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Monday, January 25, 2021

Antivaxxers and California Recall Efforts

 In The Politics of Autism, I analyze the discredited notion that vaccines cause autism. This bogus idea can hurt people by allowing diseases to spread  And among those diseases could be COVID-19.

Antivaxxers are sometimes violent, often abusive, and always wrong.

Anita Chabria and Paige St. John at LAT

Hardline activists from the anti-vaccination movement. Two leaders, Denise Aguilar and Tara Thornton with the Freedom Angels, organized and participated in numerous rallies at the state Capitol that promoted the recall effort. At these events, speakers denounced vaccines and health orders. The Proud Boys, who have been involved in protest violence, from street brawls in Sacramento to the incursion of the nation’s Capitol, are also often present. Aguilar has said they provided security.


 Heatlie said his organization cut ties with at least one of those early partners, the Freedom Angels, and is careful about connections to groups with far-right views such as science deniers. Yet, The Times found recall signature gatherers continue to frequent such events.


Strident language has become more common in the recall as the pandemic progresses, with the Freedom Angels one group turning up the temperature. The group first gained prominence in California opposing laws that require vaccinations for public school attendance, which they claim is an overreach of government authority. With the pandemic, two leaders of the Freedom Angels splintered off to join those opposed to COVID-19 closure and stay-at-home orders.

The splinter group also recently started an all-female militia, and advertises seminars on social media on how to target local health department officials, including staging nonviolent actions at officials’ private homes


Heatlie said he became concerned about the Freedom Angels in May, after an unruly Capitol rally in which 32 people, including Aguilar and Thornton, were detained by the California Highway Patrol. But despite his misgivings, Heatlie agreed to appear on a Freedom Angels webcast in June, on the day the Secretary of State’s office approved his petitions for circulation. And later in the month, Heatlie’s recall campaign called on supporters to attend a Freedom Angels rally at the Sacramento courthouse to support those who had been arrested during demonstrations.