Gun rights advocates heckle Mike Bloomberg at Virginia campaign rally

2020 hopeful and former New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg was heckled this weekend by gun rights advocates in Virginia, where the billionaire’s donations helped Democrats flip the state legislature.

Protesters interrupted a Bloomberg rally in Richmond on Saturday with cries of “racist” and “fascist,” the Washington Examiner reported. Bloomberg has been criticized for supporting gun control efforts in Virginia, and he is also coming under increasing fire from progressives for defending the controversial stop-and-frisk policy in New York.

“Guns save lives”

Bloomberg made a late entry into the Democratic primary race in November and has avoided the early nominating contests in Iowa and New Hampshire, opting instead to focus on Super Tuesday and other, more delegate-rich contests in the spring. At campaign events in the Super Tuesday state of Virginia on Saturday, Bloomberg touted his role in helping Democrats in the commonwealth flip the state legislature and usher in gun control, one of his key campaign issues.

“In 2017, 2018, and 2019, we were fighting against the hate displayed in Charlottesville,” he said at a rally at a craft brewery. “Last year, in more than 25 years, all that work paid off, and Democrats took control of both chambers [of the Virginia state House].”

A group of gun rights supporters from the Virginia Citizens Defense League disrupted the event with chants of “guns save lives” before they were forced to leave. One man who shouted “racist” and “fascist” was drowned out by Bloomberg supporters who broke into chants of “Mike.”

Bloomberg has donated millions of dollars to Virginia Democrats through groups like Everytown for Gun Safety. The commonwealth has become the frontier in the battle for gun rights nationwide as Virginia Democrats, having won back the state legislature for the first time in 20 years with Bloomberg’s help, pursue ambitious gun restrictions.

Those efforts have met resistance from gun rights’ groups and angry citizens inside and outside the state, as well as some Democrats in the state Senate. A deeply controversial “assault weapons” ban was shot down Monday with the help of four Democrats in Virginia’s Senate, Fox News reported.

Bloomberg on the ballot?

Criticism of Bloomberg has come from the left as well. As former Vice President Joe Biden’s campaign falters, Bloomberg has been rising in the polls — he’s now third, according to RealClearPolitics — amid an advertising blitzkrieg that has prompted criticism that the self-funded billionaire wants to “buy” the election.

His past comments on New York City’s stop-and-frisk policy have also become fodder for Democratic rivals as well as Donald Trump and his allies, who used them to accuse Bloomberg of being a racist. The bipartisan criticism of Bloomberg was clear when a progressive activist at a gala hosted by Virginia Democrats on Saturday evening slapped a sign on the podium where Bloomberg was speaking that read: “He protects racist systems, will you?”

Critics of stop-and-frisk, which involved random stops of citizens suspected of carrying weapons, say that the policy is racist and unfairly targets black and Hispanic people. Bloomberg, who has been on an apology tour over his support of the policy as mayor of New York, again recanted his support in Virginia.

“I defended it for too long, I think, because I didn’t understand the unintended pain it caused to young black and brown kids and to their families,” Bloomberg said. “And for that, I have apologized.”

It’s uncertain if Bloomberg will appear at Wednesday’s debate in Nevada after the Democratic Party changed the rules to let the self-funded candidate participate. He is not on the ballot in Nevada ahead of Saturday’s caucuses.

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