Friday marked the first day of a three-day protest of citizens demanding Petal Mayor Hal Marx resign over social media comments he made regarding a fatal encounter between Minneapolis police and a black man named George Floyd.
Approximately 100 people had gathered in front of Petal City Hall by 12:30 p.m. Friday to protest Marx, who said during a special-called meeting the night before that he would not resign and has every intention of filling out the remainder of his term. A few guest speakers talked about Marx and the Minneapolis incident – in which Floyd died after a police officer applied pressure with his knee to Floyd’s neck while Floyd said he couldn’t breathe – while the crowd listened and brandished signs.
“I think Mr. Marx’s remarks are deplorable, and I think as a mayor, he is there to represent all people, and he did not do that with those remarks,” Hattiesburg resident Leslie Smith said. “And so it’s a bad representation for Petal, and it’s a bad representation for Mississippi. So I think he should resign.”
On March 26, Marx posted on Facebook, “If you can talk you can breathe. Think about that before you rush to judgment. #thinblueline.” Marx also said on Twitter that no one knew, for example, if Floyd had died of a heart attack or drug overdose, as all the facts of the case are not yet available.
The protests will continue over the weekend, with attendees gathering Saturday and Sunday in front of city hall.
“I’m kind of disappointed that stuff like that is still going on these days; it shouldn’t be like that,” Sumrall resident Manuela Acosta said. “There’s a lot of injustice. I’m from Europe, and it just baffles me that stuff like that is still going on. It’s just very sad.”
Marx said previously that his comments were not meant to be racist, but instead in support of police officers.
"My point in what I said in those social media comments ... was that I've always been a big supporter of the police," Marx said at the previous day’s meeting. "I didn't think through what I said, as far as including some sympathy for Mr. Floyd and his family.
"What I said came out in a way I wish I had said differently. It wasn't to minimize that gentleman's death; it was simply an impulsive statement saying that people will wait for all the answers to get out before we (act)."