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The Year in Hate 2019: White Nationalist Groups Rise for a Second Year in a Row – Up 55% Since 2017

Anti-LGBTQ Hate Groups Also Increase as Overall Number of Hate Groups Decline 

MONTGOMERY, Ala. – A white nationalist movement that was emboldened by the election of Donald Trump grew for a second straight year in 2019, as the number of hate groups in the movement rose to 155 – a 55 percent increase since 2017, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center’s annual Year in Hate and Extremism report released today.

Overall, the SPLC identified 940 hate groups operating across the country in 2019, a slight decline from the all-time high of 1,020 in 2018. More than half of the decline was due to a drop in the number of neo-Nazi groups, as two main factions collapsed amid leadership turmoil. Of the groups listed, most adhere to some form of white supremacist ideology.

The SPLC’s annual hate group count and analysis can be read online, along with an updated map showing the locations of hate groups nationwide, at www.splcenter.org.

“Make no mistake: We have a crisis of hate and extremism in our country – and the toxic ideas propagated by these hate groups not only lead to violence but erode the very foundations of our democracy,” said Lecia Brooks, spokesperson for SPLC. “The attacks in El Paso, Texas, and Poway, California, are stark reminders of the serious threat posed by white supremacist ideology and those it motivates to act. Each of these attacks – as well as thousands of hate crimes across the country – was inspired by white supremacist propaganda.”

As the country continues to experience white nationalist terror, extremist ideas long believed outside of the realm of legitimate politics are penetrating deeply into the mainstream, spawning public policies that target immigrants, Muslims and the LGBTQ community.

In addition to the growth of white nationalist groups, the year was marked by a sharp increase of anti-LGBTQ hate groups, which rose from 49 in 2018 to 70 last year — nearly a 43 percent spike. The Trump administration has fully embraced anti-LGBTQ leaders and their agendas, enacting numerous policies targeting the rights of LGBTQ people. President Trump, once again, lent the legitimacy of the White House to hate groups like the Family Research Council when he spoke at its annual Values Voter Summit last October.

“This important new report shines a light on the explosion of anti-LGBTQ groups across our country,” said Shannon Minter, legal director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights. “The resurgence of these groups poses a real danger to LGBTQ people and to the progress we have made, which feels increasingly precarious in the face of this administration’s shocking support for anti-LGBTQ hate groups and apparent determination to roll back even the most basic legal protections for LGBTQ people. Now more than ever, we must push back against these hateful narratives and call on elected officials and others to stand up for our common humanity.”          

Anti-immigrant hate groups notched a small increase, from 17 in 2018 to 20 in 2019. But their numbers, relative to other hate group categories, belie their influence and success in bringing what is essentially a white nationalist ideology into the mainstream of politics and policy. Their ideas are now deeply entrenched in the Trump administration, which has installed numerous people allied with the movement in key government posi¬tions and adopted harsh policies that seek to carry out the movement’s goal of dramatically curtailing the influx of nonwhite immigrants.

Nowhere is the anti-immigrant movement’s influence more evident than in the White House itself, where senior policy adviser Stephen Miller oversees immigration policy. Miller has long been a key ally of the John Tanton-founded network of hate groups, including the Federation for American Immigration Reform and the Center for Immigration Studies. In 2019, SPLC exposed the content of some 900 emails exchanged between Miller and Breitbart News editors that demonstrated his affinity for white nationalism.

“This past year, the Trump administration went to violent and illegal lengths to keep black, brown and poor immigrants from coming to the United States,” said Erika Pinheiro, director of litigation and policy for Al Otro Lado. “In 2019, the administration introduced several new immigration policies that effectively ended access to the U.S. asylum system at our southern border. Metering and the Orwellian-named ‘Migrant Protection Protocols’ have trapped tens of thousands of migrants, including small children, in crowded, unsanitary conditions in border cities where they suffer kidnapping, rape, extortion and murder at the hands of violent criminal groups and corrupt officials. Other Salvadoran and Honduran refugees were deported from our borders to Guatemala, where many face danger from the same persecution they fled. Militarized ICE raids stole members of our communities, including veterans, and detained and deported them with minimal due process rights, while private prisons continue to profit from the forced labor of immigrant detainees. From preventable deaths in detention to continued family separation, this administration has shown its disregard for the basic humanity of the migrants seeking safety in the United States.” 

While anti-Muslim sentiment remains strong on the radical right – as well as within the Trump administration – the number of anti-Muslim hate groups fell from 100 in 2018 to 84 in 2019, and shake-ups within the administration left the movement with fewer allies in the halls of power. The anti-Muslim movement did retain one powerful friend in Washington in 2019: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who the hate group ACT for America has called a “steadfast ally.” 

“The Southern Poverty Law Center’s new report reveals that we are in a dangerous, new era of anti-Muslim hate,” said Madihha Ahussain, special counsel for anti-Muslim Bigotry at Muslim Advocates. “Hateful, discriminatory ideas like the Muslim Ban were first floated in these circles and are now government policy. Meanwhile, a violent, anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant ideology is threatening houses of worship worldwide. This is an immediate, global threat and we must do everything we can to thwart it.”

