Street preacher, students clash

Lunch time crowds are familiar with the street preaching of Daniel Lee. He speaks in the Park Blocks outside of Smith Memorial Center a few days a week, often raising the ire of students and others who enjoy sunny days in the park.

On Thursday this irritation came to blows. One of the spectators, an unidentified female, slapped Lee during a heated confrontation. Someone else poured their drink on him. Campus Public Safety officers intervened, worried that the situation would escalate.

No charges were pressed and no arrests were made.

Officer Casey Kanekoa pulled Lee aside after the incident warning him that his actions “walked the fine line” of harassment.

Kanekoa cited ORS 166.065, which defines harassment as having the intent of provoking a response.

Kanekoa said that the discussion was polite and that Lee was receptive to his message.

Lee then returned to his preaching by announcing to the crowd the he would “speak in generalities only. I will no longer speak with specifics.”

He then said that all the listeners would “burn in hell.”

However, he didn’t pick on any particular audience member after that point, which could have resulted in a harassment charge.

Students who are offended by Lee’s preaching style took up on this and Ryan Brown, a senior at Portland State, started collecting signatures that afternoon for a petition he hopes will ban Lee from the park.

Brown has opposed Lee’s presence in the park since he first started speaking there in February.

When asked why, Brown responded, “Aside from the fact that he hates everyone? He said it’s a good thing that blacks were enslaved and brought to America or they never would have found God. He also said it’s good that Native Americans were persecuted because they never would have found God.”

Brown said he originally thought they could reserve the Park Blocks, thus excluding Lee from speaking there. He found out, however, that it would cost anywhere from $100 to $4,000 a day.

So now, he is collecting signatures that he plans to present to Campus Public Safety Chief John Fowler, PSU Pres. Daniel Bernstine and the Multnomah County district attorney’s office.

“I’ll keep collecting signatures as long as it takes to get rid of him,” Brown said.Lee, 22, said that he comes to the Park Blocks to communicate his message, not to incite a riot among the students.

“It’s an exceptional place to gather a multitude,” Lee said.

Lee said he has been street preaching for two years and has spoken at campuses such as Colorado State University, Iowa State University, University of Texas at Austin and University of Oregon. He dismissed the slap he had received earlier that day as typical of the hazards of preaching his brand of Christianity.

Lee related that he was converted by a street preacher who used a similar “in-your-face” tactic. Lee criticized campus ministry groups, saying that they don’t teach or practice “true” Christianity.

Lee cited a set of verses that, he said, commands all Christians to lead sin-free lives.

He said that if you sin then you are not a Christian. “That causes a lot of controversy with the secular students as well as the Christian students.”

At the end of his sermon Thursday, Lee announced that he had been called to jury duty and may not return to campus for the rest of the term. This brought cheers from the crowd gathered for the spectacle.

Lee asserts, though, that he will return in the Fall.