Traveling ‘street preacher’ draws counter-protesters, UTSA PD and Dean of Students

Mason Hickok, Editor-in-Chief

Students passing through the Sombrilla last week likely encountered a commotion stirred on by a traveling, self-proclaimed “street preacher.” Daniel John Lee set up a large sign and engaged with students Wednesday, Thursday and Friday afternoon. Lee’s visit to UTSA comes on the heels of his visiting Texas State and Texas A&M within the last few weeks. With most of his college visits, Lee posts videos of his demonstrations to his Rumble profile. Rumble is an alternative social media platform often in conversation alongside TruthSocial and Parler.

At one point in Lee’s nearly four-hour video, Dean of Students and Senior Vice Provost for Student Affairs LT Robinson approached Lee and asked to confiscate the pole attached to the sign. Lee refused, and later, Robinson returned with several UTSA police officers. Lee eventually gave his pole over while he remained engaging with students. 

Viktor Östberg was one of the students present during Wednesday’s demonstration; at one point in the video, Östberg can be seen holding up a Secular Student Alliance sign next to Lee. They described Lee’s demeanor during the demonstration as relatively calm.

“It could be why he was so calm that day was there were just so many people,” Östberg said.

Östberg described the general unhappiness from students with Lee’s presence. 

“I think it just didn’t quite hit me [until] later in the day [after] I left,” Östberg said. “Being like, ‘that could have gone bad.’ People were not happy he was there.”

Students were concerned with Lee’s criminal history, but per Senate Bill 18 — which was filed in 2019 on the avenue of protecting expression on campusUTSA’s Sombrilla Plaza would be considered a public forum. 

A note from the Office of the President speaks to one’s freedom of expression: “Of course, the ideas of different members of the university community will often and quite naturally conflict. But it is not the proper role of the university to attempt to shield individuals from ideas and opinions they find unwelcome, disagreeable, or even deeply offensive.”

Joe Izbrand, UTSA’s chief communications officer, said the university knew Lee’s intent to visit the campus. 

“UTSA was aware of Mr. Lee’s intention to visit multiple universities, including UTSA,” Izbrand said. “The university was also aware of his history and was properly prepared to ensure his right to free speech while maintaining the safety of the university community.”

Robinson encourages students to exercise good judgment when it comes to interacting with demonstrators. 

“Some speakers who come on campus may espouse extreme views in the hopes of getting a rise out of students,” Robinson said. “Then, if confronted for those views, they claim they were untreated fairly and their rights to free speech violated. Ultimately, their goal is to get attention for themselves. Ask yourself if you want to invest in their cause by feeding into that.”