Arizona Gov. Ducey criticizes Scottsdale councilman over 'I can't breathe' comment during anti-mask protest

Scottsdale Councilman Guy Phillips attracted controversy during a protest held on Wednesday to protest against mandatory mask-wearing.

Scottsdale is among a number of counties and cities across Arizona to have a mask-wearing requirement. The city's mandatory mask mandate went into effect on June 19 amid rising coronavirus cases in Arizona.

Phillips used last words uttered by George Floyd during protest

A crowd of over 200 people gathered for the protest, and during an address to the crowds, Phillips was heard saying "I can't breathe."

The words "I can't breathe" were uttered by George Floyd before he died at the hands of police in Minneapolis

In the days following Floyd's death, there have been protests and unrest in various cities across the U.S., including Scottsdale, where unrest in the area of Scottsdale Fashion Square resulted in property damage.

Criticisms against Phillips mount

On his Facebook profile, Scottsdale Mayor Jim Lane issued a statement on what Phillips said.

"Councilman Phillips' comments at his anti-mask protest rally today at City Hall do not represent the values of our Scottsdale community. 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," read a portion of the post, which also called for Phillips to offer an apology.

The City of Scottsdale also released a statement on Phillips' comments.

On Twitter, Arizona Governor Doug Ducey called Phillips' choice of words "just flat out wrong."

"Despicable doesn’t go far enough. The final words of George Floyd should NEVER be invoked like this," Gov. Ducey wrote, who also wrote that anyone who "mocks the murder of a fellow human" has no place in public office.

Phillips defends anti-mask stance

Phillips, meanwhile, says masks are bad for local businesses and restrict people's rights.

"You know, I would happily wear a mask out of respect for my fellow citizen, but when the government threatens me with a fine or possible arrest if I don't confirm, then I protest.

Scottsdale surgeon Dr. Daniel Aschenbrener, who attended the protest, says he doesn’t believe masks can filter the virus, and actually do harm.

"So, there's some medical reasons for being out here, but a lot of it is I'm an American citizen. I'm smart enough to make my own decisions, and I should be able to so that," said Dr. Aschenbrener.

In order to protect yourself from a possible infection, the CDC recommends: 

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.

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MAP: Arizona Coronavirus cases by zip code


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Symptoms for coronavirus COVID-19 include fever, coughing, and shortness of breath. These, of course, are similar to the common cold and flu. 

Expect a common cold to start out with a sore or scratchy throat, cough, runny and/or stuffy nose. Flu symptoms are more intense and usually come on suddenly, and can include a high fever. 

Symptoms of COVID-19 may appear more slowly. They usually include fever, a dry cough and noticeable shortness of breath, according to the World Health Organization. A minority of cases develop pneumonia, and the disease is especially worrisome for the elderly and those with other medical problems such as high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes or heart conditions.

RELATED: Is it the flu, a cold or COVID-19? Different viruses present similar symptoms

Right now there's one big difference between flu and coronavirus: A vaccine exists to help prevent the flu and it's not too late to get it. It won't protect you from catching the coronavirus, but may put you in a better position to fight it.

To protect yourself, wash your hands well and often, keep them away from your face, and avoid crowds and standing close to people.

And if you do find yourself showing any of these flu or coronavirus symptoms - don't go straight to your doctor's office. That just risks making more people sick, officials urge. Call ahead, and ask if you need to be seen and where.