Riley Gaines Says She Was Attacked by Trans Activist Students at SFSU

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The college swimmer was reportedly forced to barricade herself in a room for three hours.

Robby Soave |

Activist at Riley Gaines event at SFSU.

Activist at Riley Gaines event at SFSU. (Screenshot via David Llamas / Twitter)

Riley Gaines is a former college swimmer who competed against Lia Thomas and has criticized the unfairness of including transgender athletes in women’s sports. On Thursday, she appeared at San Francisco State University to speak on the subject.

Activists allegedly tried to drown out her event by making so much noise that it would be impossible to hear her; after the event, they chased her, physically assaulted her, and trapped in her a room for three hours.

That’s according to numerous accounts of the event from conservative news sources, including Fox News and the New York Post. Louis Barker, Gaines’ husband, said his wife was struck multiple times by “a guy in a dress,” even while under police protection. Videos circulating on social media do not specifically depict the assault, but they do show activists attempting to get at Gaines.

Another video shows campus administrators negotiating with the student activists, attempting to persuade them to disperse so that Gaines could leave campus. One activist suggests that they each be paid $10 to do so.

Protesters are still gathered in the hallways at 9:50 p.m. Chris Trudell, Assistant Dean of Students addresses the crowds concern about allowing @TPUSA on campus. #SFSTATE

— Golden Gate Xpress (@GGXnews) April 7, 2023

Gaines was ultimately barricaded inside the room from three hours. Gaines did not immediately responded to a request for comment.

The New York Post reported that student-activists affiliated with the university’s Queer and Trans Resource Center (QTRC) had helped organize the protest. QTRC is denying any involvement, however.

“The protest at Turning Point USA’s event was organized by an individual who is not an SF State student and is not a part of the QTRC,” the resource center tells Reason. 

A spokesperson for the University Police Department (UPD) at SFSU says the incident is being investigated.

“There were no arrests related to the event,” the spokesperson tells Reason. “The disruption occurred after the conclusion of the event which made it necessary for UPD officers to move the event speaker from the room to a different, safe location.”

Charlie Kirk, president of Turning Point USA, the conservative student organization that invited Gaines to campus, said on Twitter, “This is unacceptable at an American college campus, even in San Francisco.”

He’s right. San Francisco State University is a public institution, which means that it is bound by the First Amendment. Student organizations have every right to invite controversial speakers to campus; other students may protest those speakers, but they may not engage in violence or prevent them from freely moving about campus. It’s all well and good that Gaines was able to give her remarks, but the alleged attack and apparent obstruction of her exit are still alarming acts of anti-speech intimidation.

One need not agree with Gaines or Turning Point USA to recognize that the First Amendment protects her absolute right to contribute to the debate about transgender athletes in sports.

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