Aug. 22 Update: State Sen. Richard Pan, D-Sacramento, on Aug. 21 was confronted and shoved by an anti-vaccine activist near the state Capitol. The assailant recorded the incident on his cellphone camera and later posted the video on social media that day.
The man who shoved him was identified as 54-year-old Kenneth Austin Bennett, who challenged Pan as a write-in candidate in the 2018 Senate primary election, and joined in a recall effort against the senator earlier this year.
Bennett was cited and released by the Sacramento police for the offense.
Pan, a pediatrician who represents Elk Grove in the Senate, co-authored the controversial Senate Bill 277, which ultimately made vaccines mandatory for most California schoolchildren. Gov. Jerry Brown signed that bill into law in 2015.
Sacramento police spokesperson Alexis Grove told the Citizen that Bennett approached Pan around noon on the 800 block of L Street, where he ultimately pushed him from behind.
“(Bennett) shoved Senator Pan in the back,” she said. “From that point, he was cited and released.”
Grove added that Bennett was charged with assault and has been issued a date to appear in the Sacramento Superior Court.
Bennett presented the entire incident on a live steam recording that he posted on Facebook.
Although Bennett’s interaction with Pan is only a brief part of the video, the video is slightly more than 14 minutes in length.
The video begins with Bennett presenting his views on a variety of topics.
In explaining his anti-vaccination cause, Bennett describes vaccines as containing poisons.
“You’ve got to understand that vaccines absolutely include poisons,” he said. “You can look at my profile page. There is no question that the truth is being misrepresented and that Senator Pan, he just has absolutely no conscious.”
While walking along a sidewalk on L Street, Bennett approached Pan and Assembly Member Ash Kalra, D-San Jose, who were walking toward him on the same sidewalk.
While engaging with Pan in a conversation regarding mercury and water, Pan began to laugh, at which time Bennett pushed him in the back.
Pan turned around quickly and shortly after the assault began calling the police on his cellphone, before entering Frank Fat’s restaurant with Kalra.
While still recording himself, Bennett called Pan a liar, but said that he probably should not have pushed Pan.
“Probably not the wisest thing to do, but you know,” he said.
Bennett also accused Pan of treason in his video speech.
“If he got what he deserved, he would be hanged for treason, for assaulting children, for misrepresenting the truth,” he said.
Accompanying the video are Bennett’s typed words: “Yes, I pushed Richard Pan for lying, laughing at us and for treason.”
Bennett also used the video to promote his recall effort.
On the following day, Pan issued a press statement on the incident.
“Bullying, threats, and violence should not be acceptable in civil discourse and policy making,” he wrote. “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.”
Pan also wrote that his request to have the Facebook video of the assault removed was ignored, and that he fears that the video’s continued presence online could result in a worse attack.
“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,” he wrote. “The video may even now be inciting a future assailant who seeks to up the ante with a weapon.”