Former college swimmer says she was attacked at event opposing inclusion of trans women in women’s sports

(CNN) Former NCAA swimmer Riley Gaines said she was assaulted Thursday on the campus of San Francisco State University.

Gaines was at the school to speak about her views opposing the inclusion of transgender athletes in women’s sports, according to the event announcement.

“I was physically attacked by a man. I was hit twice, both hits hit my shoulder, the second hit hit my face,” Gaines told CNN’s Natasha Chen. “The rest of the protesters just stalked me and cornered me before I could move out with the help of the campus police.”

A video posted by Gaines of the event shows her moving quickly while surrounded by security officers. A protester can be heard shouting “trans rights are human rights,” but the video is shaky and does not appear to show an assault.

Former University of Kentucky swimmer Riley Gaines, second from right, stands during a rally Jan. 12, 2023, outside the NCAA convention in San Antonio.

“We are conducting an ongoing investigation into the situation. No arrests have been made related to the event,” the university police department said in a statement. “The outage occurred after the event had concluded, requiring UPD officers to move the event speaker from the room to another, safe location.”

University police did not immediately respond to CNN’s inquiry about the nature of the “outage” and whether the investigation is related to the alleged assault.

Gaines tied transgender swimmer Leah Thomas for fifth place in women’s 200-meter freestyle final at the 2022 NCAA Swimming and Diving Championships and has been vocal about her opposition to the inclusion of trans women in women’s swimming.

“This is an appalling attack on free speech on a college campus,” House Speaker Kevin McCarthy said on Twitter. “House Republicans support Riley Gaines and her courageous and tireless efforts to protect women’s sports.”

PEN America, an advocacy organization for literature and free expression, called the incident a “disaster.”

“Physical intimidation or violence is never an acceptable response to speech, no matter how hateful or controversial that speech may be,” said Kristen Shahverdian, PEN America’s senior manager of free expression and education.

“Universities are places for discussion, debate and disagreement,” Shahverdian added in a statement. “What happened at SFSU makes a mockery of the principles of free speech that enable higher education to function. This is unacceptable and anathema to how a campus should function.”

Gaines’ appearance hosted by Turning Point USA

Gaines’ appearance was “booked by a recognized student organization,” university spokesman Kent Bravo told CNN, and was organized by the conservative organization Turning Point USA.

Andrew Colvet, a spokesman for Turning Point USA, said he spoke with three people who were in the room Thursday night.

He said he was told Gaines spoke to a roomful of people at the event, including people who disagreed with her point of view. According to those in attendance, Colvet said the conversation was constructive and polite and that the interruption occurred at the end of the event.

Colvette was not present Thursday night, but remained in communication with Gaines via text message as she was taken by campus police to a computer lab during the incident, where they remained locked inside while protesters were at the door.

Eventually, the San Francisco Police Department sent officers to disperse the crowd and escort Gaines away, Colvet said, adding that according to their exchange, Gaines did not leave until close to midnight, he added.

CNN has reached out to San Francisco police for more details.

Turning Point USA has been active at the university for several years, but this was the first semester the branch was officially recognized as a student organization on campus, Colvett said. The event featuring Gaines was the first event organized by the group this semester. Another event is expected in a few weeks.

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