GOP lawmaker compares vaccine mandates to slavery one day after colleague invokes 'I can’t breathe' in debate over masks

GOP lawmaker compares vaccine mandates to slavery one day after colleague invokes 'I can’t breathe' in debate over masks
Mural showing the portrait of George Floyd in Mauerpark in Berlin. To the left of the portrait the lettering "I can't Breathe" was added, on the right side the three hashtags #GeorgeFloyd, #Icantbreathe and #Sayhisname. The mural was completed by Eme Street Art on 29 May 2020.

One Republican lawmaker just compared vaccine requirements to slavery in the United States, arguing such mandates remove a person's "bodily autonomy."

"If you don't have bodily autonomy, if you don't own your own body and … are not free to make your own decisions on how to treat it, then you are a slave," Sen. Rob Sampson said last Tuesday as the Senate discussed the possibility of Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont (D) extending his executive powers to better control the spread of COVID across the state.

Sampson's remarks came just one day after Rep. Gale Mastrofrancesco (R-Wolcott, Mass.) faced criticism for invoking George Floyd's final words before he died at the hands of Minneapolis Police Department officers. The state congresswoman attempted to liken Floyd's words, "I can't breathe" to challenges and complaints related to mask-wearing.

"I remember … when the governor issued a statement about the tragic death of George Floyd and in that, he was on a video, he spoke and after the video ended, it scrolled and he had a shirt on that says 'I can't breathe,'" Mastrofrancesco said. "Our children can't breathe. They cannot breathe in school with these masks on."

Rep. Bobby Gibson (D-Bloomfield, Mass.), who also serves as the vice-chair of the Black and Puerto Rican Caucus, quickly fired back with a scathing critique of Mastrofrancesco's remarks. "I am appalled at Rep. Mastrofrancesco's cavalier example as it relates to one of the most racially motivated time periods in this nation's history when it comes to social justice issues," said Gibson. "As an educator, I take offense to her insensitivity and lack of understanding of the sufferings of people of color in this country."

Sen. Marilyn Moore (D-Bridgeport, Mass.) also said, "to compare a cop assaulting a Black man with a knee on the Black man's neck that killed him to kids wearing masks that could save their lives is disgusting."


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