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There is no bottom: Antivaxxers harass cancer patients

Antivaxxers/antimaskers harassed breast cancer patients outside of the Cedars-Sinai Breast Health Services building in Los Angeles. There is no bottom, and antivaxxers now appear to be aligning themselves with fascists.

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.

By Orac

Orac is the nom de blog of a humble surgeon/scientist who has an ego just big enough to delude himself that someone, somewhere might actually give a rodent's posterior about his copious verbal meanderings, but just barely small enough to admit to himself that few probably will. That surgeon is otherwise known as David Gorski.

That this particular surgeon has chosen his nom de blog based on a rather cranky and arrogant computer shaped like a clear box of blinking lights that he originally encountered when he became a fan of a 35 year old British SF television show whose special effects were renowned for their BBC/Doctor Who-style low budget look, but whose stories nonetheless resulted in some of the best, most innovative science fiction ever televised, should tell you nearly all that you need to know about Orac. (That, and the length of the preceding sentence.)

DISCLAIMER:: The various written meanderings here are the opinions of Orac and Orac alone, written on his own time. They should never be construed as representing the opinions of any other person or entity, especially Orac's cancer center, department of surgery, medical school, or university. Also note that Orac is nonpartisan; he is more than willing to criticize the statements of anyone, regardless of of political leanings, if that anyone advocates pseudoscience or quackery. Finally, medical commentary is not to be construed in any way as medical advice.

To contact Orac: [email protected]

53 replies on “There is no bottom: Antivaxxers harass cancer patients”

1) There are no swear words powerful enough to describe how I feel about this.
2) This proves it’s not about the masks, or vaccines, or medicine. If it was, these damnfools wouldn’t care if others were wearing masks or getting vaccinated. That they are targeting people wearing masks, and not just any people but vulnerable cancer patients, makes it clear it’s about them and their beliefs.

Complete agreement from me.

Anti-vaxxers were always selfish. They have now melded with another selfish group.

Yeah, I want to be shocked, but this is consistent with their views. Look at the antivaxxers who comment here. Even the ones with children they claim are “vaccine injured” are focused completely on how much their child’s issues make their lives suck. Never a thing about their kids — you know, the ones they claim to champion? Antivaxxers are all about themselves and don’t care about anyone else.

Absolutely. As the parent of two disabled children, I find their attitude dreadful.

Truly appalling.

There has certainly been a marriage between anti-vaxxers and the far right, witness RFK Jr’s consorting with neo-nazis in Berlin. This is not just a US phenomenon though. In Sydney today there was an anti-lockdown protest comprising anti-vaxxers, Qanon supporters, and even people holding placards calling to Drain the Swamp. Surprisingly, there was a lot of Biblical texts on banners as well.

Most ironically, this march will set back the end of Sydney’s lockdown for weeks. These selfish and deluded people have just punished everyone else. Not that they would care of course, because they only care about themselves.

I’m not sure that the Australian anti-vaxxers have tried using this sort of tactic, though.

Last Saturday, I needed to go to the Emergency Department at the main hospital here in Canberra. No protesters, and a couple of security at the doors making sure everyone did their COVID screening questionnaire and put on a mask (we were already wearing cloth masks, which they asked us to take off and use provided surgical masks).

I didn’t see anyone objecting, and most of the masks were even worn more-or-less correctly.

“Asian-Americans are the most socially naive group ever” has to be the lamest hate speech on record.

I am not surprised by any of this from these groups. ( Note the black and white signs- courtesy of V is for Vaccine / Joshua Coleman.)
If you look up ” airplane violence , you will uncover a treasure trove of incidents ( mostly in the past 6 months) of violence against airline employees and passengers concerning masks and other restrictions.

Anti-vaxxers/ alties/ righties agitate vulnerable audiences to believe ridiculous things about the government and experts in general which may lead entrenched followers to take action against these ‘monsters’ – including the FAA, TSA and airline companies. I listen to their BS through the usual websites/ outlets and understand how a steady diet ( alties rely upon loyal daily followers) of mis-information can replace past learning/ reason especially if it is emotionally charged and provokes the listeners’/ readers’ sense of outrage and injustice.
That’s what they provide- day after day- and it adds up. PLUS none of the leaders can be held directly responsible for their followers’ actions.

Last July, I flew because I had previous arrangements/ business and the service was better than ever – much less passengers, employees happy to see not-totally-empty flights BUT I will travel soon and don’t know what to expect although I take comfort in the fact that I’ll be flying between two liberal enclaves. Seriously, I’m starting to think that way.

