Former NCAA swimmer Riley Gaines told members of Congress on Tuesday that earlier last month, she was held against her will at San Francisco State University, with protestors demanding ransom for her release.
Gaines shared her story during a discussion about left wing violence plaguing American communities and how Homeland Security can do more to support state and local law enforcement to combat interstate threats.
Since tying for fifth with transgender University of Pennsylvania swimmer Lia Thomas in the 200-meter NCAA championship last year, Gaines has advocated that women’s sports must be reserved for biological females.
On April 6, Gaines visited San Francisco State University to speak with a campus group about the right of women to compete on a level playing field. She told congress that the school administration was aware of her visit, and she was told she would be met by campus police to be briefed on a security plan before she gave her talk.
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But campus police failed to show, according to Gaines.
Still, she gave her speech, despite protestors outside the room chanting.
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Gaines said she could hear the protestors shouting, “We fight back,” which is when she began to fear for her safety.
When she finished her speech, protestors flooded the room, Gaines said, while raising their fists and flickering the lights until eventually the lights were turned off.
During the incident, Gaines said, she was assaulted.
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“A woman grabbed me and told me she was with the campus police and pulled me toward the door, but I did not believe she was with the police because she wore no clothes that indicated she was an officer, and she had a face covering on, so I couldn’t see her face,” Gaines told the committee.
After resisting for a bit, Gaines said she really had no other choice because she “really truly feared” for her life.
When she got into the hallway, she was escorted to the stairwell which was blocked by protestors. Instead, she barricaded in an office with members of campus police.
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“The small room we had found would be my prison for the next three hours, and in those hours, I was certainly held against my will,” Gaines said.
While she sat in the room, Gaines could hear the angry mob scream “vengeful, racist” things, and police would not assure her she would get out.
Gaines said the officers would not provide any type of support to her because the issue was too controversial, and when she told an officer she was hit, nobody asked if she was ok.
When Gaines realized she missed her flight home because she was being held hostage, the lieutenant in the room responded, “Don’t you think we all want to go home?”
Protestors, Gaines said, eventually demanded ransom and threatened to not release her without payment.
“They said that my appearance on campus was so traumatic that they were owed something,” Gaines said. “They were under the false notion that the university paid me to be there.”
She later expanded on what was being yelled at her by people outside the room, saying she heard things like “you’re only protecting her because she’s a white girl,” “you knew this was going to happen,” “you were asking for this,” and “she doesn’t get to go home safely.”
Eventually, Gaines said, the San Francisco Police Department arrived and was able to help get her out safely.
“Free speech suffers when university administrators do not condemn violence and kidnapping on their campus,” she said. “It’s chilled when administrators do not adequately prepare for and protect the safety of their speakers, whether liberal or conservative. Free speech is undermined when administrators misrepresent and malign the views with whom they disagree.”
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