A Message from Dr. Richard Pan about Yesterday’s Violence

August 22, 2019

SACRAMENTO – The following is a message from Dr. Richard Pan, a pediatrician and state senator representing the Sacramento region, about the violent assault carried out by an anti-vaccine activist who was incited by years of violent rhetoric threatening imagery:

“I am grateful and moved by the outpouring of support I have received since the assault against me yesterday.  Thank you to the Pro Tem and minority leader and my fellow legislators for calling for civility and condemning this unprovoked physical assault.

Bullying, threats, and violence should not be acceptable in civil discourse and policy making.  Yesterday’s assault was incited by violent rhetoric and imagery employed by anti-vaccine extremists.  Anti-vaxxers have attempted to dehumanize me and other public health advocates on social media while making death threats.  When rallying here at the Capitol, they displayed posters and wore shirts with my face splattered with blood.  Vaxxed producer Del Bigtree, who promoted a doctored video of his attempt to harass me in the Capitol, told his followers, “I don't know what you were saving that gun for then. I don't know when you planned on using it….”

Mr. Bennett is not a lone actor, but a person who accepted the violent rhetoric of the anti-vax movement and acted upon it by assaulting me on a public street while live streaming the attack on Facebook.  Social media companies also need to accept responsibility for giving a platform for this violence and hate.  The perpetrator of the assault sought notoriety by posting his attack on social media, where it remains despite my requests that the video be taken down.  The video may even now be inciting a future assailant who seeks to up the ante with a weapon. 

I recognize that the coalition opposed to SB276 have condemned the assault, but they also must condemn and reject the violent rhetoric and imagery their followers employ that previously resulted in harassment and now in physical assault.

An honest, civil debate grounded in science and facts of the merits of legislation is always welcome.  Threats, lies and violence will be rejected.  No one should be assaulted for advancing public health.  I am thankful that so many people are openly standing with me to require civility and resist violence so we can keep the people of California safe and healthy.”