Contributing to the overall drop in the number of hate groups was the decline in neo-Nazi groups, from 112 to 59. Two of the biggest factions that were composed of multiple chapters fell apart in 2019. The Traditionalist Worker Party, which had 12 chapters in 2018, shrank to zero last year after its leader, Matthew Heimbach, was arrested in a domestic violence incident the year before. And the National Socialist Movement (NSM), long the biggest Nazi formation of all, collapsed after its leader, Jeff Schoep, renounced the movement and reportedly signed papers transferring its assets to James Stern, a Black preacher in California who said he would shut down the group. Stern’s death in October threw the NSM further into chaos. Now, longtime member Burt Colucci, the group’s former chief of staff, claims that he has control.

Despite a handful of incidents that garnered national media attention, Black separatists saw a slight drop in numbers, from 264 to 255. Unlike the white nationalist movement, these groups continue to operate on the fringe of society with very few supporters and little to no influence in mainstream politics. 

“Inclusive democracy is in the crosshairs of hate and bigotry. White nationalists no longer seek to simply spread their views – they are committed to seizing the power of the state,” said Eric Ward, executive director at Western States Center. “Civil society must be properly equipped to respond to this threat and combat the surge in white nationalist organizing and violence. The ‘Year in Hate’ is a vital tool for assessing these challenges and planning an effective response.”

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What is a hate group?

A hate group is an organization that – based on its official statements or principles, the statements of its leaders, or its activities – has beliefs or practices that attack or malign an entire class of people, typically for their immutable characteristics. The FBI uses similar criteria in its definition of a hate crime.

For more information about hate groups and how they’re identified, click here

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Here is what other nonprofit and academic leaders are saying about the state of hate and extremism in the U.S.:

“We agree that the surge in white nationalism documented by the SPLC demands action. As multiple generations of people of color, religious minorities, people with disabilities, and people in the LGBTQ community can attest, hate is not new. But white nationalists and other hate groups have been newly emboldened in ways that threaten the future of our democracy. Over the last three years, white nationalists and their hateful ideologies have permeated the highest levels of government and helped generate anti-immigrant policies that advance white supremacy and promote hate violence. In this heightened climate, the work of local and national organizations fighting back against hate and supporting those targeted by it is more critical than ever. We must commit to protecting our society from violence and intolerance and focus on building one that is protected by our national ideals of justice, inclusion and fairness. This is what will strengthen and sustain our democracy.” – Vanita Gupta, President and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights

“We know that belief in a hateful ideology is not a prerequisite for joining a hate group. There are many other factors — alienation, trauma, shame, and abuse – and individuals are more likely to leave a hate group if they feel they have an alternate community to support them. Many extremists act as if they are committed to ‘the cause,’ but their conviction is unsteady. While so-called ‘lone actors’ remain capable of carrying out devastating acts of terrorism, many other far-right extremists become disillusioned long before, or as our experiences has shown us, after a catastrophic event like Charlottesville or Christchurch. During those moments of clarity or doubt our approach matters. That’s when we have the best chance to reach people and call them back in.” – Sammy Rangel, Executive Director at Life After Hate

“The extremism that has been awakened and emboldened by the current administration has revealed the deep trauma and pain of race discrimination that founded this country and continues to permeate every institution to the detriment of black and brown people to the benefit of white people. Hate groups are increasingly infiltrating and deepening their foothold in rural areas of the country. They exploit the economic struggle and personal pain of the working class and poor, offering community, connection and a social and political analysis that offers the cause and the anecdote, albeit one steeped in bigotry and hate.
 
“Hate groups, their architects and leaders now occupy some of the most important positions in government, courts and institutions. The threat to our democracy cannot be overstated, nor that it will remain long after the election of 2020. 
 
“United Vision for Idaho and SPLC understand that our collective liberation requires people and organizations working together in a fundamentally new way to unite rural, suburban and urban communities across the country in a shared struggle.” – Adrienne Evans, Executive Director at United Vision for Idaho

“SPLC’s Intelligence Project report on the Year in Hate 2019 outlines the imminent threat facing our country and presents a clear call to action. Our communities, houses of worship, schools and workplaces are on the frontlines of bigotry, where the deep harm of hate can have a lasting impact on our individual lives, our families, the health and safety of our communities and the future of democracy. But when mobilized, the forces against hate are much more powerful. 

“Over two decades of on the ground experience in local communities across the country has shown us that effective response takes place when targeted communities and concerned residents join forces with civic and elected leaders, faith groups, educators, students and law enforcement to stand up to hate. We must all make a commitment to do something to make everyone in our towns feel safe, respected and included. If each of us does our part in this perilous moment, we can stop hate together.” – Patrice O’Neill, Executive Producer/Director at Not In Our Town

“SPLC's research is in alignment with ours and others about the disturbing transformation of white supremacy as a transnational terror threat. 

“In any year, SPLC's annual report is a critical data source that we always look forward to analyzing. However, in a year where organized groups have fragmented and white supremacist homicides hit a century peak, the report is invaluable. 

“As larger traditional hate groups have splintered, the leaner and meaner remaining ones, pose a threat, not only from the radicalization of their members, but from outside do-it-yourselfers, who dine at the same hate-filled propaganda buffet that caters to members and non-members alike. 

“The SPLC's analysis on the breadth of domestic terrorism and extremist groups by region and ideology mirrors the findings of our Center and others relating to the rise of white supremacist homicides and the disturbing reach of bigoted attitudes into the mainstream.” – Brian Levin, Director at the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism