The mayor of Petal, Mississippi, sparked backlash for his comments aboutGeorge Floyd, a black man who died on Monday after being pinned to the ground by a police officer.
Floyd, 46, died after being handcuffed andpinned down by a police officer’s knee, which was recorded on video and shared on social media on Tuesday. Floyd was later pronounced dead at a medical center, and the incident sparked protests in Minneapolis, a civil rights investigation by the FBI, and the firing of the four officers involved, The New York Times reported.
Floyd’s death drew comparisons to the death of Eric Garner, who died in New York in 2014 after being put in a chokehold by police, according to The New York Times. Both Floyd and Garner said “I can’t breathe” and were unarmed, according to the outlet.
On Tuesday, PetalMayor Hal Marxtweeted: “Why in the world would anyone choose to become a police officer in our society today?” He was referring to the police officers who were fired after Floyd’s death.
Another Twitter user responded, 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.”
Marx tweeted in response: “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.”
“I think that people are so quick to judge the police before they have all the facts,” Marx told the outlet. “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.”
“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 continued. “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.”
“The man’s death, Mr. Floyd, was a tragedy no matter what caused it,” Marx said. “We should mourn for his death, obviously, but let’s also wait for all the facts to get out before we condemn these police officers who may or may not have done anything wrong in this case. I do think unfortunately when race is involved, it makes things much more explosive than other issues. This really to me was not a racial issue but I see where African-American citizens, of course, consider it that and for good reason. I understand that.”
“I apologize to the people who may have thought I was trying to minimize this man’s life but I simply was trying to say these police officers deserve the benefit of the doubt until we find out more,” he continued.