Anti-vaccine activist shoves California lawmaker

National News
Richard Pan

FILE – In this May 22, 2019, file photo, State Sen. Richard Pan, D-Sacramento, calls on lawmakers to approve his measure to toughen the rules for vaccination exemptions in Sacramento, Calif. An anti-vaccine activist has been cited for assault after pushing Pan on a sidewalk near the Capitol. Kenneth Austin Bennett livestreamed the confrontation on his Facebook page. It shows him shoving Pan in the back after questioning him on vaccinations. The Sacramento Police Department say they cited Bennett on a misdemeanor assault charge then released him. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli, File)

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — An anti-vaccine activist was cited for misdemeanor assault Wednesday after shoving a California lawmaker who has worked to limit exemptions for childhood vaccinations.

Kenneth Austin Bennett, 54, livestreamed the confrontation on his Facebook, which shows him shoving state Sen. Richard Pan on the sidewalk near the Capitol. Bennett has unsuccessfully attempted to recall Pan and filed paperwork to run against him last year, though he never appeared on the ballot.

The video shows him running into Pan on the sidewalk and confronting Pan about his position on vaccines. Pan briefly engages Bennett while he continues to walk.

“Maybe you should study public health,” Pan says at one point.

The video then shows Bennett reaching out and shoving Pan in the back after Pan laughs, launching the lawmaker several feet forward.

“I pushed you,” Bennett says several times, before walking away and saying into the camera, “I probably shouldn’t have done that.” He then walks back toward Pan and continues speaking to him as Pan and several people he is with call the police.

“You are a liar and the assault that you’re committing on our children is so egregious,” Bennett says to Pan before leaving and continuing his video.

The Sacramento Police Department confirmed they cited and released Bennett for misdemeanor assault. Bennett later began another livestreaming Facebook video, where he continued to discuss his problems with vaccinations and Pan.

Pan, a Sacramento Democrat, has authored several bills that limit exemptions for child vaccinations that have made him a target of anti-vaccine activists online and at the Capitol, where hundreds have flocked to protest Pan’s efforts. He authored a bill several years ago that prohibits any vaccinations other than from a doctor, meaning religious or personal exemptions are not allowed.

Legislation he has authored this year aims at cracking down on doctors who are selling fraudulent medical exemptions.

Shannan Velayas, a spokewoman for Pan, did not respond to a request for comment about the incident.

Senate President pro Tem Toni Atkins, a Democrat, said there is “no reason for resorting to violence.”

“There is ample room to discuss differences of opinion within the Legislative process, which is transparent and open to the public, and it is shameful that someone would betray the trust we have placed in that process and physically attack Dr. Pan,” she said in a statement.

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