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Arizona Politics

Scottsdale City Councilman refuses to step down after “I can’t breathe” comments

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Scottsdale City Councilman Guy Phillips

Guy Phillips says he has the right to free speech

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. (KYMA, KECY) - The Scottsdale City Councilman who shouted "I can't breathe" at a recent anti-mask rally says he's not resigning.

Guy Phillips held a press conference Tuesday to address both his comments and calls for his resignation.

Phillips was among the speakers at a protest last week opposing a municipal mask mandate. He claims several participants told him before the rally they couldn't breath through face coverings and masks. Phillips says their comments were on his mind when he took the podium. He says when the adrenaline kicked in he blurted out the phrase that became a mantra for those protesting the death of George Floyd - "I can't breathe."

Phillips said he only realized his mistake after hearing media reports calling his comments racist.

“I knew then I had unwittingly created a controversy that I couldn’t erase.  I take full responsibility for that mistake and ask for those who were offended or hurt by my words to forgive my insensitivity.” he told reporters and supporters during his press conference.

Still, the city councilman said he feels his comments were taken out of context.

“Given the divisiveness of our country today, too many immediately rushed to judgment after hearing such comments.”

Phillips says he endeavors to practice the philosophy of Dr. Martin Luther King, and is not a racist. He says he's just misunderstood.

“My friends, family, and supporters know who I am, the content of my character, and my dedication to serving the public and the cause of liberty and freedom for all.” he told reporters.

Even though he acknowledges the gravity of his comments, Phillips refuses to step down.

“I will not give in to bullying, or crowd madness.  If I do, who will be next?  It must stop here.” he said.

Phillips says people should be free to choose whether to wear a mask, and they should be free to speak their minds.

“This is the right of every American, the right of public speech.”

Both Arizona Governor Doug Ducey and Scottsdale Mayor Jim Lane have called for Phillips to resign, but the councilman says he'll leave the decision up to the voters. Scottsdale voters have re-elected him twice, and he says he's confident he'll win a third term.

The city holds its primary elections next Tuesday.

Arizona Coronavirus / Arizona News

Lisa Sturgis

Lisa Sturgis recently returned to KYMA as its Digital Content Director, but she has a long history with the Desert Southwest.

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