"I can't breathe!" Phillips yelled while wearing a mask on stage at the event. "I can't breathe!"
The crowd of protesters yelled for him to take off the mask, which he did, declaring, "Insanity!"
Here’s video of Scottsdale City Councilman Guy Phillips shouting "I Can't Breathe" before removing his mask at today's Anti-Mask Rally in Arizona:— Rex Chapman???????? (@RexChapman) June 25, 2020
Mocking Eric Garner & George Floyd and many others in this moment is something I feel compelled to expose...pic.twitter.com/4drg23zWUD
The stunt quickly backfired on Phillips, who first denied that he was mocking Floyd. Floyd died in May of asphyxiation when Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin pressed his knee on Floyd's neck for eight minutes while officers standing nearby did nothing to help. Floyd said "I can't breathe" to the officers before he died.
Outrage was nearly instant as video of Phillips' cruel display went viral.
Governor Doug Ducey took to Twitter to blast Phillips, a fellow Republican who's been a city councilman since 2013.
"Just flat out wrong," Ducey wrote. "Despicable doesn’t go far enough. The final words of George Floyd should NEVER be invoked like this. Anyone who mocks the murder of a fellow human has no place in public office. Period."
Channel 12 News.
He also apologized to the Floyd family through the Arizona Republic: "I am sorry about a comment I made today that was the same comment Mr. Floyd had made. He didn't deserve what happened to him, and I by no means was trying to make light of it by saying I can't breathe in a mask," Phillips said. "Please accept my sincerest apology and that goes out to anyone who became offended."
Phillips organized the protest because he believes the government should not impose mask-wearing on residents. Following Ducey's flip-flop on allowing local control of mask orders, Scottsdale Mayor Jim Lane was among the local officials who imposed a mask mandate for people in most public settings. Reportedly, the anti-mask event had a "few hundred" protesters turn out, most not wearing masks, naturally.
"Councilman Phillips' comments at his anti-mask protest rally today at City Hall do not represent the values of our Scottsdale community," Lane wrote in one of the many criticism of Phillips on Twitter. "I share the profound disappointment expressed by many residents at the words Mr. Phillips chose to use the phrase 'I can’t breathe' during this moment in time was callous and insensitive."
While some mask opponents fired back on Twitter, their comments were drowned by numerous calls for Phillips to resign from office.
Phillips, a small businessman who owns an air-conditioning contracting company, is running for reelection in Scottsdale's August 4 primary election.