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Person struck by UNT police vehicle at protest over Republican Jeff Younger's speech on criminalizing transgender-affirming care

Younger was the guest of the UNT chapter of the Young Conservatives of Texas.

DENTON, Texas — Denton police took a report of a person being struck by a University of North Texas police vehicle during a protest on campus for transgender rights Wednesday night, the department confirmed.

WFAA learned that the victim was reportedly struck by the police vehicle that was driving Republican Jeff Younger, of Flower Mound, from a speaking engagement on the topic of criminalizing transgender-affirming care.

Younger, who is facing off against fellow Republican Ben Bumgarner in a runoff for Texas House District 23 this November, was the guest of the UNT chapter of the Young Conservatives of Texas.

According to Younger’s website biography under a section titled “Why I’m Running,” he says he was motivated to run for office after a court battle with his ex-wife over the custody of his two children – one of whom is transgender. Younger, who ultimately lost custody of his children, accused his ex-wife of child abuse for allowing their child to transition.

“Despite overwhelming support from the people of Texas, the Legislature blocked all attempts to outlaw sex change surgeries on children. The Texas Legislature ran out the clock on my son’s life,” Younger’s website reads.

However, polls from last spring suggest many Americans, broadly, do not support legislation that would block gender transition-related medical care for minors.

Younger's visit comes against the backdrop of state officials targeting that very type of transgender care for young people. 

Last week, Gov. Greg Abbott directed state agencies to investigate parents that sought medical care - including puberty-blocking medication - for their transgender children. Lawsuits have been filed, seeking to block the directive from being enforced. 

When students found out that Younger was attending an event on campus, a protest was planned to stand against him and to stand up for trans rights for Texas children, according to officials.

Denton police told WFAA that they took a report from the protester that was struck at the hospital Wednesday night. The department said the case will be forwarded to another agency for investigation, and that they would no longer be involved in the incident. 

The UNT Police Department has yet to comment on the incident.

UNT president Neal Smatresk released a statement to the UNT community Thursday afternoon, detailing the events from Wednesday’s night protest. He said a few hundred protesters were gathered outside of the building, holding signs and chanting as Younger spoke at Curry Hall. 

Police believe a small group of protesters not associated with UNT took part in "escalating the protest from peaceful to aggressive," in which the group swarmed police, banged on vehicles and blocked exits, Smatresk said.

In an attempt to clear a path, officers reportedly sounded warning sirens and used emergency lights while inching forward. This is believed to be the moment that led to a protester being struck, but the university said it hadn’t confirmed that information from police.

No other injuries were reported from the incident.

“We have always touted the importance of freedom of expression and been proud of our students’ ability to speak up for themselves and participate in nonviolent protest,' Smatresk’s statement read. 

"UNT police have continuously worked to create and maintain an environment safe for all students to express themselves, regardless of topic. As always, campus safety is our top priority, and we will continue working to provide a safe environment for our students," he continued. "We have always been a passionate community that stands up for our ideals, but last night’s behavior by some individuals is not reflective of the UNT I know and love."

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