A protester was taken into custody at the California Statehouse in Sacramento on Friday evening after she allegedly threw a feminine hygiene device containing "what appeared to be blood" onto the floor of the state Senate from a public viewing area, splashing the liquid onto lawmakers working below.
The Senate chamber was evacuated and lawmakers finished their work in a committee room on the final day of the legislative session.
The woman, who was not identified, was detained on charges including assault, vandalism and disrupting "the orderly conduct of official business" at the Statehouse, the California Highway Patrol said in a news release.
The disruption occurred as a group of protesters — many holding signs promoting “Medical Freedom” -- were permitted into the Senate chambers to overlook state Senate proceedings from the upstairs balcony. They had been demonstrating against a recently signed state measure intended to crack down on fraudulent medical exemptions for vaccinations.
Around 5:15 p.m., a woman in the group leaned over the railing and hurled the unidentified red liquid onto the unsuspecting lawmakers. Someone reportedly called out: “That’s for the dead babies.”
The Senate called a quick recess and law enforcement evacuated the chambers. A video posted to social media shows a woman, who walked out of the gallery into the hallway, saying, “My menstrual blood is all over the Senate floor… a representation of the blood of the dead babies,” before she is then handcuffed.
State Sen. Scott Wiener, a Democrat, posted on Twitter after the ordeal.
“A few minutes ago, the anti-vaxxer stalkers – who’ve engaged in a harassment campaign all week – dropped a red substance onto the Senate floor from the elevated public gallery, dousing several of my colleagues,” Wiener wrote. “These anti-vaxxers are engaging in criminal behavior. They’ve now repeatedly assaulted senators and are engaging in harassing and intimidating behavior every single day, as we try to do the people’s work. They’re a cancer on the body politic and are attacking democracy.”
The incident comes after Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, signed controversial legislation into law this week that places restrictions on medical vaccine exemptions for children. State Sen. Richard Pan, a Democrat representing Sacramento, authored the bill. He was shoved by a protester last week outside the Capitol.
“This incident was incited by the violent rhetoric perpetuated by leaders of the antivaxx movement,” Pan said in a statement to FOX 40 Sacramento. “As their rhetoric escalates, their incidents of violence does as well. This is an attack on the democratic process and an assault on all Californians and it must be met with strong condemnation by everyone.”
Senate Bill 276 and SB 714 intend to increase oversight on California’s vaccine medical exemption system, according to the Sacramento Bee. Doctors in the state will be required to submit a form to the state Department of Public Health every time they issue a medical exemption. Public health officials will be alerted when doctors issue more than five exemptions a year and review each exemption case to evaluate if fraud is being committed. The system will also flag schools that fall below a 95 percent vaccination rate.
Supporters argue the new legislation would protect children who are too sick or young to be vaccinated from being exposed to preventable diseases while at school, according to the Bee. Those in opposition to the new law say vaccines are not universally safe and that the measure would infringe on the patient-doctor relationship.
Protesters camped outside the governor’s office this week as others in opposition to the legislation crowded hallways in Sacramento’s Capitol building and attempted to disrupt hearings and floor sessions, the Los Angeles Times reported. The group responsible for organizing the rally outside the Capitol denounced the woman’s behavior Friday.
“We strongly denounce this, it goes far beyond crossing a line,” Jonathan Lockwood, executive director of Conscience Coalition, told the Sacramento Bee.
Senate President Pro Tempore Toni Atkins said in a statement: “California’s legislative process, as well as our doors, should remain open to all who wish to observe or speak out on a variety of issues, but we cannot allow anyone to endanger others. The behavior that occurred in the Senate Chamber is unacceptable and has been dealt with by Capitol law enforcement. We will continue to do the people’s important business.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.