Scottsdale councilman apologizes after saying ‘I can’t breathe’ at anti-mask rally

A Scottsdale City Council member who said “I can’t breathe” while wearing a face mask and addressing a crowd of protesters opposed to the coronavirus rules apologized.

Councilman Guy Phillips said “I can’t breathe” twice before removing his mask at the rally on Wednesday, the video shows.

Those are the same words that George Floyd, a black man, said as he begged a white police officer who was kneeling on his neck in Minneapolis before he died on May 25. The officer seen kneeling on Floyd’s neck and three other officers have been fired and criminally charged.

Floyd’s death and the video of the incident sparked protests against racial injustice and call for police reforms across the country, including in Arizona. “I can’t breathe” has been recited and repeated often by protesters.

Scottsdale Councilman Guy Phillips seemed to deliberately make the comment at an anti-mask rally.KPNX

“It was a stupid and callous comment that I shouldn’t have made, and I had no intention of disrespecting anyone in making that comment,” said Phillips, who began his second term in 2017, in a phone interview with NBC affiliate KPNX. . Phoenix.

Phillips said he intended to show how restrictive the masks are and not make fun of Floyd, KPNX reported.

Phillips also apologized to Floyd’s family, The Arizona Republic reported.

“I regret a comment I made today that was the same comment that Mr. Floyd made. He didn’t deserve what happened to him, and he was in no way trying to clarify it by saying I can’t breathe in a mask,” said Phillips. “Please accept my sincerest apologies and that is for anyone who has been offended.”

The council member did not respond to a request for comment from NBC News on Wednesday night.

Arizona Governor Doug Ducey condemned Phillips’ comments.

“Just wrong. The despicable doesn’t go far enough. George Floyd’s last words should NEVER be invoked like this. Anyone who mocks the murder of a neighbor has no place in public office. Period,” Ducey tweeted.

Scottsdale Mayor WJ “Jim” Lane called Phillips’ comments “do not represent the values ​​of our Scottsdale community.”

“I share the deep disappointment expressed by many residents at the words Phillips chose: using the phrase ‘I can’t breathe’ during this time was callous and callous,” Lane said in a statement. “I sincerely hope that he understands how wrong he was and offers a sincere apology.”

Masks have been ordered in areas of Arizona, where coronavirus cases have increased. Infections have increased in Maricopa County, where Scottsdale is also located.

The Scottsdale mayor last week issued an emergency proclamation requiring people to cover their faces to help curb the spread of the virus. Facial covers are required in supermarkets, pharmacies, restaurants and other places. Maricopa County also mandated a mask requirement throughout the county.

The Maricopa County Health Department says the number of people diagnosed with the disease caused by the virus, COVID-19, has been steadily increasing every day as there is a greater spread in the community.

As of Wednesday, 34,993 cases of COVID-19 had been confirmed in Maricopa County with 654 deaths, according to the county health department.

Maricopa County, home to Scottsdale and Phoenix et al., Has the highest number of COVID-19 cases in the state, according to data from the state health department website.

Statewide, there have been nearly 60,000 cases and 1,463 deaths.

In the United States, there have been more than 2.39 million cases of COVID-19, with more than 122,500 deaths related to the disease, according to an NBC News count.