An Arizona city councilman is being widely criticized for his use of George Floyd’s dying words — “I can’t breath” — at an anti-mask rally
When Scottsdale, Arizona city councilman Guy Phillips took the stage at an anti-mask rally Wednesday, he was wearing a black cloth face mask. He stood silently for a minute, and then spoke into the microphone: “I can’t breathe,” before ripping the covering off his face. An elected politician invoked the words of dying Black men to protest a public health mandate, and this is the new low we’ve reached, America.
“I can’t breathe” were the dying words of George Floyd. Eric Garner. Elijah McClain. So many Black men and women we likely didn’t even hear about because their deaths didn’t even make the news. And this councilman is using those words to protest wearing a mask, something that could help save vulnerable lives from COVID-19? This guy deserves to be skewered.
And he is, widely, by public figures on both sides of the aisle. Republican Senator Martha McSally called his comments “despicable,” while Arizona’s Republican Governor Doug Ducey said, “despicable doesn’t go far enough.”
“The final words of George Floyd should NEVER be invoked like this,” Ducey wrote on Twitter, calling for Phillips to step down from his position on the city council. “Anyone who mocks the murder of a fellow human has no place in public office. Period.”
And all of this over being asked to wear a mask.
Here are the facts: Public health officials are asking us to wear masks and face coverings not for ourselves, but to protect others. The best science we have right now says that a mask may help keep you from spreading COVID-19 if you’re sick or asymptomatic. Best case scenario: The science is right, and this could save lives all around you. Worst case scenario: You’re a little uncomfortable from the fabric over your face. Is this really that hard a choice? Is your comfort really so much more important to you than other people’s lives?
Phillips has since claimed that his comments had nothing to do with Floyd, Garner, or the countless other Black Americans killed by police. His mask was “hot and stuffy,” he said. He mean “no disrespect,” he added. “I am sorry about a comment I made today that was the same comment Mr. Floyd had made,” he wrote, according to the Arizona Republic. “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.”
Regardless of the intent of his words, the impact is clear: his “no disrespect” is actual an utter lack of regard for the lives of others. He is willing to allow Americans to die from COVID-19 so he can avoid being “hot and stuffy,” and he is willing to mock the death of Black Americans to make that point. It’s despicable, and people like this have no place in public office.