Number of hate groups increased nationally in 2017, according to Southern Poverty Law Center report

Shaun Lien/Staff

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California has the highest number of hate groups in the country, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, or SPLC, Hate Map for 2017, which was released Wednesday.

The Hate Map is an annual report on hate groups across the United States compiled from publications by hate groups, news reports, field sources, and citizen and law enforcement reports.

The number of hate groups in the United States rose in 2017 — the third year in a row — by about 4 percent since 2016 and 22 percent since 2014, according to the SPLC data. This included a 13 percent increase in anti-Muslim groups, a 22 percent increase in neo-Nazi groups and a 57 percent increase in anti-immigrant groups.

Lecia Brooks, outreach director at the SPLC, attributes the continued rise in hate groups to the nativist tone of the Trump campaign, saying “an increase of rhetoric about a particular group of people results in hate and bias crimes that target that group of people.”

Brooks said, however, that while the physicalized presence of hate groups has contributed to the rise of hate crimes in part, it does not account for the rise overall.

While a 2016 FBI report found that Berkeley ranked fifth highest for hate crime occurrences in California, Brooks said this is likely inaccurate because the availability of data depends on police reporting practices, which are based on voluntary self-reporting. Thus, if a city police department self-reports more, Brooks said the city may have higher reports of crime.

Olivia Rempel, lab manager at the campus Human Rights Investigations Lab, said different states and counties have different regulations for what constitutes a hate crime and how to report it. Rempel added that not all police departments report hate crime data to the FBI, and sometimes jurisdictions will not report their hate crime data at all.

Additionally, Rempel said people often do not report hate crimes to the police but added that social media serves as another possible way to report incidents.

“We kind of realized this is a very subjective matter,” Rempel said. “It’s difficult to say something happened with one image, one video, one tweet. (Hate crimes are) very difficult to quantify.”

Rempel emphasized the need for documenting hate crimes that go unreported, citing ProPublica’s Documenting Hate project, which partnered with news publishers and universities, including The Daily Californian and the campus Human Rights Center. The project investigates, digitally verifies and publishes stories about hate crimes, creating a national database.

This increased visibility and coverage may be contributing to a perceived increase in hate and bias incidents, according to Rempel. Brooks added that a possible explanation for increased national counts of hate group chapters may be that hate groups, such as Identity Evropa, have increased their physical presence.

“College campuses have become ground zero for (alt-right) recruitment,” Brooks said. “(Colleges) and universities would do well to familiarize themselves with the hate groups in their area, so they can protect themselves from the influence and potential violence that follows these movements.”

Contact Michele Meltzer at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @michele_meltzer.