Business owner speaks out after social media posts allege Nazi, white supremacist ties
KALAMAZOO, Mich. (NEWSCHANNEL 3) - A local business owner spoke out to defend himself Wednesday amid calls to boycott his business after being labeled a Nazi supporter and a white supremacist.
A Facebook post that's gone viral shows Aaron VanArsdale, the co-owner of Craft Draft 2 Go, with a swastika, and doing a Nazi salute.
Located off Stadium Drive, the Kalamazoo bar did not open Wednesday after it was vandalized overnight.
VanArsdale says his employees are too scared to come to work and he no longer feels safe.
A profanity in white spray paint was sandwiched in between ‘get out’ and ‘Nazi scum.'
"The public is crucifying me," VanArsdale said.
The words of vandals come in response to Facebook photos of Aaron VanArsdale—the co-owner of Craft Draft 2 Go.
"I'm not a Nazi, I'm not a white supremacist—I'm trying to think of all the names I've been called," he said.
It's not just on the windows of his building. Social media screens lit up with calls to boycott the business.
"It's not just one photo so how do you explain that?" Newshcannel 3 asked.
"Again, I'm not a Nazi; bad humor," VanArsdale said.
One of those photos shows a swastika on his forehead. Another picture shows VanArsdale doing the Nazi salute.
"I'm not a Nazi, I don't support hate groups," VanArsdale said.
"You see how that's confusing when there's a photo of the Star of David with blood on it with a swastika?" Newschannel 3 asked.
"Sure," VanArsdale replied.
“So then why post them?” Newshcannel 3 asked.
VanArsdale replied, "Bad judgment, attempt at humor that didn't turn out so well. You know, I'm not trying to make excuses that's what it was. I don't stand for that, I'm not pro-hate groups. I'm not in any extreme groups."
VanArsdale describes himself as pro-American and a Libertarian. He also said he condemns extremist groups, “I believe in equal rights for everybody,” VanArsdale added.
Since VanArsdale deleted his Facebook page it's unclear when these pictures were originally posted—he says those images went up five or six years ago.
"You know there's hot topics that I should probably just stay away from, you know, as a lot of people should. It gets misunderstood," he said.
VanArsdale says he doesn't know the Lansing man who posted the collage of pictures along with a message telling friends to boycott Craft Draft 2 Go.
That Facebook post has since been shared more than 3,000 times.
Since the post musical acts have come out to say they'll no longer perform at the bar and some breweries are also talking about pulling their beers from the business.
VanArsdale says he’s not sure when the bar will reopen but because of death threats, he probably won’t be around when it does.
“I made a mistake, I am going to own up to it. I hope the business will succeed without me,” he said.
For now, VanArsdale says it looks like he will step away from Craft Draft 2 Go and leave the bar in the hands of his business partner.