Riley Gaines anti-trans harassment on social media linked to bomb threat on California library 

Riley Gaines

Anti-trans harassment pedalled on social media by former US college swimmer Riley Gaines has been linked with a bomb threat at a California library. 

On Monday (21 August), Mary L. Stephens library in Davis, a city about 14 miles from Sacramento, received an anonymous bomb threat in a phone call that included anti-LGBTQ+ speech. The building and a nearby elementary school were evacuated. 

The threat came a day after the Yolo county chapter of Moms for Liberty hosted a meeting during which trans inclusion in sport was criticised. During the event, library staff were forced to repeatedly warn speakers that misgendering athletes broke the library’s code of conduct.

After continuing to misgender trans athletes, a staff member asked them to leave. 

Moms for Liberty is a conservative political organisation that advocates against school’s mentioning LGBTQ+ rights, race and ethnicity, critical race theory, and discrimination. Earlier this year, they were labelled a far-right extremist group by civil rights activists at the Southern Poverty Law Center.

After the incident, anti-trans activists took to social media to circulate the video and stoke outrage. 

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Just before 9am, Gaines reposted the video and wrote: “This is ridiculous but not shocking … a female athlete silenced for calling a spade a space.”

She went on to share the library’s name and contact number with her 700,000+ followers, and by 3pm the library had reportedly received the threatening phone call. 

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Comments under Gaines’ post showed people had been calling the library, with many posting anti-trans rhetoric in the comments, according to Media Matters.

Gaines has actively campaigned against trans participation in women’s sports after she tied with trans swimmer Lia Thomas for fifth place in the women’s 200m freestyle final at the 2022 National Collegiate Athletics Association swimming and diving championships. 

Right-wing social media account Libs of TikTok then reposted a video relating to the incident, in which a staff member can be heard pointing out that it is “treating people with respect” to not misgender members of the transgender community.

By the time police responded to the bomb threat, right-wing media outlets such as Fox News had published stories based on the tweet, citing Gaines’ participation, and claiming the speaker at the library event had been “shouted down”.

Lia Thomas (L) and Riley Gaines tied in a 200m freestyle final last year. (Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire/Getty Images)

Last year, Boston Children’s Hospital was forced into lockdown after receiving a bomb threat. It came as the hospital received a barrage of harassment, including from Libs of TikTok, over misinformation regarding its gender-affirming care for trans youths. 

Libs of TikTok shared a post falsely claiming that the hospital was offering “gender-affirming hysterectomies for young girls”.

The hospital pointed out that gender-affirming surgeries are not offered to anyone under the age of 18.

A woman has since been indicted on one count of making a false bomb threat and one count of intentionally conveying false or misleading information that a bomb was on the way to the hospital.

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PinkNews has contacted Mary L. Stephens library and Riley Gaines for comment. 

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