Hal Marx, the mayor of Petal, Mississippi, is facing backlash due to comments he made regarding the death of George Floyd. Floyd’s death is currently being investigated following video footage released of a police officer kneeling on Floyd’s neck while Floyd said “I can’t breathe.”
Hattiesburg American reports that Marx wrote on Facebook, “If you are talking about the incident in MN, I didn’t see anything unreasonable. If you can say you can’t breathe, you’re breathing. Most likely that man died of overdose or heart attack. Video doesn’t show his resistance that got him in that position. Police being crucified.” The message was also shared on Twitter but has since been deleted. At the time this article was published, Marx’s Twitter account had been deactivated entirely.
Here’s what you need to know about Hal Marx:
1. The Petal Aldermen Called for Marx’s Resignation Following His Comments, but He Declined
I can't stress how big of a deal it is that SIX WHITE MALE ALDERMEN (the whole board) in a historic white flight town in Mississippi just called for their mayor to resign over racist comments about George Floyd.
— Ashton Pittman (@ashtonpittman) May 29, 2020
Following Marx’s comments about Floyd’s death, the Petal Board of Aldermen met Thursday night to discuss what Marx had said. In a statement, signed by all six members of the board, they said:
The comments made on Mayor Hal Marx’s personal Facebook page are not representative of all of our city leaders. We understand the frustrations his statements have caused. … We strive to love everyone and care for people from all walks of life and backgrounds here in the Friendly City
They also said Marx “is out of touch with the citizens and unfit to continue in his capacity as mayor.”
According to WLOX, the aldermen called for Marx’s resignation, but Marx declined the request and said that he would serve through his term as mayor, which ends on July 1, 2021.
During their meeting, the aldermen additionally tabled a motion to reduce Marx’s salary and adopt a new social media policy for the position.
2. Marx Is a Former Journalist & High School History Teacher
Before he was elected mayor of Petal, Mississippi in 2009, the City of Petal’s website indicates that Marx was a journalist for six years, writing for a daily newspaper based out of Laurel. For two of those six years, he worked as the paper’s managing editor.
He also had 11 years of experience as a social studies teacher for the Petal, Mississippi, high school, teaching from 1998 until 2009. He taught advanced placement American Government and Economics courses.
3. Marx Grew Up & Attended College in Mississippi
Hal Marx is part of the problem.
How can anyone in public service continue to hold office after remarks like these? pic.twitter.com/L9UCykiu5P
— MS Rising Coalition (@MississippiRise) May 27, 2020
Marx’s bio on the City of Petal’s website reveals that he graduated from the University of Southern Mississippi in 1991 with a bachelor’s degree in political science and minor in history. He received his Master of Education in 2002 at William Carey University, a private Christian college in Mississippi.
Marx’s parents, Harold and Barbara, are from Petal, where Marx currently works and resides with his wife and three sons.
On Friday, the day after Hal’s social media comments and refusal to resign as mayor of Petal, Mississippi, WDAM 7 reports that a crowd of over 100 people convened in front of Petal City Hall in protests of Marx’s comments about George Floyd. Many spoke during the 3-hour protest and called for Marx to resign from his position.
4. Marx Tweeted in Support of ‘#BackTheBlue’ Following Floyd’s Death
A Mississippi mayor is under fire after tweeting he “didn’t see anything unreasonable” in the video of George Floyd’s arrest, saying “if you can talk, you can breathe.” https://t.co/I8Wywo6nJw
— NBC News (@NBCNews) May 28, 2020
According to WLOX, before Marx directly addressed Floyd’s death on social media, he first tweeted, “Why in the world would anyone choose to become a #Police Officer in our society? #backtheblue #ThinBlueLine.”
Floyd, 46, was a well-liked security guard at a Minnesota bar, lovingly nicknamed “Big Floyd.” Video of his violent arrest sparked swift anger across social media and online as it circulated, and all four police officers involved were fired.
On May 27, President Donald Trump announced that he had the FBI investigating Floyd’s death. In a tweet, he wrote “At my request, the FBI and the Department of Justice are already well into an investigation as to the very sad and tragic death in Minnesota of George Floyd… I have asked for this investigation to be expedited and greatly appreciate all of the work done by local law enforcement. My heart goes out to George’s family and friends. Justice will be served!”
5. Marx Planned to Run for Governor of Mississippi in 2019 but Backed Out Due to His Wife’s Cancer Diagnosis
— Kathryn Rehner-Sullivan (@rehnerkj) May 27, 2020
In 2018, when Marx announced his plans to run for governor, Hattiesburg American reported that Marx said, “I think the governor’s office is really where I need to be as far as being able to accomplish what I would like to see accomplished for the state. I think my experience as an executive with the city lends itself to the governor’s office as chief executive of the state.”
In January 2019, WLBT reported that Marx announced in a tweet that he was dropping out of the race for governor due to his wife Mindy’s cancer diagnosis. In the tweet, he wrote, “As some of you may know, my lovely wife Mindy was recently diagnosed with cancer. After much prayer we have decided to end my campaign for governor. I ask that you all pray for Mindy and our family as she continues treatment. Thank you for all of your support.”