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Riley Gaines Isn’t Backing Down After ‘Predictable’ Opposition At UC Davis

‘I think the outrage comes from a place where they know my argument can’t be disputed because it’s what I lived,’ Gaines told The Federalist.

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DAVIS, Calif. — Student activists tried to shut down Riley Gaines’ “Protecting Women’s Sports” event on the University of California, Davis campus on Friday, but Gaines told The Federalist the outrage she faced shows exactly “why I feel so passionately about defending” the rights of female athletes. Students’ protests and threats followed Eventbrite‘s decision to kick Gaines’ event off its platform, but neither attempt to stifle her speech was successful and the event took place as planned.

“This has been the approach that a lot of these platforms, like Eventbrite, have taken in stifling the speech of women defending their rights,” Gaines told The Federalist. “So I was certainly not surprised by any means.”

In the weeks leading up to the event, various UC Davis student organizations flagged the event on their social media to protest and to express their disapproval. A flyer that was circulated by groups such as UC Davis #CopsOffCampus labeled Gaines a “notorious transphobic speaker,” insisting “we will not stand for that bullsh-t” and urging protesters to “be ready to make noise.”

Image CreditUCD_COC/ Instagram

The protesters gathered outside the venue more than an hour before it was set to take place. The mob featured individuals in all black, concealing their identity with face masks, umbrellas, and signs that read “transphobes are losers” and “protect trans kids.” They chanted at bystanders and repeatedly swatted at those attempting to document their behavior, like this person who shared footage with The Federalist:

The students and parents attending Gaines’ speech waited patiently in line until law enforcement was able to safely escort them into the event. Attendees were looking forward to Gaines’ event despite the onslaught of intimidation from protesters.

A statement from UC Davis reported “The UC Davis Police Department took reports of two assaults” but “no one requested medical attention.” The university took pains to assert its commitment “to ensuring that all members of our community, including transgender and nonbinary people, are treated with dignity and respect and are able to flourish on our campus.”

The same statement noted that “as a public university, UC Davis is dedicated to the First Amendment” but made it clear that “allowing registered student groups to use campus facilities does not constitute an endorsement by the university of the event, the speakers or the views expressed.”

The UC Davis LGBTQIA Resource Center also released a dramatic statement on Facebook in anticipation of the event, suggesting Gaines’ speech would “lead[] to transphobic violence” and providing several links to mental health and counseling services.

“My argument is based in lived experience,” Gaines told The Federalist. “It’s based in common sense, it’s based in logic and reasoning and science and fact, and their side of the argument is based in feeling. It’s very emotionally driven. It’s based in a false perception and so that’s why I believe these protesters respond with the name calling that they do, they respond with the vitriol and the violence the way that they do.”

In anticipation of the “noise” leftist protesters threatened, hundreds of security personnel and law enforcement patrolled the surrounding areas to ensure attendees and organizers could safely proceed with nearby mobs and protests raising security concerns. Reports found glass doors were smashed and UC Davis property was vandalized with graffiti reading “Die Transphobes.” According to the same UC Davis statement, despite the violent rhetoric, “no one was arrested.”

“Hundreds and hundreds of police officers have to be stationed here tonight because the outcome is pretty predictable,” Gaines told The Federalist on Friday. “Its’ not just UC Davis that this opposition has shown itself for what it really is — it’s a lot of college campuses that have gone this way which is why I feel so passionately about defending it.”

Gaines is no stranger to violent backlash. In April of this year, Gaines held an event at San Francisco State University, where she was trapped by protesters in a room for three hours, harassed by the mob in the hallway, and even physically attacked. The administration sent out an email celebrating students who “participated peacefully” in protesting Gaines’ presence and providing counseling services so that students can “begin to heal.”

“Coming from a college myself, I understand how … you feel like a criminal to be labeled a conservative, to have conservative ideals or principles, to be a Christian, all of these things,” Gaines told The Federalist. “So I believe what we’re seeing a lot among academia is a total infringement of our First Amendment rights. It’s broader than just women’s sports. I’m defending all of it.”

Gaines’ advocacy came from her experience competing against a male athlete, formerly known as Will Thomas, in NCAA women’s swimming. Gaines recounts how she and her teammates were even forced to share a locker room with Thomas, whose male genitalia was on display.

“I think the outrage comes from a place where they know my argument can’t be disputed because it’s what I lived,” Gaines told The Federalist. “It’s what my teammates lived. We faced all of this firsthand. We saw the injustice, we felt it, really.”

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