the mask, before he triumphantly ripped it off
A couple of hours later he issued an apology to the Floyd family.
‘I am sorry about a comment I made today that was the same comment Mr. Floyd had made,’ Phillips said.
‘He didn’t deserve what happened to him and I by no means was trying to make light of it by saying I cant breathe in a mask. Please accept my sincerest apology and that goes out to anyone who became offended,’ he continued.
About 200 people attended Wednesday’s rally, which was titled ‘Unmask Us’.
The event was a protest against new rules imposed last week in Scottsdale that require wearing a face mask in public, as the number of coronavirus cases in the area continues to rise.
An invitation for the rally asked ‘Any Citizen of AZ who believes wearing a mask is a personal choice, and not a mandate’ to ‘put your best face forward.’
Arizona is one of the nation’s emerging coronavirus hotspots, where daily new cases have continued to rise.
On Tuesday, the Arizona Department of Health Services reported 3,593 new coronavirus cases and 42 deaths, both records for the state.
While the number of new cases on Wednesday dropped to 1,795, the number of deaths almost doubled, jumping to 79.
Once it began opening, Arizona quickly rolled back restrictions, with Governor Duecy not making it a requirement for people to wear masks while out in public.
Last Wednesday, amid spiking numbers, Ducey ordered that local government can pass measures forcing their residents to wear masks.