Thursday, May 28, 2020

Mississippi Mayor Faces Backlash for George Floyd Comments: 'I Didn't See Anything Unreasonable'
Lici Beveridge
Hattiesburg American

HATTIESBURG, Miss. – A post by Petal, Mississippi, Mayor Hal Marx has sparked backlash, but he says his words were misinterpreted by some.

On Tuesday Marx tweeted "Why in the world would anyone choose to become a police officer in our society today?"

The mayor was referring to the police officers who were fired Tuesday, a day after 46-year-old George Floyd died after being pinned to the ground by one of the officers.

Jason A. Darby, another Twitter user, responded by saying, "Would be nice to get a few in there that understand reasonable force, when it’s needed, and don’t give the rest of them a bad reputation."

What followed was a response by Marx that ignited backlash on Twitter:

"If you are talking about the incident in MN, I 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."

The tweet and his account have since been deleted.

What Marx meant, he said, was no one knows for sure how Floyd died or what the circumstances were before he was pinned to the ground by a Minneapolis police officer.

"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."

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Marx, who was first elected in 2009, said he was asking people to wait until all the facts were out before throwing stones at the police.

"I've seen too many cases before where the police were judged to be guilty in the public's eye but later were found to be not guilty under the law," he said. "For sending that, all of a sudden I'm called racist, I need to have a knee put on my neck – all kinds of hateful stuff simply for having an opinion and asking people to get all the facts before they judge."

Regardless of Marx's intent, Clarence Magee, president of the Forrest County NAACP in Mississippi, said the mayor's remark was uncalled for.

"To hear that statement made by a mayor or anybody is very troubling," he said. "What we saw was disgusting on the part of the officer. It leaves me with mixed emotions. Believing and thinking that we have not gone far enough in this day and time with social media and all that kind of stuff – nobody should condone that. Everybody should condemn it, including the mayor. Skin color had nothing to do with it."

Magee said the loss of a human life should be the most important concern.

"You're sending a message to people who are barbarian, who are terrorists, you are saying it's OK. But it's not OK," Magee said. "That was somebody's son. Somebody's father. Somebody's brother. If the shoe was on the other foot, would he have the same statement to make?"

Marx said he wasn't trying to make a statement. He said people have interpreted his words how they want to without considering his intent.

"They've already got their minds made up," he said. "If you've got a different opinion, then you are somehow a horrible person. There is nothing I said that is factually incorrect or racist or has anything to do with race at all."

Floyd's story gained national attention through news reports and a video taken at the scene.

A bystander videotaping what happened documented Floyd on the ground, pleading with an officer as the officer keeps his knee pressed into Floyd’s neck. Eventually Floyd stops talking. About four minutes into the video, Floyd becomes unresponsive.

Floyd was pronounced dead later at a local hospital.

Protesters took to the streets, marching from where Floyd was pinned to a police precinct more than 2 miles away.

Some protesters damaged windows, a squad car and spraying graffiti on the building. A line of police in riot gear eventually confronted the protesters, firing tear gas and other projectiles.

Follow reporter Lici Beveridge on Twitter @licibev 

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