LA mayoral candidate calls police 'watchdog' of White supremacy amid surging crime, homelessness

BLM candidate Gina Viola, running for LA mayor, claims 'vote for Rick Caruso is a vote for White supremacy'

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A candidate running for mayor of Los Angeles described police and other law enforcement as the "watchdog" of White supremacy in a recent interview ahead of June's primary election. 

Gina Viola, an activist, self-described "abolitionist" and a member of "White People 4 Black Lives," registered at the last minute to run among a crowded pool of mayoral candidates in the June 7 primary, vying to replace Democratic Mayor Eric Garcetti, who cannot seek re-election due to term limits. 

Unlike the so-far front-runners on the ballot, Rick Caruso and Rep. Karen Bass, D-Calif., who have both advocated to add more police officers to the force to address rising crime in Los Angeles, the left-leaning Viola, with support from several Black Lives Matter leaders, is pledging to eliminate the Los Angeles Police Department over time and redirect the funding toward more social services. 

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L.A. mayoral candidate Gina Viola speaks on homelessness at KCRW studios on Friday, May 20, 2022, in Santa Monica, California.

L.A. mayoral candidate Gina Viola speaks on homelessness at KCRW studios on Friday, May 20, 2022, in Santa Monica, California. (Brian van der Brug/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

"I’m sorry, a vote for Rick Caruso is a vote for White supremacy," Viola told the Los Angeles Times in a recent interview published Monday. "White supremacy is codified into our legal system created to build White wealth, and law enforcement is its watchdog."

A spokesperson for Caruso, a billionaire former Republican who registered as a Democrat in the mayoral race and has been endorsed by Kim Kardashian in recent days, described Viola’s comments as "disturbing." 

Mayoral candidate Rick Caruso speaks during an interview in Los Angeles, Wednesday, May 18, 2022.

Mayoral candidate Rick Caruso speaks during an interview in Los Angeles, Wednesday, May 18, 2022. (Kyle Grillot/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Caruso, who spent $37.5 million of his own money on his campaign, promises to hire an additional 1,500 officers to the force and "clean up L.A." by getting many of the homeless off the streets.

Many voters in heavily Democratic Los Angeles are seething over rising crime and homelessness and that could prompt the city to take a turn to the political right for the first time in decades.

Rep. Karen Bass, a candidate for Los Angeles mayor, gathers with supporters at Angel's Point in Elysian Park on Friday, May 27, 2022.

Rep. Karen Bass, a candidate for Los Angeles mayor, gathers with supporters at Angel's Point in Elysian Park on Friday, May 27, 2022. (Jason Armond/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

At another time, the high-end mall and resort developer Caruso would seem an unlikely choice to potentially lead the nation’s second-most populous city, where Democratic socialist Bernie Sanders was the runaway winner in the 2020 Democratic presidential primary and a progressive City Hall has embraced so-called sanctuary city protections for illegal immigrants and "Green New Deal" climate policies. 

There are 12 names on the ballot for the primary election, though several candidates have dropped out, and the race is shaping up as a fight between Caruso, who sits on the board of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation, and Bass, who was on Joe Biden’s shortlist for vice president in 2020.

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If no candidate clears 50% – which is likely with a crowded ballot – the top two finishers advance to a November runoff. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report.