In light of the white supremacist group Patriot Front’s hanging of a banner on UTSA’s main campus, UTSA Police Chief Gerald Lewis says campus police are prepared if more incidents occur, including if Patriot Front or other extremist groups demonstrated physically on campus.
“We have to respect First Amendment rights, and as long as (groups) are expressing those First Amendment rights in a responsible and appropriate and safe manner, then we won’t interfere,” he said. “Will we monitor it? Absolutely. Would we be able to handle it if something additional happened? Absolutely.”
UTSA Police Department is currently investigating to determine who hung the banners on campus and the department is increasing security patrols on campus. Security camera footage from the night of the incident is still being reviewed.
Lewis said that because the investigation into who hung the banners is still active, the security footage cannot be released. “If you give away information from an ongoing investigation you jeopardize that investigation,” Lewis said. “The review of that video has not stopped.”
“Whether we will actually be able to identify who’s responsible for this, that may not happen,” Lewis said. “If someone goes out with a purpose and they disguise themselves, if they wear a mask, if they wear a hood, or gloves, those things make it a little harder to determine and identify that person.”
In response to the banner, the United UTSA Coalition sent a letter to the Office of the President on Nov. 27. The letter claimed that President Eighmy’s response to the banner “(failed) to adequately address the very real and serious threat and racist hate groups such as Patriot Front pose to the entirety of the student body,” further calling the address “performative gestures that seek to alleviate the administration’s burden of addressing this issue without providing any immediate or effective solution to the presence of fascist and white supremacist hate groups on campus.”
The group demanded the university administration issue a formal statement denouncing white supremacist groups; refuse permission for people to “spread fascist and white supremacist rhetoric to the UTSA campus”; for the university to make a “concerted and visible effort” to discover who hung the banner; to release security camera footage of the incident; an open line of communication into disciplinary actions taken against those who committed the banner hanging, if caught; a diversity statement, signed by UTSA’s administration, in commitment to implementing a diversity and sensitivity training program; and a commitment to a more diverse faculty and staff.
President Eighmy’s response to the letter, posted on UTSA Today, attempted to address the concerns. Initiatives planned, as listed in order of demands the United UTSA Coalition made in their letter, are issuing a joint statement with San Antonio college and university presidents and Mayor Ron Nirenberg; implementing policies similar to UT-Austin’s regarding groups that are not affiliated with the university demonstrating on campus; stating that review of security camera footage is ongoing, yet inconclusive; increasing the number of cameras on campus, along with increased campus patrols; issuing a diversity statement developed by the Diversity and Inclusiveness Advisory Council; forming a Campus Climate Council; launching a “strategic initiative” to increase campus and staff diversity next spring; and the forming of a Bias Response Team to “identify and communicate bias incidents on campus.”
Along with added personnel, the piloting of Rowdy Watch Student Patrol, a UTSAPD-launched program where UTSA students provide walking and golf-cart escorts from one on-campus location to another; check the security of buildings; check bicycle racks for unsecured bicycles; and report on lighting and other safety issues has been implemented.
“This is not something that will be resolved overnight,” Jazmyne Brooks, NAACP chair, said. “However, we left the meeting knowing that positive and tangible change is actively being made and Dr. Eighmy is reaching out to students, faculty, staff and the greater San Antonio community to be apart of this process.”
Individuals were detained Sunday night at Texas State University and given criminal trespassing warnings by campus police after seen posting white supremacist flyers around campus. None of the people in the group of five were students.