We know that the anti-abortion crowd can be very militant and resort to extreme violence, to the extent of murdering people who provide abortion services. But I notice that recently anti-vaxxers seem to be approaching and even exceeding that level of fervor, as can be seen when protestors temporarily shut down a covid-19 mass vaccination site that had been opened in the Dodgers Stadium in Los Angeles.
Richard Pan is a physician and a member of the California state legislature who has been harassed and even physically attacked because he is an outspoken advocate of vaccinations and introduced legislation that eliminated vaccine exemptions unless they were medically required. In an interview, he describes his experience with them.
I was outraged, certainly, that people had tried to block other people from getting access to vaccines. I think that event demonstrated a lie that anti-vaxxers often proclaim, that it’s about choice and freedom – yet here they were denying people their choice to get the vaccine and denying our community and our country the opportunity to be free from this terrible disease that has killed more people than world war two at this point.
Then you move ahead to 2019, when I introduced senate bill 276 (which required medical exemptions be approved by the California department of public health, and ultimately passed). They stepped it up. Not only do they show up in large numbers, which is fine, that’s their right to do so, but then they engaged in things like pounding on the walls, basically sounding like they’re trying to break into the legislative chambers during debate.
They would try to interfere with the legislature by standing on chairs and screaming, or screaming in the galleries not just when we’re discussing the vaccine bill, but overall, just trying to stop the legislature from doing its business. They invited a militia to come join them at the state capitol, so they demonstrated an open tie to other extremist groups, and the death threats continued. But then one of the anti-vaxxers actually assaulted me on the street and livestreamed it on Facebook.
And then after that yet another [anti-vaccine activist] threw blood on to the senate floor. Just to put that in the context, the California state legislature has been meeting in those legislative chambers for 150 years and those public galleries have been up there in that same building for that same amount of time. It was the first example I have found of someone intentionally throwing something from the public gallery at legislators while they were conducting the people’s business on the floor below.
One hundred fifty years: just think about all the different issues that came up in that chamber, everything ranging from abortion, gun control, civil rights. And that’s the group that does it, and the legislature had to go into recess and all the senators splattered with blood had to go get checked out and biohazard had to go deep clean the site.
They oppose masking, they oppose testing, they oppose physical distancing and avoiding gatherings. They have been out there opposing every effort to stop this disease. One of their leaders, Del Bigtree, actually had a video that was taken down, where he basically said, “If you die of Covid it’s your fault because you made bad health choices and didn’t eat right. This thing is as mild as a cold and we should spread it as much as possible.” This group is actively trying to get us sick. They’re also threatening the lives of those who are trying to stop that from happening.
Think about that. We have a pandemic that has killed more people than world war two and in less time. Yet we have a movement of people who not only want to spread the disease but have aligned with other extremist groups to actively stop people who are trying to stop this disease. And there are very few consequences for their actions.
There is truly some weird psychology at work here. Even if the anti-vaxxers think that covid-19 vaccines are dangerous, the people choosing to take it are adults. This issue should not have the emotive power of saying that they are trying to save the lives of the unborn who cannot choose, which is their claim when the try to shut down abortion clinics and harass the people who work there
There has to be some deeper underlying cause. I think that these people are really, really angry about some thing that they cannot articulate and may not even be aware of. We seem to be living in a time in the US when there is a significant number of people experiencing inchoate rage that seeks an outlet in some tangible form. Inspired by dangerous crackpots like Andrew Wakefield and Robert F; Kennedy, Jr., they have latched on to this issue as the one to take a stand on. If it had not been this, it would have been something else, possibly the usual standbys like abortion, guns, and gods. Being anti-vax has a novelty appeal that the other issues lack.