There is civil protest and then there is terrorism. One is the bedrock of our nation. The other is a sign of the times.
An anti-vaccination activist tossed red liquid in a menstrual cup onto the Senate floor of Sacramento’s Capitol late Friday, performing an act, not of protest, but of bloody terrorism. This was not about persuading. It was about lashing out, frightening, intimidating.
The California Highway Patrol’s news release Friday evening said “a demonstrator in the Senate Gallery stood up and threw a feminine hygiene device containing what appeared to be blood, onto the Senate floor.”
She shouted, “That’s for the dead babies.”
What the substance actually was doesn’t matter. The act and purpose were intended to make us recoil.
A strength of our nation morphed into a weakness. Constitutional dissent became something darker, something beyond reason, something that we must reject.
The thing is: The vaccination debate is over.
Gov. Gavin Newsom signed SB 276 and SB 714. As The Bee’s Hannah Wiley reported, the laws: “Will increase oversight of the vaccine medical exemption system in California by requiring doctors to submit a standard form to be submitted to the state Department of Public Health. If they issue more than five exemptions in a year, public health officials will have the authority to review the passes. Schools that fall below a 95 percent vaccination rate will also trigger a red flag.”
Newsom and the legislature had compelling reasons to act. Measles outbreaks are spiking in California. They recognized the public health interest in protecting children and babies from other children and babies whose parents reject science by refusing to have their children immunized.
Here is where I could take pot shots at deniers of scientific studies who reject links between vaccinations and autism. But I won’t. This has moved 10,000 miles beyond that phase.
This is dangerous now. This is the climate where some, such as state Sen. Richard Pan of Sacramento, have reason to be concerned for their safety. Pan has already been shoved by anti-vaxxer for his righteous advocacy for science and vaccinations and protection from disease.
This latest attack says leaders like Pan will spend the foreseeable future looking over their shoulders.
“What started as opposition to a bill has turned into cult-like behavior,” said Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, D-San Diego. “Peaceful, civil disobedience is one thing. This, however, is completely unacceptable.”
Officials charged Rebecca Dalelio, 43, with felony vandalism and other counts related to preventing the government from doing its job. But she allegedly did more than that. If she threw the cup, she threw us into a political arena of civil servants deliberating in wariness.
Pan has shown courage and should be lauded for dedicating his political career to health and facts. Instead, Friday’s latest demonstration only enforces a horrendous idea: That Pan and everyone else who oppose anti-vaxxers need to be wary no matter where they go.
This can’t be who we are in California. This can’t be acceptable. We can’t simply watch from the sidelines as shrill people demonstrate that they will do anything to further their beliefs even though their beliefs got a fair hearing in our political process.
The issue was debated in both houses of the Capitol, they deliberated, they amended. And then both houses of officials elected by the people rendered their judgment. The governor put his signature on legislation. And that’s that.
That’s democracy in California. But these folks won’t accept that. And by Friday night, the splattering of what officials confirmed was blood in the Capitol, a repugnant act, by someone trying in vain to trump our democratic process, but also marking an ominous moment in our democracy.
“Many of our public servants are afraid to go to work as a direct result of behavior that escalates toward harassment, abuse and violence,” said Samantha Corbin, CEO of Corbin & Kaiser – a government affairs consultancy. On Twitter, Corbin was even more direct: “White privilege is throwing your menstrual blood on a room of Senators in session and not being drug out in a bloody heap or handcuffs.”
Well, now that you mention it, there is that. The anti-vaccination crowd appears largely white. Their sense of entitlement is vehement, irrational. They can’t get their way through threats and intimidation. So they push Pan. Or frighten and disrupt by forcing evacuation of the red-stained chambers.
Elected officials are taking note.
“Counties are on the front lines keeping communicable diseases in check,” said Phil Serna, a Sacramento County Supervisor.
“When I witness the kind of dangerous and extreme measures some have embraced, it just strengthens my resolve to speak out and let my constituents know it presents a direct threat to public health.”
It should strengthen our collective resolve. This type of intimidation can’t be allowed to flourish.
What we saw in Sacramento on Friday wasn’t free speech. It was terrorism.