Maybe – like Joshua Coleman, who targeted a community event in which Dr. Pan offered services to low income Sacramento residents, intimidated and harassed participants and volunteers – they want to make it clear why Dr. Pan’s new law requiring distance between pickets and medical facilities where Covid-19 vaccines are given is needed.

Maybe it should be amended to cover counter centers.

This is despicable.

Chris Preston – “Surprisingly, there was a lot of Biblical texts on banners as well.”

The extreme right-wing Christians are promoting Armaggeddon, when only the faithful will be taken up to Glory – The Rapture. So, I suppose they oppose all environmentalism, which has a (slim) chance of saving our species. Presumably vaccination is also “bad”, by helping humans to survive.

Cath, I am aware that the evangelical right in the US has merged with the racist far right, but I live in Australia where things are a bit different and the evangelical right has no real public following. So it was a bit of a surprise to me to see them so well represented in this protest.

We do manage to import the worst of US culture from time to time. It is not like we don’t have enough home-grown nutbaggers.

“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. ”

But then BLM and antifa started burning cities down and nobody cares about any protests anymore.

Yep. Your keen, incisive perceptions have hit the nail on the head, as you do so often with scientific matters, too.. Just look at what those two groups did a hundred years ago in Tulsa/Greenwood.


Of course you’d engage in whataboutism. Didn’t you learn that two wrongs don’t make a right? Stop being a child.

Since BLM is made up of communists and grifters who do nothing to help African Americans I think its appropriate.

‘Since BLM is made up of communists and grifters who do nothing to help African Americans I think its appropriate.’

Exactly, except it isn’t true at all. it’s very easy to guess why scum like you don’t like groups that actually do try to help people — in your eyes BLM is trying to help ‘the wrong kind of people.”

You’ve shown just what a disgusting individual you are many times — this is only the latest.

Disgusting antisemitism from the woman harassing the Jewish family with the two children wearing yarmulkes.

But she is probably an equal opportunity bigot. Yarmulkes, hijabs, Sikh turbans…. She probably would make an exception for a cross and not even realize the inconstancy.

Not a fan of violence against anyone — especially those who are just walking across the street looking to get somewhere better (and obviously better health).
I’m seeing protesters not hardly near 25 years old (here) — same with counter protesters. My sense is they are getting paid with no grass root motivation. Perhaps they really are that ignorant to believe they should protest against cancer patients. It’s a losing position so might need violence to push. Maybe not — perhaps there is a real position I’m missing that cancer patients wearing masks are putting risk against us all. IMHO this ORAC commentary is not worth more than a link or two highlighting the absurd positions of anti-government ‘protest’ and the twitter dufus vids.

Exposure IMHO doesn’t require busted teeth or pride. Not sure why this happened or whether it has much relevance. Of course, it is vile and absurd but that is the point — provocation. To be successful it requires an audience that doesn’t catch on to the catalyst. Would be happy to see the protest against cancer patients be reported/identified as an event. I’d sponsor folks simply to be on hand and take photos and report. This was 10 people with no importance and now they have some film against their protest to conflate goofy ideas and censure. IMHO, exposure without violence (photography), good writing about the field/history makes better courtly arguments.

I understand this blog post, but not sure it is good expression for really dedicated, non-violent, and educated professionals.

This was an interesting post to read, and with the comments.

My advice is simply to photograph and comment. I don’t know how to reach out to the local community who have cancer that they not engage with the trolls to give them any feed.

Perhaps they really are that ignorant to believe they should protest against cancer patients.

I truly have no idea how this dozen of idiots decided this was the place to protest.

There is an overlap between antivaxers and anti-chemo/anti-radiation people – it’s all nefarious plots by Big Pharma to keep us ill. Mike the Health deranger will usually castigate both in the same breath in his rants.
So, as a wild guess, maybe the cancer clinic was chosen by people like that.
But aside from that, I got nothing.

@ Athaic:

You’re right about that:
There’s great overlap between anti-vax and anti-SBM which can be boiled down ( as if preparing an herbal infusion) to belief in the power of Nature to heal/ prevent all illness. Why use poisonous chemotherapy when cancer can be cured by a vegan diet and the right ‘plant-based’ supplements? Why vaccinate when “natural immunity’ is better?

