The Arkansas Times has identified the man photographed wearing an “Arkansas Engineering” T-shirt at a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va., 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 on Aug. 12. The professor became the target of social media vitriol. Neo-Nazi Billy Roper of Stone County was also misidentified as Dodson. Roper alternately confirmed and denied that he was in Charlottesville. On Aug. 18, he joined a demonstration near a monument dedicated to Confederate soldiers in front of the White County Courthouse in Searcy wearing an Arkansas Engineering T-shirt similar to the one Dodson wore, according to The Bison, a Harding University newspaper.
“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 to 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, went 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 Evropa 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 during the Friday night march 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 Nazis 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.