By Crescenzo Vellucci
Vanguard Sacramento Bureau
SACRAMENTO – Two militant anti-vaccination activists were in court here this week – and a third one is in the wings – facing felony and misdemeanor counts following loud, in-your-face, and violent protests last Fall over legislation that more severely limits opportunities for parents who oppose vaccination to exempt their children.
Thursday, Mike Mattingly, an activist from the Bay Area, traveled to Sacramento County Superior Court to face misdemeanor resisting arrest charges he incurred at a protest in the Capitol. His case has been continued to March 3, largely because the California Highway Patrol has not submitted surveillance video footage.
There have been dozens of arrests at the Capitol over the past few years – most recently the Poor People’s Campaign – and the District Attorney chose not to file, or not pursue charges, dismissing the charges. But anti-vaccination protests, which also broke out last month, are becoming a regular thing at the Capitol.
But facing much more serious charges than Mattingly is Rebecca Dalelio, who allegedly threw blood in September on Senators below her on the Senate floor as part of an anti-vaccination direct action – about a dozen lawmakers said they were hit by the red substance.
Appearing briefly this week, she learned she has to return Feb. 24 for arraignment on the felony vandalism and assault on public officials charges. In the meantime, the DA office sought and received a stayaway order for Dalelio from the State Capitol grounds. The DA office said it may seek a stayaway from the district offices of 10 lawmakers.
One of the lawmakers was Senator Richard Pan (D-Sacramento), target number one for those opposed to increasingly stringent laws requiring vaccinations for school-age children – Pan not only supports state laws making it more difficult for parents to get exemptions for their kids to avoid the vaccinations but he is the author of that legislation. And he makes appearances nationwide urging stiffer laws mandating vaccinations.
Pan did get a restraining order from Sacramento Superior Court against activist Kenneth Bennett, who is now barred from coming within a football length’s distance from the lawmaker, his Capitol and District offices, home and car.
And Bennett has more problems – he has a Jan. 30 court date after stalking Pan and another lawmaker when they were headed to a function in downtown Sacramento. He then used his cellphone to video them and is accused of shoving Pan. Bennett was arrested for battery.
Pan has said Bennett’s “unlawful violence…caused me to suffer substantial emotional distress as I am extremely fearful for my safety.”
Pan has told news media he welcomes visits by people with questions or concerns about any legislation, even vaccinations, but doesn’t support what he calls “violence.”
“If we make policy based on conspiracy theories, that’s not good for our country. That’s not good for society. Policy needs to be grounded in truth,” Pan said. “We need to be clear: bullying and intimidation of this kind is unacceptable.”
State Senator Jim Beall (D-Campbell) filed for an injunction months ago against Mattingly, but the activist successfully argued his free speech was more important than Beall’s fear. In the end, Judge Philip Stanger denied Beall’s request for an injunction.
Mattingly has said that he wasn’t surprised that he alone was charged for the September action, and that it was not a coincidence – maybe because he’s already had a “run-in” with the state senator, and won, in civil court.
Beall sought the restraining order against Mattingly back in September, claiming that the activist was “aggressive” and insisted on talking with him about the vaccination issue, as well as water fluoridation, at public events.
Beall said that he feared the speech of Mattingly, who also, in addition to questions for the lawmaker, displayed anti-vaccination brochures and an umbrella with slogans on it.
The state lawmaker cited a river clean-up and senior event as two examples of where Mattingly, who participated in the public events, asked Beall and staff questions.
“As a result of these incidents in which Mattingly has committed unlawful (acts), and because Mattingly has made several statements that he will continue to seek me out, I have suffered substantial emotional distress and I am extremely fearful for my safety,” said Beall in his court declaration.
In civil court, Mattingly said he “showed the collusion between police and Beall” and said he believed it “was harassment…simply because I was there…they said I was in his space, but there was a table between us at the river cleanup, and when I talked to him from the senate balcony, I couldn’t invade his personal space (Beall was below on the senate floor).”
“This was weakest thing I had ever heard of…that a sitting Senator would file a restraining order against a constituent because he doesn’t like the constituent’s political speech,” Mattingly said.