One of the loons I survey starts most of his broadcasts** with ” peer review science” ( sic) that details how meds are dangerous and natural plant-based foods/ herbs/ bio-chemicals / supplements/ exercise “cure” and “heal” just about everything. Similar at other fever swamps of irrationality like NN, GMI, Del’s, RFKjr’s and Mercola’s sites. Most of these charlatans HAVE to recommend these substances because they aren’t able to prescribe meds ( Mercola is a doctor but doesn’t practise any longer – it’s easier/ more lucrative to just sell stuff on the internet and rant )

As the anti-vax movement evolved over the years, they blamed SBM/ vaccines for autism and pulled away from belief in SB treatment including anti-biotics, meds and reasonable solutions in general and many aligned, usually internet based industries developed such as home birth advice, plant based therapy and cuisine, psychotherapy, lifestyle advice, religious musings, fashion/ beauty and politically based sites offering memberships, “charities”, “information” and products. Most of these projects make money or else they don’t last.- easy to find how much they earn if you seek out corporate information sites/ individuals’ net worth .

** cognitive psych teaches that what you learn first influences what you learn later and is very powerful as is CONSTANT repetition of themes.

Shiva Bagheri punched Ms Burns in her surgery scar. Even Yiddish doesn’t have a curse bad enough for that malignant nematode.

There’s a front page feature in the Sunday N.Y. Times about Mr. Vaccine Disinformation, Joe Mercola (excuse me, Dr. Mercola).

The focus was his large following on social media and ability to generate viral memes. A couple of former Mercola employees, names withheld supposedly due to company confidentiality agreements, said a typical tactic was to post multiple different versions of the same story and see which got the most traction.

Not a whole lot of new information in the article, which mentioned Unca Joe’s $100 million worth and his high ranking on the Center for Countering Digital Hate’s Disinformation Dozen. Mildly amusing was Erin Elizabeth, Mercola’s main squeeze, expressing shock that she made the list.

Sorry, that article title over that photo made me laugh inappropriately considering the seriously horrible nature of the article content.

In other news…

Just in… woo-meister supreme, Gary Null, will leave WBAI, Pacifica, after a decades long dispute: no word about if he or the station initiated this state of affairs BUT a few weeks ago, he mentioned that there would be changes at the station based on the national board.

@ Narad:

He’s still on. You know, this may be merely another ploy to get his die hard stans so perturbed that they complain to the station so that he doesn’t get tossed or gets more control – he’s talking about his plans to “solve problems” there now BUT
there is great financial trouble and the NYC station could be sold very easily.

I’m hoping that his non-stop mis-information campaign will get him thrown out.

Since we live in a world where antivaxxers like Christine Kincaid and her ilk laugh with joy when they hear about children dying in agony, it’s not surprising that the equally evil anti-medicine brigade delight in causing pain to cancer victims.

Cancer isn’t REAL!!!! ……. It’s a Fake Disease! It’s all a plot by big PHARMA and the democratically elected liberal DICTATORship to make us forget their made up CHINA virus garbage!!! And giant space LiZaRdS! Don’t forget Those!!! …….. If cancer was real – BUT IT ISNT!! – it can be cured by binge watching FOX news until your eyes bleed. CURED!!! ….. And itz Cheaper than bleach.

Cancer isn’t REAL!!!! ……. It’s a Fake Disease!

So is COVID-19, according to Cedars-Sinai protester asshole Asefeh Shirafkan (@Asefeh_Broker); the patient that Shiva punched also didn’t have “cancer.”

I’m now going to have a Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA to try to clean my palate.

RE: your last comment…I found a 120 min looking lonely on a shelf the other day. I’m hoping this batch isn’t syrupy.

And these people are complaining about Big Pharma, while with this tactics helping them to sell more vaccins and making a bigger profit.

On the other hand, people in poorer countries, who can’t get vaccins, while they want and need them, have to wait even longer.

It sounds like these anti-vaxxers aren’t at all the freedom-fighters they pretent to be, but just people who like to see as many people get ill as possible, because they don’t think they might become a victim of the disease themselves.

Despicable people.

[It’s about booking for a vaccine without the intention to show up]

There’s a certain amount of flexibility. I got my AstraZeneca shot a little before my age cohort was opened for vaccination. I got a call from one of the nurses at my GP clinic to tell me that if I could get there within an hour, they’d have a vaccine ready for me.

I assume they’d had a (probably unavoidable) no-show and wanted to use the last shot(s) in an already-used vial.

There aren’t words adequate to describe promoting vaccine wastage like this.

Stay classy, Lake of the Ozarks:

One woman, Brittany Hanlon, who wears a mask while battling cancer, said she was heckled for doing so while walking through a Wal-Mart. “Take off your mask!” two women shouted at her as she tried shopping. The women told her, “that the mask was making them uncomfortable,” Hanlon recalled, “which I don’t understand. It’s not like I was doing anything mean or inappropriate, I just had a plain black mask on.”

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