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Politics Scottsdale Councilman Guy Phillips says he won't resign following backlash to 'I can't breathe' comments

23:17  30 june  2020
23:17  30 june  2020 Source:   azcentral.com

Scottsdale councilman apologizes for saying 'I can't breathe' at anti-mask rally

  Scottsdale councilman apologizes for saying 'I can't breathe' at anti-mask rally "It was a stupid and insensitive comment that I shouldn’t have made, and I had no intention of disrespecting anybody," Guy Phillips said.Councilman Guy Phillips said "I can't breathe" twice before taking off his mask at the rally Wednesday, video shows.

Scottsdale Councilman Guy Phillips said Tuesday he will not resign his seat following backlash after last week hosting a protest against mask-wearing requirements, during which he said, "I can't breathe," to the crowd.

a man wearing a suit and tie talking on a cell phone: Scottsdale Councilman Guy Phillips addresses protesters gathered for the © Catherine Rafferty/The Republic Scottsdale Councilman Guy Phillips addresses protesters gathered for the "Unmask Us" protest against mandatory mask wearing in Scottsdale on June 24, 2020.

Those words were spoken by George Floyd moments before he died at the hands of Minneapolis police on May 25. His death has sparked protests in Arizona and across the nation led by Black Lives Matter calling for racial justice and police reforms.

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Phillips' response comes after Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey, Scottsdale Mayor Jim Lane and several other city and state officials issued statements last week condemning Phillips' comments. Lane on Monday added to his rebuke of Phillips, calling for the councilman to resign.

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The controversy began after Phillips uttered the phrase through a mask that he donned, then ripped off, to cheers and applause from a crowd of anti-mask protesters last Wednesday.

On Tuesday, Phillips held a press conference saying he didn't regret having the rally, but that the incident had been a misunderstanding and he had no intention of mocking anybody.

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"It was the first time I held a rally. I was very nervous and excitable," Phillips said. "The adrenaline gets going...obviously you've gotta be careful about what you say around here."

He had issued a statement after the rally apologizing to the Floyd family.

Phillips is up for re-election in August. All of the eight candidates competing against him in the primary election denounced his comments last week.

Mayor, public call for resignation

Following Phillips' comments, Lane initially said they were callous and insensitive, and did not represent the values of Scottsdale.

On Monday, Lane said he believed Phillips should resign.

"Now that I’ve seen Councilman Phillips’ hollow apology, I believe he should resign," Lane wrote in a statement. "Scottsdale City Council has no authority to forcibly remove him from office, but if he truly cared about Scottsdale he would resign his Council position."

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On Monday, the city said it did not have the authority to remove a council member from office unless that person is convicted of a crime involving moral turpitude.

Moral turpitude is a term applied generally to felonies like murder, child abuse, fraud and theft.

"The power to select, retain or remove City Council members lies with the voters of Scottsdale through the election and recall process," the city said in its statement.

Councilwoman Suzanne Klapp, who is running for mayor, said in a statement on Wednesday that she was appalled and that Phillips "knows well the protesting occurring here and across the country." She called on him to "look inward" and resign from the council.

Council members Virginia Korte, who is also running for mayor, Linda Milhaven and Solange Whitehead issued a joint statement last week condemning Phillips' comments as ignorant and disrespectful.

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By Tuesday, they said they were demanding Phillips' immediate resignation."

Phillips, who wore a mask lowered on his chin as he spoke Tuesday outside that he would not step down to "bullying tactics."

"If I do that, who's the next one they're going to go after? Every time someone says something, they're going to go after them and shut them down," Phillips said. "We can't have that in our society. We have to be able to speak our minds. This is the right of every American, the right to public speech."

Dueling petitions

A citizen's petition with over 13,800 signatures calling for Phillips' resignation was submitted to the City Council on Monday by Scottsdale residents Josh Miller and Mike Norton.

A letter attached to the petition signed by Miller and Norton called into question Phillips' motives in wearing a mask at the protest, saying Phillips had strapped on the mask only as he took the stage to use as a "prop for his racially offensive statements."

"If our City Council allows him to continue to sit at the dais and speak even a word without imposing the harshest censure, our City Council implicitly condones his behavior and perpetuates the damage he caused," the letter read.

Phillips' acknowledged on Tuesday that he had put the mask on before speaking to the crowd, after having seen the crowd yell for Dr. Peter Steinmetz, one of the speakers at the protest, to take off his mask.

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"When I went up there, I put on the mask because I wanted them to tell me to take it off too," Phillips said.

A Change.org petition lobbying to keep Phillips in office had almost 500 signatures on Tuesday morning.

"The truth is the comment was simply referring to the mask being an inconvenience and difficult to breathe in - that was all it meant," the petition read. "Mr. Phillips is being targeted unjustly and a man's life should not be ruined by a misconstrued comment."

Early voting begins July 8. Scottsdale residents who are not already registered must register by July 6 to qualify to vote in the August election.

Have a tip out of Scottsdale? Reach the reporter Lorraine Longhi at llonghi@gannett.com or 480-243-4086. Follow her on Twitter @lolonghi.

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This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: Scottsdale Councilman Guy Phillips says he won't resign following backlash to 'I can't breathe' comments

Ousted U.S. Attorney Berman testifies that Barr repeatedly pressured him to resign .
"I said that there was no job offer that would entice me to resign from my position," Berman said in his opening statement.Berman, in a written statement to the House Judiciary Committee, said Barr repeatedly attempted to coax Berman into resigning his post by offering him other positions in government, including the chairmanship of the Securities and Exchange Commission.

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