Taking aim at former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg's long record of attacks on vulnerable communities, progressive groups including the Working Families Party and the Center for Popular Democracy are launching a campaign to demand that Democratic leaders and voters reject the billionaire businessman's presidential run.
The groups plan to march to Bloomberg's Upper East Side home on Saturday evening as they begin their #NeverBloomberg campaign, where they expect to call out the most damaging aspects of the former mayor's legacy.
"He designed the city we're living in today. He designed the homelessness crisis that we're living with today."
—Paulette Soltani, Vocal New York Action Fund
Organizers say prominent Democrats should take into account the former mayor's policing and surveillance policies and the widening wealth gap he oversaw while leading New York for 11 years, as they consider endorsing him.
"They took away resources from the most vulnerable people in the city, and punished them, terrorized them," said Paulette Soltani of the Vocal New York Action Fund, which is also joining the campaign.
Bloomberg, who was a registered Republican until 2018, only recently apologized for his expansion of the NYPD's "stop-and-frisk" policy, under which Latino and black young men were disproportionately harassed by police, and which he defended in 2015 by falsely claiming the program helped cut down on crime. The program was ruled unconstitutional in 2013.
The former mayor also oversaw surveillance programs in mosques throughout the city, which he defended just this week by saying mosques were "a natural place to go" to root out terrorism threats after the September 11 attacks.
The former mayor's affordable housing program for the city, instituted in 2005, "fundamentally failed," according to the Association for Neighborhood & Housing Development, with most so-called "affordable" units he developed costing more than median incomes. Homelessness also increased in the city as the mayor ended priority access to public housing for homeless people and pushed other "self-reliance" initiatives.
"He designed the city we're living in today," Soltani said in a statement. "He designed the homelessness crisis that we're living with today."
Progressives in New York expressed alarm over Bloomberg endorsements from some top Democratic leaders in the state, including Queens Democratic Party chair Rep. Gregory Meeks, state Assembly Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes, and Rep. Nita Lowey.
"They should really be ashamed. I'm embarrassed for them," New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams said during a recent press conference of African-American leaders who have endorsed Bloomberg considering his history of overseeing attacks on black New Yorkers' civil rights.
Williams was among nearly 100 people of color in New York who signed a letter this week urging voters to support candidates other than Bloomberg in the Democratic presidential primary—and arguing that the former mayor exemplifies anti-democratic values.
"New Yorkers of color want voters everywhere to see the Bloomberg THEY know before heading to the polls," tweeted the Working Families Party about the letter.
.@MikeBloomberg has tried to rewrite his horrific record with half a billion dollars in ads. But New Yorkers of color want voters everywhere to see the Bloomberg THEY know before heading to the polls. Read the open letter & sign on: https://t.co/EpJLAQCftQ #NYCAgainstBloomberg
— Working Families Party (@WorkingFamilies) February 25, 2020
"Since his mayoralty, Bloomberg has continued to use his wealth to attack working and middle-class people," the letter reads. "He has made clear that he does not support a minimum wage; used transphobic language to describe trans people; and he continues to be plagued by allegations of sexist remarks and sexual misconduct at Bloomberg LP, a company that he ran and currently owns. Bloomberg has spent millions of his own money to influence elections around the country inorder to promote school privatization, high stakes testing, and teacher bashing."
Bloomberg, whose net worth is more than $60 billion, is spending an unprecedented amount of his own money on his presidential campaign, buying more than $450 million in advertisements so far.
In New York, the former mayor is currently polling four points behind Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) according to Siena College's latest survey. New Yorkers will vote in the Democratic primary on April 28.