UW Student Who Started An ‘Anti-White Racism’ Club Set Fire To Two Churches

Following Donald Trump’s inauguration, protests sparked up around the world, fighting back against many of Donald Trump’s ideas about women’s rights, immigration, climate change and hateful rhetoric. The spring semester at the University of Wisconsin-Madison started off in the same way after one student decided to found an alt-right, white nationalism club on campus.

Daniel Dropik, 33, started a Madison chapter of the American Freedom Party earlier this month. Dropik created a website, posted a recruitment video and even handed out small fliers boasting “Fight Anti-White Racism on Campus!” and “#UWAltRight.”

The American Freedom Party is a recognized hate group, a sect of the so-called “alternative right” white nationalism movements. Its platform reads, “The American Freedom Party is a party that represents the interests and issues of White Americans and all Americans who support our mission.”

Students across campus were, of course, pretty disturbed, according to UW-Madison’s independent school newspaper, the Badger Herald. Senior Dane Skaar, one of the students handed a disturbing flier by Dropik, told the Badger Herald that he was in disbelief.

“When it starts having conversations about racism, usually most of those efforts are to educate people and bring people together, whereas this type of approach is divisive,” Skaar said. “The intention seemed to be more bad, it seemed to change the climate to one of white nationalism.”

The Student Coalition for Progress there even planned a protest rally against Dropik and his AFP chapter. As of Thursday night, more than 170 people were planning to attend the event Tuesday, according to the Associated Press.

Dropik’s intentions for the white nationalist group became even more disturbing after the Daily Cardinal, another UW student paper, reported that Dropik had been convicted of two racially-motivated arsons in churches.

In 2005, Dropik set fire to a Baptist Church in Milwaukee. The next day, he started a fire in a Methodist Episcopal church in Lansing, Mich., another predominantly black church. In total, he caused nearly $40,000 of damages. He served 63 months in prison, in addition to three years supervised release, according to the Washington Post.

Once this news got out, UW-Madison Chancellor Rebecca Blank reassured the UW Community that the school does not support people like Dropik. “The student claims to be affiliated with the American Freedom Party,” she wrote in a statement. “Its activities are diametrically opposed to our campus values of respect and inclusion. I’ve been heartened to see many students state their strong disagreement with the views of this group.”

In response to Blank’s statement, as well as outrage from his peers, Dropik explained his “Criminal History” in an audio message on his Madison-AFP website and Twitter account.

“Over ten years ago, I was indicted for two counts of racially-motivated arson over damaged property. This is a true fact,” Dropik explained. “I’ve regretted these long before I ever decided to be a student at UW-Madison, and I’ve regretted this long before I’ve ever decided to have an interest in the alt-right. And for those on campus who are just learning about this, who may feel discouraged or sad or hurt, I want to tell you that I’m sorry.”

Following the realization of Dropik’s hate crimes, many students at UW probably felt pretty unsafe. Chancellor Blank explained in her statement that, like many other university, the “UW System’s admission application does not ask for or allow us to consider a student’s criminal history as part of the admissions process.”

However, she promised that the Board of Regents and the System would review this policy. “The safety of our campus community is my top priority,” wrote Blank. “I recognize the mere presence of this activity is concerning. But handing out political information and expressing objectionable, even hateful, viewpoints is not illegal nor a violation of any campus policy.”