On August 21, an anonymous caller directed a bomb threat that included anti-LGBTQ hate speech against a library in Davis, California, forcing the library and a nearby elementary school to evacuate. The threat came amid a harassment campaign against the location led by Riley Gaines and other members of right-wing media who have spent the last year driving similar threats against schools and children’s hospitals.
The day before the threat was made against the library, the Yolo County chapter of Moms for Liberty — an anti-civil rights and anti-LGBTQ group whose members have been linked to numerous instances of threats and harassment — hosted an event there criticizing trans inclusion in sports. During the event, complaints from audience members led library staff to warn speakers that misgendering athletes breaks the library’s code of conduct. When speakers continued misgendering trans athletes, a staff member asked them to leave.
That evening, local conservative anti-lockdown activist Jonathan Zachreson posted his account of what had happened on X (formerly known as Twitter) alongside a flier for the event featuring the library’s name and location. A few hours later, anti-LGBTQ group California Family Council posted a video of the altercation on X.
Anti-trans activist Riley Gaines was one of the first accounts with a major following to quote-tweet the video. Her initial tweet came just before 9 a.m. ET and requested the librarian’s name and phone number, adding, “We need silent majority to do its thing.” Minutes later she sent a follow-up tweet with the library’s contact information, instructions on how to reach a staff member, and an urge for “everyone [to] call” followed by four exclamation points. This call to action went out to her more than 700,000 followers.
Replies to Gaines’ tweet show people followed Gaines' instruction, calling the library until the phone number was apparently disconnected. Other replies included anti-trans rhetoric, comments comparing the library staff to the Gestapo, and attempts to identify specific staff members at the library. At least one commenter posted a link to what appeared to be the personal Facebook page of a person they claimed worked at the location.
Gaines, who previously helped drive harassment against high school athletes who were forced to drop out of competition out of fear for their well-being, was soon followed by the larger right-wing media apparatus, including Libs of TikTok, which has a history of directing fans to harass LGBTQ people and their allies.
By the time police sent out an alert in reaction to the bomb threat just before 3 p.m., some large right-wing outlets and blogs had already published articles on the story. Fox News posted an article headlined “Riley Gaines slams men trying to 'silence' ex-college athlete at California library event” less than two hours after Gaines posted her initial tweet on the matter. OutKick, Timcast, and the Washington Examiner — outlets with long histories of anti-LGBTQ animus — all published articles before the bomb threat was reported. Gaines was cited in all three.
The harassment and threats made against the Davis library come on the heels of a yearlong push by right-wing media and politicians to demonize public libraries and the people who staff them. The Davis incident represents the latest chapter in right-wing media’s effort to utilize social media to drive harassment campaigns against those they frame as their political enemies. Widespread harassment of children’s hospitals that provide gender-affirming care for trans youth by figures including Libs of TikTok’s Chaya Raichik and The Daily Wire’s Matt Walsh culminated last year in multiple bomb threats made against Boston Children’s Hospital. Those who helped drive the harassment were rewarded with prime-time appearances on Fox News.