Despite the Petal Board of Aldermen voting unanimously during a special-called meeting May 28 for Mayor Hal Marx to resign - and several members of the public demanding he do so - Marx refused to step down from his seat, saying he intends to finish serving out the remainder of his term through the summer of next year.
The meeting was called because of large public outcry after Marx posted comments on social media regarding a fatal encounter between Minneapolis police and a black man named George Floyd, in which Floyd died after a white police officer pressed his knee into Floyd's neck while Floyd said he couldn't breathe. "If you can talk you can breathe," Marx posted March 26 on Facebook. "Think about that before you rush to judgment. #thinblueline."
Ward 3 Alderman Clint Moore started off the meeting by reading the request for resignation, which was approved 6-0 by the board.
"Petal has become a hometown destination to many, due to our excellent school district, safe way of life, and community support for one another," Moore said. "Recently, Mayor Hal Marx has taken to social media and repeatedly made comments that have isolated, enraged, and belittled individuals in a way that is unbecoming of our city.
"Over the past few days, the vast number of our constituents who have reached out to us showing their disapproval and disdain have made it obvious that we can no longer accept this reality. Based on Hal Marx's continued distasteful remarks, the board of aldermen feels that he is out of touch with the citizens and unfit to continue in his capacity as mayor."
Marx said he will not resign because he feels like he has done nothing to warrant a resignation.
"I was elected three times - two times I was re-elected - after people already knew my stance on a lot of issues," he said "I was re-elected twice after I was already vocal with my opinion on a lot of things.
"I was elected for a term that ends July 1, 2021, and I am going to serve until July 1, 2021."
Moore said because of Mississippi state law, the board has no authority to remove a mayor, nor can the citizens take part in a recall election.
"We as a board do promise, however, to take every action available to us to ensure that Hal Marx's future as a leader in the City of Petal is limited," Moore said.
In addition to the request for resignation, an item to reduce the salary of the mayor, along with another item to censure the mayor, was on the agenda. The board voted to censure Marx, but aldermen agreed to get an attorney general's opinion on the salary matter.
Several attendees at the meeting took the opportunity to demand Marx's resignation.
"I've never been so angry in my entire life," one resident told Marx. "I shake when I enter this building; you infuriate me. I had to work so hard to represent Mississippi as a whole at an Ivy League school. Do you know how much they look down on us?
"You are the type of people who make it so much harder for minorities to succeed. Your time is coming - your time is coming very soon. And it would be a lot easier for you now to just step down."
The incident in Minneapolis occurred May 25, when police were called to a report of a man attempting to allegedly use counterfeit money at a grocery store. When officers arrived on the scene, they said they found Floyd, who police said appeared to be intoxicated, in a car.
Police asked Floyd to get out of the car, at which point police said Floyd physically resisted officers before they were able to get him into handcuffs. Police noticed the man was going into "medical distress," and an ambulance transported him to a local health care facility, where he later died.
"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 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)."