California state Sen. Richard Pan was pushed in downtown Sacramento on Wednesday by a man who opposes his measure that would restrict medical exemptions for vaccinations.
Pan, a Sacramento Democrat, was walking to an event near the Capitol with an assembly member when Austin Bennett, an opponent to Pan's Senate Bill 276 and who ran against him in last year’s election, shoved the lawmaker in the back.
Bennett livestreamed the incident on social media. The video shows him following Pan on a sidewalk and asking questions at the lawmaker. After several minutes, Bennett shoves Pan in the back, then says, “Yeah, I pushed you.”
Pan points at Bennett, then walks away. Later, Bennett says into the camera, “I probably shouldn’t have done that” — then walks back over to Pan and continues to lob questions at him.
A spokesperson with the Sacramento Police Department says it was called to the scene just after noon, when Bennett was cited for misdemeanor assault, then released.
Senate President pro Tem Toni Atkins said while she understands there are disagreements over Pan's bill, there is "no reason for resorting to violence."
"It is shameful that someone would betray the trust we have placed in [the Legislative] process and physically attack Dr. Pan," Atkins (D-San Diego) said in a statement. "This is a place where laws are meant to be made, not broken. "
A spokesperson with Pan’s office said the senator was unhurt and that he chaired a Senate committee hearing following the incident.
SB 276 would give the state final say on some medical exemption forms. Supporters hope it will put an end to fake exemptions for kids that should be getting vaccinated.
Opponents have rallied against the bill at multiple hearings during this legislative session, including one where hundreds of parents packed the halls of the Capitol. Some parents feel the guidelines for medical exemptions are too narrow and that increased oversight violates the doctor/patient relationship.
Originally, the bill required state health officials to review all medical exemptions. Now the rules only apply to exemptions from doctors who grant more than five a year, or in schools with low immunization rates.