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Last week, we released our annual hate group count in the latest edition of the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Intelligence Report. The key finding was that the number of hate groups operating in the United States continued to rise in 2008 and has grown by 54% since 2000 — an increase fueled last year by immigration fears, a failing economy and the successful campaign of Barack Obama.
The SPLC identified 926 hate groups active in 2008, up more than 4% from the 888 groups in 2007 and far above the 602 groups documented in 2000. A list and interactive, state-by-state map of these groups can be viewed here.
As in recent years, hate groups were animated by fears of Latino immigration. This rise in hate groups has coincided with a 40% growth in hate crimes against Latinos between 2003 and 2007, according to FBI statistics. But two additional factors were introduced to the volatile hate movement in 2008: the faltering economy and the Obama campaign.
Several white supremacists have been arrested while allegedly plotting to kill Obama, and following the election he received more threats than any previous president-elect. Scores of racially charged incidents — beatings, effigy burnings, racist graffiti, threats and intimidation — were reported across the country after the election. Extremists are also exploiting the economic crisis, spreading propaganda that blames minorities and immigrants for the subprime mortgage meltdown. Tough economic times historically provide fertile ground for extremist movements.