Number Of U.S. Hate Groups At Highest Level In Two Decades

The Southern Poverty Law Center counted 1,020 hate groups in 2018. Its new report cites the current U.S. president as a possible reason for the rise.

Members of the Fraternal White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan participate in the 11th Annual Nathan Bedford Forrest Birthday march July 11, 2009 in Pulaski, Tennessee
Spencer Platt / Getty Images

The Southern Poverty Law Center counted 1,020 hate groups in 2018. Its new report cites the current U.S. president as a possible reason for the rise.

The number of hate groups in the United States is the highest it’s been in 20 years, the Guardian is reporting. A new study conducted by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) reported that there were at least 1,020 hate groups in the country as of 2018. This is a startling 7 percent higher than 2017’s tally. This is also a new all-time high for the number of hate groups the SPLC has counted over the years, beating out 2011’s previous record where hatred for President Obama was said to be at its peak.

This year’s results are attributed to current U.S. President Donald Trump, and the report mentions Trump’s Twitter account promoting “noxious anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim views.” In addition, the director of the SPLC’s Intelligence Project Heidi Beirich stated in a press conference that “words and imagery coming out of the Trump administration” are at least partially responsible for the rise in hate groups. The report put extra focus on two of the largest extremist attacks last year: an attempted mail-bombing of various Democrats and media organizations by one individual, and a mass shooting that occurred at a Pittsburgh synagogue that resulted in 11 fatalities.

The report also notes that while more historic hate groups such as the Ku Klux Klan are seeing a decrease, other white nationalist groups are on the rise, likely partly due to the internet. Supremacist groups such as Identity Evropa are not only using the web to recruit people but are also beginning to distribute flyers and showcase banners. Out of the 1,020 hate groups documented in the report, 148 of them are said to be white nationalist groups. These types of groups have seen a whopping 50 percent increase since 2017.

Another type of group that has seen a rise in numbers is what the report refers to as “general hate” groups. The SPLC particularly point a finger at rightwing group the Proud Boys for this increase. The report says the Proud Boys have demonstrated “the most relentless campaign of rightwing street violence in recent memory.” The Proud Boys’ rise in prominence is also said to be a factor in the rise in extremists — Proud Boys chairman Enrique Tarrio was honored at a Trump rally in Miami last week and was spotted making a visit to politician Roger Stone last month.

Proud Boys founder Gavin McInnes has actually filed a lawsuit against the SPLC for classifying them as a hate group, but Bierich says the organization “stands by [their] hate group listings.”