Free speech falls to the mob after Riley Gaines is mobbed

The progressive mob campaign against free speech on college campuses just claimed its latest victim. 

An outspoken critic of transgender athletes in women’s sports, Riley Gaines, was viciously mobbed and allegedly attacked after giving a speech Thursday night at San Francisco State University. 

Gaines rose to national prominence because she was previously a collegiate swimmer and teammate of the controversial trans athlete Lia Thomas, a biologically male swimmer who transitioned to identifying as a woman and then crushed the competition in women’s swimming.

Gaines spoke out against this and argues that allowing transgender women to compete in women’s sports is unfair. 

‘Prisoners running the asylum’

The mob can’t have that. Footage shows hordes of protesters swarming the event, cursing at Gaines and chanting, “Trans women are women” and “Trans rights are human rights.” 

This wasn’t a peaceful protest. They aggressively accosted her, and police officers were needed to hold them back. Gaines was forced to barricade herself and trapped in place for three hours. Gaines even says she was physically assaulted. 

“The prisoners are running the asylum at SFSU. . . . I was ambushed and physically hit twice by a man,” she said. “This is proof that women need sex-protected spaces. Still only further assures me I’m doing something right. When they want you silent, speak louder.”

Video grabs taken from Twitter: Riley Gaines.
Gaines claims she was attacked after her speaking engagement.

Nonpartisan free-speech groups like the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression are already condemning this incident. FIRE Program Officer Amanda Nordstrom said, “Mob censorship is never an appropriate reaction to speech, even and especially speech that some consider controversial, and the First Amendment does not protect silencing speakers via disruption. Public universities have a non-negotiable duty to ensure protected speech can occur on campus — without violence or intimidation.”

This is exactly right. It shouldn’t matter what your views are on the questions surrounding transgender inclusion in sports. It’s never acceptable to use mob intimidation or violence to shut down speech you disagree with. Everyone has the right to express themselves without fearing for their physical safety — especially on a public college campus that is legally bound by the First Amendment to respect and protect this right. 

Riley Gaines
Gaines said swimming against Lia Thomas was unfair for cisgender women.

Censorious and illiberal

The students who crossed the line from peaceful protest into mob rioting must be identified and held accountable for their actions by the university and, in the case of the individual who allegedly assaulted Gaines, law enforcement. 

When students can violate the rights of their peers and guests on their campus yet get away scot-free, as is often the case, it encourages more of this censorious and illiberal behavior in the future. 

A college cannot fulfill its role as a forum for open debate if a figure cannot express a mainstream, widely held skepticism about biological males competing in women’s sports without fearing for her physical safety.

All Gaines has said is that it’s unfair to allow natal males to compete in women’s sports because of the biological realities that give them an advantage. That’s an opinion shared by 62% of Americans and 41% of Democrats, according to Gallup polling. 

Yet today’s college campuses are so radical and out of touch that this mainstream opinion is somehow viewed as toxic and fringe. 

This incident is a disgrace, and, unfortunately, it’s not an outlier. Free speech continues to be eroded on our nation’s college campuses, and things will continue to trend in this negative direction unless a serious course correction is made. 

We owe it not just to Riley Gaines but to the millions of college students currently being failed by the status quo to ensure our higher-education system is no longer subject to the tyranny of mobs. 

Brad Polumbo (@Brad_Polumbo) is an independent journalist and the co-founder of BASEDPolitics.

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