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California Senate evacuated after vaccine bill protester throws red liquid onto lawmakers

Patrick McGreevy, Melody Gutierrez, Taryn Luna and Anita Chabria, Los Angeles Times on

Published in News & Features

SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- A woman was arrested Friday on charges including assault after dropping what authorities said appeared to be blood on members of the California Senate from her seat in the visitor gallery. The disturbance occurred as lawmakers were wrapping up their work before adjourning for the year, forcing them to evacuate the chamber to continue in a nearby committee hearing room.

The woman, who was identified by California Highway Patrol officials as Rebecca Dalelio, 43, was among dozens of protesters who were inside the state Capitol to oppose a pair of bills signed Monday by Gov. Gavin Newsom to impose new oversight of childhood vaccine exemptions. Public records show Dalelio is a resident of Boulder Creek near Santa Cruz, and a Facebook profile matching her photo and name contains multiple postings critical of vaccines, the last one made in March. A phone call to Dalelio seeming comment was not returned.

Authorities roped off the Senate chamber with caution tape Friday evening as CHP and Senate officers began an investigation. The CHP later said in a statement that the blood-like substance was contained in "a feminine hygiene device" held by the woman, who was arrested and booked on six charges including assault, vandalism and disorderly conduct.

"A crime was committed today, but the Senate will not be deterred from conducting the people's business," Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins, a Democrat, said as she stood at the front of the committee hearing room when the proceedings resumed in the new location.

Senators were asked to sit in audience seats inside the large committee hearing room, with members of the media moved to an upstairs balcony to view the final votes before adjournment. It was the first time the Senate has been forced to convene in a different room since a big-rig truck crashed into the statehouse in 2001, leaving portions of the 19th-century building damaged.

Tensions have been high at the Capitol over the last few weeks as legislators weighed the contentious legislation. Protesters have packed the hallways and disrupted hearings and floor sessions in the Legislature. A group of opponents of the bill have stood and chanted outside Newsom's office.

 

State Sen. Richard Pan, a Democrat who authored the legislation, was confronted last month by an anti-vaccine activist and shoved on the street near the Capitol.

The Senate allowed several protesters into the gallery on Friday, who held up signs including one that said "Medical Freedom." Other opponents of the bill sat silently in the balcony with fists raised in protest for more than an hour before the incident.

Shortly after 5 p.m., as the Senate was voting on a bill related to sexual harassment, a woman leaned over the balcony and dropped the liquid on unsuspecting senators standing below. Someone shouted, "This is for dead babies." Atkins called an immediate break for a caucus meeting, and senators headed to a conference room off the floor. Some left the Capitol and went back to their Sacramento homes to shower.

Senate Minority Leader Shannon Grove apologized to lawmakers as she stood next to Atkins as the session resumed in the committee hearing room. She said a suspect is in CHP custody and should be "prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law." Law enforcement officials did not immediately comment on the status of their investigation.

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