‘If you can say you can’t breathe, you’re breathing’: Mississippi mayor faces backlash over George Floyd comments

Louise Hall
AP

A mayor in Mississippi is facing fierce backlash and calls to resign after saying that he “didn’t see anything unreasonable” about the death of George Floyd.

Mr Floyd, who was black, died while in police custody in Minneapolis after a white officer was filmed pinned him to the ground by his neck for a prolonged period of time.

Outrage over the 46-year-old's death escalated when a video showing the incident unfold was posted online. In the footage, Floyd can be heard saying “I can’t breathe” to officers multiple times.

Hal Marx, the mayor of Petal, a city near Jackson, voiced his opinion on the incident on Twitter on Tuesday, saying he “didn’t see anything unreasonable” and “if you can say you can’t breathe, you’re breathing.”

“Most likely that man died of overdose or heart attack. Video doesn’t show his resistance that got him in that position. Police being crucified”, Mr Marx added.

Four police officers were fired on Tuesday in connection with the arrest. Derek Chauvin, the former officer who held Mr Floyd to the ground, was charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter on Friday,

The death has prompted widespread unrest and protests across the US and in particular Minneapolis, where riots that stemmed from an initially peaceful Black Lives Matter protest have continued for two days.

The mayor’s comments were met with fierce backlash. Mr Marx has since deactivated his Twitter account.

“You know as a former resident of Petal ... this is truly disturbing to see. To know that a leader of community feels right even posting this..”, Indianapolis Colts offensive lineman Javon Patterson said on Twitter.

“Accountability must come into effect for Hal Marx,” said Bobby Sims Jr, a pastor from a nearby city, at a protest over the Mayor’s comments covered by WDAM-TV.

Mr Marx later told The Hattiesburg American that the comments had been misinterpreted.

“I think that people are so quick to judge the police before they have all the facts,” he said.

“I can’t say whether a crime was committed or whether they did anything right or wrong, all I’m saying is don’t rush to judgment based on what you see in that video”, he told the newspaper.

The mayor also reportedly defended his comments on Facebook.

“The tolerant progressives can’t tolerate a simple statement of fact and a request not to rush to judgment,” a post made under his name read, according to screenshots taken by NBC affiliate WLBT.

The City of Petal acknowledged the mayor’s Facebook comments in their own post on Thursday, saying that while they were not representative of their city leaders, the mayor had a right to post them on his personal account.

“The comments made on Mayor Hal Marx’s personal Facebook page are not representative of all of our city leaders. We understand the frustrations his statements have caused”, they wrote.

“Those comments are his personal views and he has the right to share his views on his personal page.”

The Petal Board of Aldermen held a special meeting on Thursday, voting unanimously to ask for Marx’s resignation, The Clarion Ledger reported.

However, the mayor who was first elected in 2009, refused, and elected officials in Mississippi can only be removed from office if they’ve committed felonies.

Additional reporting by The Associated Press.

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