Several members of the anti-vaccine movement threatened California state lawmakers during a public hearing Thursday.
Three women showed up at a Capitol budget hearing and made not-so-veiled suggestions that they would use violence. They did not identify themselves.
"So keep threatening us. Keep taking our [expletive] away," one woman said. "Keep telling us we can’t do anything about it and see how much longer we’re just going to sit here and wait to give public comment. We didn’t buy guns for nothing."
Two women singled out Gov. Gavin Newsom and State Sen. Richard Pan (D-Sacramento) for recall from office. “Newsom is first,” one said, “and once he’s gone, Pan is next.”
Pan has been a frequent target of the so-called “anti-vaxxers,” including being assaulted a little over a year ago by an anti-vaccine activist. The statements also come a week after pro-Trump extremists attacked the U.S. Capitol, and the same day Gov. Gavin Newsom deployed 1,000 National Guard troops to protect the California state Capitol and other critical infrastructure.
Senate President pro Tem Toni Atkins, whose office oversees Senate security, said in a statement the comments about guns are being treated as threats. On Friday morning, the Senate gallery was closed to the public.
Pan spoke with CapRadio's Nicole Nixon about the incident and the current feeling in Sacramento.
This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.
On the women's statements at Thursday's hearing
We have a group of people who, because they can't win elections, because they don't believe in facts and science, are essentially resorting to violence to try to get their way. And that's unacceptable.
On what he'd like to see as someone who has been on the receiving end of physical attacks
Well, first of all, perhaps they should be taken into custody to be sure they don't harm anyone. And then, of course, investigated. There has to be a consequence. People have to realize there's a consequence. But at the same time, we also need to be sure we do something to stop the spread of these lies. We shouldn't be platforming or amplifying lies when people are pushing out conspiracy theories that incite violence. We need much swifter action so that they don't spread. And we have seen this happen. This is not something that just spontaneously happened — this is something that's been built up over years.
On social media companies attempting to crackdown and ban people following last week's attack on the U.S. Capitol
I appreciate that many of the social media companies have started to realize that what happens online leads to real life incidents.
I think they need to do even more to address bullying and harassment on social media, as well as threats and conspiracy theories, because they are creating real world damage to our democracy and our society. They are also leading to real world threats and even death in actual people. They need to take responsibility for that and act immediately.
On the current feeling at the state Capitol, and if he feels safe
No, I think the Capitol itself is safe. We have strong security in the Capitol. I think the question we have to ask ourselves is that when it comes to speech, we want to allow people to express whatever opinions they want to express, but when they actually engage in actual threats, we have to take them seriously. You should be able to express your opinion, explain why, but the threats to people's lives? That should not be considered acceptable.
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