On 21 August 2019, anti-vaccine radical Kenneth Austin Bennett assaulted Richard Pan, a California Senator and pediatrician, in Sacramento, California. Bennett, who was live-streaming the physical assault on Facebook (as do many people with violent intentions), was cited for assault by the Sacramento Police Department and released.
Dr. Pan seemed to be walking peacefully at the time, not engaging the abhorrent behavior by Bennett during the walk. Dr. Pan appeared to be taken by surprise by the assault since he has had many documented experiences with anti-vaccine crackpots over the years – here’s one where he is verbally assaulted by a woman who claims to be a physician (she’s not, another typical lie from the anti-vaxxers).
Lucky for everyone involved, Dr. Pan was unharmed.
Dr. Pan has been at the forefront of pro-vaccine legislation in California for the past 5 years. He was instrumental in passing SB277, which eliminated personal belief exemptions to vaccinations. SB277 has been instrumental in increasing the vaccination rate in school children in California, which will protect them from dangerous and deadly diseases.
He also has been driving a new law, SB276, which will attempt to reduce the abuse in medical exemptions to vaccines. This abuse has led to a slight downtick in the vaccine uptake in California, and the new legislation will make it more difficult for physicians to write (usually for cold hard cash) fake exemptions for anti-vaccine parents.
As a result, Dr. Pan has been subject to constant harassment, including vile racist memes, a political ad from anti-vaccine crackpot (and fellow Democrat) Robert F Kennedy Jr, and the usual list of logical fallacies and misinformation from the anti-vaccine religion.
When Bennett assaulted Richard Pan, it was just a culmination of the hate-filled rhetoric and violent actions of anti-vaxxers. This is why I have compared the anti-vaccine zealots with pro-gun nuts. They think that violence is their only choice.
Just read some of the more vile comments posted on Bennett’s Facebook page after posting his video (not sure why Facebook doesn’t take it down, but then again Facebook has shown no interest in stopping racism, neo-Nazism, or anything else).
To be fair, some of the comments condemned his actions, but they should have been much more pointed.
Richard Pan is a pediatrician and progressive legislator. His loves children and wants to protect them from diseases that he knows, using his scientific background, education, and experience, will cause grievous harm to the children of California.
I do worry about the violent, racist rhetoric of the anti-vaccine nut jobs. My friend Dorit Rubinstein Reiss was supposed to present at a forum at Loma Linda University in August 2019, but it was canceled because of fear of disruption by the anti-vaxxers.
Let’s be clear about something – Kenneth Austin Bennett assaulted Richard Pan because he had nothing else. He had no science supporting his beliefs. He had no logic. He had nothing, so violence was all he had.
On the other hand, you do not read about pro-vaccine, pro-science people assaulting anyone. You never rarely (if ever) read a comment from a pro-vaccine, pro-science person threatening violence. Because the science and the facts about vaccines are on our side, we don’t have to resort to lies, racist, or violence.
Then again, we don’t generally don’t employ the hateful and violent rhetoric of the right-wing, irrespective of vaccines and science. The fact that Bennett assaulted Richard Pan should be roundly and clearly condemned by every anti-vaxxer – yet all we hear is nothing.