Dozens of anti-maskers holding signs with anti-vaxx and QAnon-adjacent conspiracy theories amassed on the sidewalk by the Cedars-Sinai Breast Health Services building on Thursday afternoon, and harassed patients and doctors. (Photo by Nick Stern)
Want the best of VICE News straight to your inbox? Sign up here.A breast cancer patient says she was sprayed with bear mace, physically assaulted, and verbally abused outside a cancer treatment center in West Hollywood, Los Angeles by far-right activists who were angry over the clinic’s mandatory mask policy.
Dozens of anti-maskers holding signs with anti-vaxx and QAnon-adjacent conspiracy theories amassed on the sidewalk by the Cedars-Sinai Breast Health Services building on Thursday afternoon, and harassed patients and doctors. In one exchange captured by local videographer Vishal Singh, a woman who has since publicly identified herself as Kate Burns, a cancer patient, approached the protesters and told them to leave. “I get treated here, get the fuck away,” Burns said. One protester, who was filming the scene on his phone, asked her why she was so angry, as a man holding a cardboard sign saying “End the Censorship of Vaccine Risks” smirked. “Because I’ve just gone through fucking breast cancer,” Burns said. “And you motherfuckers are here.” “That has nothing to do with you,” one man replied. “We’re trying to help.” “You are protesting a breast cancer fucking center. It has everything to do with me and my community,” Burns said. “Do you know anything about chemotherapy? Do you know what happens to the immune system?”
Protesters then ask her if she’s familiar with the Civil Rights Act. “Get on the right side of history,” one man says. “You’ve got a lot of anger you need to release. It’s a very dangerous emotion.” Tensions continued to rise as more far-right, anti-maskers arrived on the scene. A small group of anti-fascists also arrived, and got into altercations with the far-right. A woman holding a megaphone shoved Burns, and then punched her several times. Burns said, on social media, that the woman hit her in the chest and struck her scars.
Thursday was the second time that anti-maskers had targeted that particular breast cancer clinic over its mask policy. The ugly scenes and casual political violence that unfolded there on both occasions have become troublingly common across the U.S. California in particular has emerged as a hotspot for that type of activity. Just last weekend, Proud Boy associates joined far-right conspiracy theorists outside Wi Spa in LA’s Korea Town, as part of an ongoing protest against the spa’s nondiscrimination policy of accommodating the needs of transgender guests. Reporters at the scene of the spa were assaulted, dozens were arrested, and police later located weapons scattered across the site including knives, pepper spray and stun guns. A protest at the same location earlier this month resulted in two stabbings. The Cedars-Sinai Medical Center did not immediately respond to VICE News’ inquiry about how they plan to expand their security protocol to protect patients and employees in the future.