California Senator Richard Pan, a Democrat, was assaulted by anti-vaccine activist Kenneth Austin Bennett in a video that the activist streamed live on Facebook, per a report from The Washington Post.
According to The Washington Post report, Pan has been a longtime target of anti-vaccine activists as he has on multiple occasions sponsored legislation in the state that would limit exceptions for people who do not want to vaccinate their children.
Bennett, who had already been broadcasting live on Facebook as he strolled down streets in Sacramento, California, seemed to accidentally encounter Pan, and asked his followers what the chances were of running into his political foe.
Pan, who, in addition to being a state lawmaker, is a pediatrician, has recently helped lead the movement to further limit the rights of anti-vaccine advocates. Following an outbreak of the measles at California’s Disneyland in 2015, the pediatrician sponsored legislation to prevent parents of school-aged children to refuse vaccinations.
According to The Washington Post, this year Pan sponsored legislation that would give public health officials more control in allowing parents to declare medical exemptions against vaccinating their children. Pan has seen online criticism due to his support of these types of bills, and has even received death threats, according to The Washington Post report.
The 54-year-old man who allegedly assaulted Pan had previously unsuccessfully attempted to unseat him from the California state legislature on several occasions, including a Democratic primary challenge in 2018 and a later attempt to recall the senator by filing a petition, per The Washington Post.
“I don’t regret pushing him,” Bennett said three hours after he was charged with misdemeanor assault and released, local NBC News affiliate KCRA reported.
Bennett’s statement seemingly contradicts what he told his followers on Facebook Live after his broadcast of the altercation. In the heat of the moment, he seemed to admit that he probably shouldn’t have shoved Pan.
Anti-vaccine activist cited for assault after he livestreamed physical confrontation with state Sen. Richard Pan, author of legislation to restrict vaccine exemptions https://t.co/F7KcZIyt2c— KTLA (@KTLA) August 21, 2019
Bennett implied that his action would help the anti-vaccine movement in the long run, per KCRA.
“I think that sometimes extreme situations require action that’s going to help bring awareness,” the anti-vaxxer said.
Pan said that he would not be speaking publicly about the altercation, though his office did release a statement, per KCRA.
“This is moving from a peculiar fringe curiosity to a violent extremist movement,” the statement said. “It should come as no surprise that violence is the outcome of the inciting and violent rhetoric that anti-vaxxers have used for years.”
According to KCRA, other anti-vaccine activists said they disagreed with Bennett’s actions against Pan.