The Arkansas Times has identified the man photographed wearing an “Arkansas Engineering” T-shirt at a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville as Andrew M. Dodson, a former student at the University of Arkansas Engineering school.
In a telephone interview with the Arkansas Times, Dodson apologized for the trouble he caused the state and, specifically, an Engineering professor at the University of Arkansas who was misidentified as the person carrying a torch at a march last Friday night. The professor became the target of social media vitriol.
“There’s a couple of guys in Fayetteville that have been misidentified as me. … It’s not those guys, it’s not them; it’s me,” Dodson said. “I’m so sorry, I would never want to hurt you and your family. If they want my T-shirt back, I’ll send it to them.”
Dodson did not know personally the professor who was misidentified, who worked in a different branch of engineering than that studied by Dodson, but he did apologize to those with whom he studied for two years. He did not graduate from the university.
“I learned so much from these [engineering] guys,” he said. “It breaks my heart that they’re going to think I’m a Nazi, or a KKK, or a white supremacist.”
“I did not put on that University of Arkansas shirt in order to represent them. It’s really like one of my favorite shirts and I was wearing it when I got on the plane,” Dodson said. “I just didn’t put two and two together. It was dumb.”
Dodson, 33, is from South Carolina, and now lives in New England (he refused to give specific towns). He moved to Arkansas in 2009 “after the economy crashed” and last visited the state a few months ago for a wedding. Dodson moved to Arkansas originally to work at a design firm he says and was sent back to school by the firm at the University of Arkansas to acquire more skills, where he got the shirt.
He said he had participated in the campaign to elect Ron Paul president in 2008, the Occupy Movement, and the Tea Party movement and, after these experiences, came to Charlottesville because he wanted to “see who these alt-right people were.”
He knew they had been labeled racists but, Dodson said, the media often lied about Ron Paul and the Occupy movement.
“I found there was this group called Identity Europa and they were like, ‘We are not racist, we are identitarians.’ … I asked, ‘Is this going to be a thing where they’re doing whiteness [and white supremacy], swastikas and Sieg Heil?’ And they said, ‘No, that’s not what we’re about.'”
Those elements were part of the demonstration.
Dodson claims that even Friday night he didn’t “see any Nazi flags, just a bunch of guys in khakis and polos,” so he continued to participate. He contends that the people who were “Nazis and the KKK” were bused in. He also believes that counter-protesters were brought into Charlottesville by outside groups.
“I wonder if the same people that bused in the Black Live Matters [movement] and the [Anti-Fascists] and the Communists — are the same people busing them in and the same people busing in the Nazi and the KKK?” Dodson said.
He described the problem as people “trying to instigate racial violence — people on both sides — as an excuse to stop us from having our free speech. Because I want to talk about the money that is corrupting our systems.
“I am not going to say that there wasn’t racism there. There was. And, I also think it was on both sides,” he said. “God bless, Trump. He’s telling the truth. I condemn racism on both sides.”
Dodson said he was also the same Andrew Dodson who had been interviewed in an article for The Atlantic but claimed that the article was inaccurate. He said he was not a “racial realist,” as the article described, but, instead, felt that the current conversation about race, especially the Black Lives Matter movement was instigating a “fake conversation” that is “funded by this guy George Soros.”
“It’s not even that they misquoted me. I think they just … the guy [in The Atlantic] says I’m a racial realist. It was a lot of stuff going — it’s like there are people, like these Black Lives Matter people — I’m not saying I’m anti black people. … But I think the things that they are saying are kind of fake news.”
On James Alex Fields Jr., the man accused of driving his car through a crowd in Charlottesville, killing one 32-year-old woman and injuring 19 others, Dodson said, “Free speech was also a casualty … I share their pain and suffering.”
Dodson lost his job, he said, because of participation in the rally.
When asked if now, after apologizing and realizing that Nazi flags, fascism and racism were part of the Charlottesville demonstration, he would participate in future events, Dodson said that he may still go.
“How else am I going to figure out what these guys are about?” he said.
UPDATE (4:07 p.m.):
Here is a comment sent to us from Mark Rushing, Assistant Vice Chancellor of University Relations at the University of Arkansas.
“As we have said all along, the individual in question does not represent the values of the College of Engineering or the University of Arkansas. This new information clears the name of our professor who was originally misidentified. The University will continue to support and promote a diverse, welcoming and inclusive campus and society.”