Hate groups ‘surge’ across the country since Charlottesville riot, report says

Car rams into crowd at ‘Unite the Right’ rally in Charlottesville, Va.

One person has been confirmed dead and 19 people injured after a car plowed into a crowd marching peacefully in downtown Charlottesville, Va.
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One person has been confirmed dead and 19 people injured after a car plowed into a crowd marching peacefully in downtown Charlottesville, Va.

On Oct. 27, Robert Bowers allegedly walked into the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh and killed 11 people, injuring six more. In the weeks before, police say a Florida man known for his “racist, anti-gay tirades” sent a string of pipe bombs to Democratic lawmakers and other high-profile liberals, according to the New York Times.

Nicholas Cruz, the man described as the Parkland school shooter, “drew a Nazi symbol on his book bag,” according to the Miami Herald, and carved swastikas into the ammunition magazines he used in the shooting, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Forty people died at the hands of what the SPLC called “alt-right killers” in 2018, according to an annual report from the SPLC. “The racist ‘alt-right’ is still killing people, and 2018 was the deadliest year yet,” the organization writes in the report. The number is up from 17 in 2017.

The number of hate groups in the United States is “surging,” the annual report found, with the number hitting a record 1,020 hate groups in the United States.

“Surging numbers of hate groups. Rising right-wing populism and antisemitism. Mounting acts of deadly domestic terrorism. Increasing hate crimes. Exploding street violence. That was the landscape of the radical right in 2018,” the SPLC writes.

“White supremacists’ angry energy metastasized in the two weeks leading up to the midterm elections, when three radical right terrorist attacks and one failed attempt at a mail-bombing spree shook the country, leaving 15 dead,” according to the SPLC.

The attacks before the midterms included the synagogue shooting. Two people died at a Kroger grocery store in a separate attack after the gunman tried to get into a black church, the Courier-Journal reports. The SPLC writes that the Louisville man, who is white, allegedly tried to attack the church before gunning down two black people at the supermarket.

The SPLC pointed to President Donald Trump and Fox News as helping grow hate groups in the United States.

“The numbers tell a striking story – that this president is not simply a polarizing figure but a radicalizing one,” SPLC’s Heidi Beirich said in an article on the organization’s website. “Rather than trying to tamp down hate, as presidents of both parties have done, President Trump elevates it – with both his rhetoric and his policies. In doing so, he’s given people across America the go-ahead to act on their worst instincts.”

“The vast majority of hate groups – including neo-Nazis, Ku Klux Klan, racist skinheads, neo-Confederates and white nationalists – adhere to some form of white supremacist ideology. Not surprisingly, the number of white nationalist groups, those particularly electrified by Trump’s presidency, surged by almost 50 percent – from 100 groups to 148 – in 2018,” the SPLC writes.

WBTV's Steve Crump's full interview with members of the Loyal White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, based in Pelham, N.C.

Hate groups have grown in many states. In North Carolina, the number went from 32 in 2017 to 40 last year, according to the SPLC’s new interactive “hate map.” In Florida, that number went from 66 to 75 last year, and Texas also went from 66 to 75 known groups, according to the SPLC.

California had 75 hate groups in 2017, and the SPLC counted 83 last year.

hateCrimes2,0004,0006,0008,000200720172017: 7,1752017: 7,175Race/ethnicity: 59.6%Religion: 20.6%Sexual orientation: 15.8%Disability: 1.9%Gender: 0.6%Gender identity: 1.6%Annual total, single and multiple bias-motivated2017 hate crimes by motive, for single-bias incidentsSource: FBIGraphic: Tribune News ServiceHate crimes

The SPLC writes that some considered the “alt-right” movement to be less of a threat after what the organization calls the “colossal failure” of a second rally in Washington, DC in last year, billed as a sequel to the the deadly Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia in 2017.

“But in reality, some groups have centralized and consolidated their membership, and while certain groups like Identity Evropa have sought to mainstream themselves, others are seeking confrontation off the radar of media attention,” the SPLC writes.

Additionally, the organization notes, “While the fallout from the Charlottesville rally crippled some white nationalist groups, it birthed Patriot Front, whose membership is increasing while its tactics are become more violent and confrontational.”

Black nationalist groups are also growing along with white nationalists, according to the SPLC. “Existing black nationalist groups have grown in size and new groups have formed. This growth is a response to the current climate of racial divisiveness, specifically police violence and Donald Trump’s derisive remarks about African Americans, including journalists and NFL players, and majority-black countries,” the report notes.

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Charles Duncan covers what’s happening right now across North and South Carolina, from breaking news to fun or interesting stories from across the region. He holds degrees from N.C. State University and Duke and lives two blocks from the ocean in Myrtle Beach.