The head of the California Medical Board says members of an anti-vaccine group known to spread misinformation about COVID-19 treatments targeted her at her home and workplace in Walnut Creek on Monday.
Kristina Lawson, president of the state agency that licenses and disciplines medical doctors, first shared the “terrifying experience” on Twitter Wednesday.
“To start the day, the group parked their rental SUV near the end of my driveway, and then flew a drone over my house. They watched my daughter drive herself to school and watched me walk out of my house, get in my car, and take my two kids to school,” Lawson said in a tweet.
From there, she said the SUV followed her to work, and parked “head-to-head” with her car in a parking garage. That evening, when she left the office building and entered the parking garage, four men jumped out of the SUV with cameras and recording equipment and confronted her, wanting to interview her.
“I then realized that these four men had been surreptitiously stalking me,” she said in a statement.
Lawson, through a spokesman, told The Sacramento Bee that the men identified themselves as belonging to a group called America’s Frontline Doctors, a right-wing political organization known to oppose COVID-19 vaccines and offer unproven treatments for those infected with the virus.
Last month, the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus launched an investigation into the group for profiting off of questionable and unauthorized COVID-19 treatments such as hydroxychloroquine and ivermectin.
Lawson said she later learned, through law enforcement, that the group planned to produce a video about her that would include footage of her house and neighborhood.
She said she decided to go public about what happened to shed light on the “reprehensible, unacceptable tactics of intimidation.”
“As a former elected official, a current state Medical Board appointee, and the daughter of a physician, I believe deeply in a robust public dialogue about healthcare,” Lawson said in a statement. “But it is one thing to protest at the state building; this sort of terrifying behavior is just beyond the pale. As a mother, I felt deeply violated and scared for my kids in our own home – and I feared for my own personal safety as a woman being surrounded by strange men in a dark parking garage.”
Bill Prasifka, the board’s executive director, said in a statement that the California Highway Patrol, Walnut Creek Police Department, and the Department of Consumer Affairs have been notified about the incident. All board members and staff have also been informed about the incident and advised to remain vigilant to their surroundings, and provided security reminders.
“I stand in solidarity with Board President Kristina Lawson and condemn any attempt to intimidate Board members and staff or subjugate the Board’s mission of consumer protection,” Prasifka said in a statement.
State Sen. Dr. Richard Pan, D-Sacramento, called for an investigation into the incident. Pan himself, who has long advocated for stricter vaccine laws in California, has often been the target of anti-vaccine groups. In 2019 Pan was assaulted by such a protestor.
“This harassment is part of a pattern of intimidating people from doing their jobs and protecting the public,” Pan said. “Anti-vaccine extremists and others who peddle disinformation know they cannot succeed with facts and science, so they resort to personal attacks. This behavior is not only a threat to the public servants, but a danger to the enter public.”