Even by the last-minute, helter-skelter standards of the end of California’s legislative session, the past 24 hours were remarkable. It will go down in Capitol lore having culminated in the Senate’s emergency relocation, a woman’s arrest, and a senator’s morning-after visit to the doctor in accordance with “safety protocols for blood exposure.”
At around 5:15 p.m. Friday, an anti-vaccine protester chucked what appeared to be a small cup of blood onto the Senate floor, throwing an unexpected wrench—and what looked like a rubber menstrual cup—into the legislative process.
It was the last day for the state’s senators and members of the Assembly to pass laws, sending them to the governor. With many of the most controversial bills out of the way, many had expected it to be a quiet evening.
More than a few senators were splattered with the as-yet-unidentified red liquid, rumored to be menstrual fluid. Included among them was Sacramento Democratic Sen. Richard Pan, the presumed target of the attack — a pediatrician and author of a new state law to crack down on illegitimate vaccine exemptions.
The California Highway Patrol arrested Rebecca Dalelio, 43, from Boulder Creek near Santa Cruz.
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A livestream video of the incident and its aftermath depicted a woman being arrested. “Vaccines do cause injury and death and I’m doing this for the babies,” she said. “Their blood is on your hands, my blood is on the floor of the Senate.” A tweet by Democratic Sen. Steve Glazer of Orinda, since deleted, depicted what appeared to be a menstrual cup.
Legislators were (understandably) upset. The protests prompted a series of denunciations from both Democrats and Republicans. Despite the fact that Newsom signed Pan’s bill into law on Monday, a small contingent of protesters spent the week inhabiting the halls of the Capitol and occasionally disrupting hearings. But never quite so…viscerally.
While the evening had some signature policy developments—the Legislature passed a sweeping environmental regulatory bill, there was tense debate over the political influence of unions, proposals to cut down on plastic waste and extend last call at bars failed—what Assemblywoman Sydney Kamlager-Dove coined #MenstrualGate was undoubtedly the dramatic apex of the evening.
So CHP officers sealed off the chamber, a man in a protective suit cleaned up and senators recessed to eat dinner and, in a few cases, shower off. Senate-watching lobbyists and reporters clustered in the halls, impatient, stunned and full of questions: Who was this protestor? What was she hoping to accomplish? How does someone collect that much menstrual blood anyway?
An unexpected side benefit of the incident: It offered a crash course to many male Capitol watchers on 21st century menstrual products.
Throughout the evening and into the wee hours of the morning, lawmakers had plenty of time to kill, which some did with gusto — as when Sens. Bill Dodd of Napa and Maria Elena Durazo of Los Angeles burst into a chorus of “My Girl”:
The Senate takes a short break pic.twitter.com/muB8ZDyWwg— Ben Christopher (@FromBenC) September 14, 2019
After the Senate finally reconvened in a hearing room on the fourth floor, President Pro Tem Toni Atkins struck a note of resolve.
“A crime was committed today,” she told to senators who had broken from the assigned seating chart of the Senate and sat in clustered cliques across the committee room gallery, some of them shrouded in blankets to ward off the air-conditioned cold. “But the Senate will not be deterred from conducting the people’s business.”
And they weren’t. The Legislature wrapped up at around 3 a.m.
Today Glazer, who said he was one of eight senators caught in the cross-splatter, tweeted a picture of himself at a doctor’s office (evidently a bit of the fluid landed on his head). But he also expressed thanks that no one was hurt and that he and his colleagues had been able to accomplish so much.
“Still absorbing it all,” he said, in an unfortunate turn of phrase. “But as my hat says Relax!”