"This is Nevada," Sanders joked afterward. "There's always a little bit of excitement — at no extra cost"

By Sean Neumann
February 20, 2020 11:16 AM
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Well, Nevada is always exciting.

That’s what leading Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders joked on Sunday after a group of topless protesters briefly disrupted his campaign rally in Carson City to bash the dairy industry.

It began when a protester walked on stage and took the microphone from Sanders, 78, and began calling on the candidate to denounce the dairy industry, as two more protesters joined her on stage without shirts on and began pouring red liquid from milk cartons on themselves.

Sanders briefly tussled for the microphone before waving his hand and walking off stage while security escorted the women off the other side of the stage.

“Bernie, I’m your biggest supporter and I’m here to ask you to stop propping up the dairy industry and stop propping up animal agriculture,” Priya Sawhney, the protester who took the mic from Sanders, said before the microphone was cut off.

“This is Nevada,” Sanders joked with the crowd after he returned to the podium. “There’s always a little bit of excitement — at no extra cost.”

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders speaks at a campaign event in Carson City, Nevada on Sunday.
Rich Pedroncelli/AP/Shutterstock

Sawhney and the group of women who joined her on stage were members of the animal rights group Direct Action Everywhere.

The organization put out a news release later in the day saying the incident was in protest of “the dairy industry’s abuse of female bodies” and called on the Vermont senator to end his support of the industry, citing his friendship with Vermont-based ice cream company Ben & Jerry’s.

The company’s co-founder Ben Cohen is a national co-chair on Sanders’ 2020 presidential campaign.

“While Sanders has shifted to criticizing factory farming giants during the 2020 campaign, the dairy industry remains notably absent from his condemnation,” the organization said.

Direct Action Everywhere tells PEOPLE that three protesters were arrested for indecent exposure and were each released on a $2,500 bond. Though Sawhney, who was clothed, was not among those arrested, according to The Hill.

The topless women had the words “LET DAIRY DIE” written across their chests.

“Until our progressive leaders end their support for regressive and abusive industries like the dairy industry, protests are going to continue,” says Direct Action Everywhere spokesperson Cassie King.

Bernie Sanders in Nevada on Sunday.
Rich Pedroncelli/AP/Shutterstock

Protesters are a regular part of the campaign trail for the presidential hopefuls.

Last week, former Vice President Joe Biden‘s wife, Dr. Jill Biden, stepped in to help security escort a heckler from his campaign event in New Hampshire.

“I’m a good Philly girl,” she joked afterwards.

Sunday’s protest at Sanders’ rally came moments after the leading Democrat introduced his wife, Jane, 70.

With two presidential nominating contests already accounted for — in Iowa and New Hampshire — Sanders has surged out in front of the field of Democratic candidates running to face President Donald Trump in November’s election.

The party’s nominee will be decided at the Democratic National Convention in mid-July.