I’ve written a lot about the violent rhetoric of the antivaccine movement going back to 2015. I’ve also written about their techniques of protest, including bad cosplay and a fetish for V-style Guy Fawkes masks coupled with claims of being the “new civil rights movement” and victims, but up to and including violence. Few people have a lower opinion of antivaxxers than I do, but even I never expected this:
A breast cancer patient says she was sprayed with bear mace, physically assaulted, and verbally abused outside a cancer treatment center in West Hollywood, Los Angeles by far-right activists who were angry over the clinic’s mandatory mask policy.
Dozens of anti-maskers holding signs with anti-vaxx and QAnon-adjacent conspiracy theories amassed on the sidewalk by the Cedars-Sinai Breast Health Services building on Thursday afternoon, and harassed patients and doctors.
In one exchange captured by local videographer Vishal Singh, a woman who has since publicly identified herself as Kate Burns, a cancer patient, approached the protesters and told them to leave.
“I get treated here, get the fuck away,” Burns said.
One protester, who was filming the scene on his phone, asked her why she was so angry, as a man holding a cardboard sign saying “End the Censorship of Vaccine Risks” smirked.
Some of this encounter was captured on video and posted to Twitter:
This is trolling taken to a new despicable level that even I would have hesitated to predict. Cancer patients? Really? Protesting mask mandates at a cancer center? Do these people not know that there are women undergoing chemotherapy, women who are immunosuppressed, women who would be at a particularly high risk for death if they were to contract COVID-19? Sadly, they likely do know, but don’t care. I mean, the smirk! Just look at these antimaskers (and, given the signs, antivaxxers, but then the two go together):
Proud Boys, you’ll recall, is a group of neo-fascists. They are similar to Hitler’s Brownshirts in that they love to brawl in the streets. Their specialty is to provoke fights, respond with overwhelming violence up to and including deadly force, and then blame “Antifa” for having started the fight and claim that they were defending themselves. I’ve long discussed how antivaxxers have increasingly aligned themselves with the right. Indeed, during the protests in 2019 not long before the pandemic hit, they had already started to openly consort with right wing militia groups, last time with the California State Militia. If these were indeed Proud Boys, as alleged by more than one source, it is frightening to think that antivaxxers have now aligned themselves with this particular group.
Unsurprisingly, there are other connections:
Consistent with how Proud Boys and antivaxxers operate, they tried to blame the cancer patient, who was justifiably angry at them for their intrusion, for “overreacting” when she answered why she was getting so angry:
“Because I’ve just gone through fucking breast cancer,” Burns said. “And you motherfuckers are here.”
“That has nothing to do with you,” one man replied. “We’re trying to help.”
“You are protesting a breast cancer fucking center. It has everything to do with me and my community,” Burns said. “Do you know anything about chemotherapy? Do you know what happens to the immune system?”
Protesters then ask her if she’s familiar with the Civil Rights Act. “Get on the right side of history,” one man says. “You’ve got a lot of anger you need to release. It’s a very dangerous emotion.”
The smugness and unjustified self-righteousness seem designed to grate and incite more anger—no, not “seem.” They are.
It got bigger and worse:
They also harassed staff, including this physician:
And then, violence:
That bit about “recall Newsom”? That’s another “tell.” This was no organic, grassroots demonstration. It was pure astroturf, with an alignment between the political forces wanting to recall Gavin Newsom, antivaxxers, and, of course. QAnon. Similarly, the way that some of the protesters provoked brawls with “Antifa” gives away the game.
Here’s the event from another perspective:
In any event, this is the sort of people we are dealing with. This was not their first rodeo, so to speak:
However, I must admit to being puzzled why the far right would think that trolling and even attacking cancer patients would be a good PR strategy. On the other hand, I’ve seen so little news coverage of this event that maybe it doesn’t matter to them. There was a time not so long ago when a protest outside of a cancer center like this in which antivaxxers harassed patients undergoing treatment and the health care professionals treating them would have been national news. Yet I’ve seen almost no coverage of this incident. In the age of COVID-19, it’s become normalized.
Worse, there appears to have been another political component having to do with the shift to pandering to the right by L.A. County Sheriff Alex Villanueva, who was elected as as a reformer but of late has shifted to the right and running against the “woke left” and, apparently, their desire to “defund” or reform the police. Worse, he has refused to enforce mask mandates by the L.A. County Department of Public Health, leaving even cancer centers on their own when it comes to trying to protect their patients:
I’ve been warning about the increasingly violent rhetoric of the antivaccine movement since 2015. Then, during the pandemic, I warned about how unsurprising it was that antivaxxers had aligned themselves with the “antimask”/”anti-lockdown” movement, which has been part organic, but definitely fueled by astroturf efforts and dark money from the right, all to oppose not just vaccines, but any public health intervention that requires government control. The only surprise I have is that it’s taken so long to get to this point. What I fear is that it will now accelerate.
Here’s more on what happened that I found on Twitter:
I would love to see this fool identified and prosecuted.