Hate, violence, and extremism increased at a faster rate in 2015. The Southern Poverty Law Center released a report which states that extremist groups mushroomed amidst the divisive politics which unfolded in America last year. Mark Potok, senior fellow at the SPLC and editor of the Intelligence Report, said
“While the number of extremist groups grew in 2015 after several years of declines, the real story was the deadly violence committed by extremists in city after city. Whether it was Charleston, San Bernardino or Colorado Springs, 2015 was clearly a year of deadly action for extremists.”
According to its research, the center found that the number of hate groups organized against racial, religious, sexual or other characteristics increased to 892 in 2015, up from 784 a year earlier. This increase followed three years of declines in extremist groups, Potok said.
“Last year was an incredibly dramatic year, marked by very high levels of political violence, an enormous rage in the electorate, the growth of hate groups and also hate speech in mainstream politics to an extent that we have not seen in decades. I have been writing these year-in-hate and extremism essays for 20 years now and only very rarely, if at all, have we seen a year like last year.”
Battles over the Confederate flag, police killings, and the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement led to two diametrically opposed groups: Ku Klux Klan and black separatists, to account for the largest share of last year’s surge.
Klan groups saw a comeback in 2015, more than doubling to 190 from 72 a year earlier, the center said. The number of black separatist groups rose to 180, up from 113 in 2014.
The research named 34 anti-Muslim groups, whose activities rocketed towards the end of 2015 after the terrorist attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, California. The center found 48 anti-LGBT groups that redoubled their efforts toward organized discrimination after a landmark Supreme Court ruling guaranteeing the right to same sex marriages nationwide.
The center, based in Montgomery, Alabama, records only groups that are active, and have turned out for protests, recruited members, etc., and not a mere website.
The report was published as part of the center’s quarterly journal, Intelligence Report. The cover displayed Donald J. Trump in front of a microphone with the heading “The Year in Hate and Extremism.”
“After seeing the bloodshed that defined 2015, our politicians should have worked to defuse this anger and bring us together as a nation. Unfortunately, the carnage did little to dissuade some political figures from spouting incendiary rhetoric about minorities. In fact, they frequently exploited the anger and polarization across the country for political gain,” Potok said.
While citing the caustic rhetoric of the Republican presidential candidates in general as a reason behind the hate brigades, the report refered to Trump in particular for his remarks on Muslims and immigration across the southern border as the leading incitement for raising intolerance.
Potok wrote about it in the journal.
“White supremacist forums are awash with electoral joy, having dubbed Trump their ‘Glorious Leader.’ And Trump has repaid the compliments, retweeting hate posts and spreading their false statistics on black-on-white crime.”
Among the states with the most hate groups were California, Florida, Georgia, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and Texas.
Hate crimes have been declining in the United States over the last decade, according to FBI data. The most recent numbers showed 5,462 reported incidents in 2014, down from 7,642 a decade earlier, reported the New York Times.
Heidi Beirich of the Southern Poverty Law Center cautioned that the FBI data undercounted the actual number of cases. A 2013 Justice Department study reported that around 250,000 cases of hate-inspired victimization occur every year.
The Southern Poverty Law Center report is telling of the current times, and calls for a reflection from all the sections of the society.
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