South Florida

The number of hate groups has increased across the United States; 66 are in Florida

This image shows a white supremacist, left, confronted by a counter demonstrator at Emancipation Park in Charlottesville, Virginia, in August 2017.
This image shows a white supremacist, left, confronted by a counter demonstrator at Emancipation Park in Charlottesville, Virginia, in August 2017. AP

The number of groups with racist, sexist and neo-Nazi ideologies increased in the United States last year, according to a report by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), an organization that keeps track of hate crimes across the country.

The SPLC attributed the increase to anti-immigrant rhetoric expressed by President Donald Trump and a perception that he sympathizes with groups that profess the supremacy of the white race.

“President Trump in 2017 reflected what white supremacist groups want to see: a country where racism is sanctioned by the highest office, immigrants are given the boot and Muslims banned,” Heidi Beirich, director of the organization’s Intelligence Project, said in a statement.

The organization registered a total of 954 hate groups, or an increase of 4 percent (917 groups were reported last year); 66 of those groups have representatives in Florida.

The SPLC, based in Alabama, defines hate groups as groups whose practices or ideologies demonize different classes of people. Among those classified as “hate” groups are the Ku Klux Klan, anti-LGBT groups, black nationalists including Nation of Islam, and also anti-Muslim and anti-white groups.

Extremist anti-immigrant groups grew from 14 to 22 in 2017, according to the annual report titled “The Year in Hate.” Neo-Nazi groups increased 22 percent, or from 99 to 121, the report said.

The White House did not respond to a request for comment from el Nuevo Herald.

In a statement to the Washington Post on Wednesday, a White House spokesman said it was “insulting” that Trump be held responsible for the rise of hate groups.

“The president condemns hatred, bigotry and violence in all forms,” deputy press secretary Raj Shah told the newspaper in an email. “He will continue to fight for all Americans, regardless of race, religion, gender or background, and any suggestion otherwise is wrong and insulting.”

However, the authors of the report said that Trump encouraged white supremacists last year, when Charlottesville, Virginia, held their largest rally in a decade. A woman protesting against the demonstration died when a man who initially participated in the march with the neo-Nazi groups launched his vehicle into the crowd.

“Former Klan boss David Duke called the rally a ‘turning point’ and vowed that white supremacists would ‘fulfill the promises of Donald Trump’ to ‘take our country back,’ the SPLC report said.

Although the total number of hate groups increased, this year's report indicates that Ku Klux Klan collectives decreased from 130 to 72. This indicates that the organization does not attract younger white supremacists, the report said.

For the first time, the SPLC also included two male supremacy groups to the hate group list: A Voice for Men, based in Houston, and Return of Kings, based in Washington, D.C.

“The vilification of women by these groups makes them no different than other groups that demean entire populations, such as the LGBT community, Muslims or Jews, based on their inherent characteristics,” the report said.

The SPLC has been criticized by organizations that refuse to be classified as hate groups. Some argue that the SPLC classifies legitimate organizations as racist groups.

Follow Brenda Medina on Twitter: @BrendaMedinar and on Facebook: @BrendaMedinaJournalist

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