ORLANDO, Fla. — Florida Sen. Marco Rubio met with business owners Tuesday, who were impacted by the Pulse attack.
Rubio was met by protesters, chanting "No justice, no peace" as he approached the businesses.
Protesters said the candidate was taking advantage of a national tragedy.
But Rubio said he wants to help the business owners as they continue to struggle.
The protesters are accusing Rubio of terrorizing the LGBT community with his conservative policies, but Rubio fired back, saying he has done everything he can to support the people who were hurt or killed and their families.
Rubio visited the businesses owners on Orange Avenue that lost a piece of what they've tried to build over the years.
Rubio was at Foreign Accents Home Décor, asking business owners from the downtown south district what they need to get by.
"It's been a tough time for them, and we want to find assistance for them besides just loans from the bank, because that's debt," said Rubio.
Rubio also said he wants to make sure some of the $17 million crowd-sourced in the aftermath of the Pulse attack is set aside for businesses that lost money.
"Obviously, the priority would be getting funds to victims and people who have been hurt. That would certainly be the priority of the fund," he said.
Channel 9’s Field Sutton asked Rubio if he was willing to commit to legislation providing more options for businesses suffering after a disaster.
While Rubio said he would not, because he'd rather focus on lobbying those who control Pulse funds directly.
The owner of I-Ceto Innovative Electronics, Jon Toothman, said he appreciated Rubio’s visit and that the senator cared enough to come and hear about the problems.
"As far as my business? I mean it's, it's trying to normalize. We're still trying to normalize," Toothman said.
But the protesters accused the senator of pandering, by using South Orange Avenue as a campaign stop --instead of an opportunity to create reform that might prevent tragedies in the future.
One protester confronted Rubio about how the senator responded to the Pulse attack.
“What is your relationship with the NRA and why are you talking to transphobes and homophobes? All of you have blood on your hands and you are not acting,” said the protester.
“I disagree with your assessment. Homophobia means that you’re scared of people. I am not scared of people. Quite frankly, I respect all people,” Rubio said.
Watch the full video here:
Cox Media Group