Police say anti-vaccine activist assaulted author of California vaccine law

Police say anti-vaccine activist assaulted author of California vaccine law
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California police cited an anti-vaccine supporter for assault on Wednesday after he was filmed in a physical altercation with a Democratic state legislator who authored a bill to restrict vaccine exemptions, the Los Angeles Times reported

The man, Kenneth Austin Bennet, was depicted in a livestream video pushing state Sen. Richard Pan (D) near the state Capitol. Bennet posted the video to his Facebook page with the caption, “yes, I pushed Richard Pan for lying, laughing at us and for treason.”

The Sacramento Police Department told the Los Angeles Times that Bennet was cited for assault and released. Pan was not injured in the attack, authorities said.

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Bennett challenged Pan in a primary during the 2018 election but failed to make it onto the general election ballot. He filed a recall petition against Pan earlier this year and alleged that the lawmaker committed treason by authoring bills to increase vaccination rates in California, the paper reported. 

Pan’s spokesomwan, Shannan Velayas, told the Times that the senator is routinely targeted by anti-vaccine activists. 

“This is moving from a peculiar fringe curiosity to a violent extremist movement,” Velayas told the paper. “Unfortunately this is not a surprise when violent rhetoric is used. Assaulting a public official is the logical next outcome of violent ... language.”

The Times noted that Pan is carrying a bill that would place further restrictions on who is able to claim vaccine exemptions.

The Hill reported in July that vaccination opponents held signs showing blood on Pan's face after he sponsored the bill to limit exemptions based on personal or religious beliefs. 

"What's that supposed to mean? They threaten, they bully because they don't have science on their side," Pan, a practicing pediatrician, said. "They threaten me all the time. I'm fortunate. We do have security in the Capitol. The local police department, they're aware."

According to the paper, Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins (D) said the Legislature will assist in authorities' investigation.