‘If you can say you can’t breathe, you’re breathing:’ Mississippi mayor apologizes for tweets on George Floyd

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Petal, Miss., Mayor Hal Marx. (The Hattiesburg American, via the AP)

PETAL, Miss. (AP) — A white Mississippi mayor who caused an outrage with his tweets about the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis has apologized but says he won’t resign, prompting protesters to return to City Hall for a third day Sunday to insist the mayor leave office.

Petal Mayor Hal Marx told the Hattiesburg American his remarks on social media about Floyd’s death, which occurred after a white police officer kneeled on his neck, “were made in haste and not well-thought out or expressed.”

“I apologize to those who found them to be insensitive, and I apologize to the people of our city,” Marx told the newspaper in an interview Saturday.

Still, the mayor said he plans to serve out his term that expires in July 2021.

Roughly 200 people protested outside City Hall on Sunday, the third straight day demonstrators have gathered to call for Marx’s resignation, the Clarion Ledger reported. Petal’s board of aldermen also agreed the mayor should step down.

“Why in the world would anyone choose to become a police officer in our society today?” Marx tweeted Tuesday, the day four Minneapolis police officers were fired. Floyd, 46, was handcuffed and pleading for air as a white police officer kneeled on his neck Monday.

In a follow-up tweet, the Republican directly referenced the Floyd case, saying he “didn’t see anything unreasonable”: “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.”

Marx told the newspaper that city aldermen and others had wrongly characterized the tweets as racist.

“I did not make racist comments,” Marx said, “and I have not mistreated anyone.”

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