WASHINGTON – The number of neo-Nazi groups in America rose about 22 percent – from 99 to 121 – last year, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center’s annual survey of extremist groups.
In the report issued Wednesday, the SPLC, which works to end discrimination, also said the number of hate groups overall rose 4 percent last year and attributed some of the increase to President Donald Trump’s statements and tweets.
Heidi Beirich, leader of the SPLC’s Intelligence Project, pointed to the president’s speech after the Charlottesville, Virginia, rally last year in which he equated members of hate groups and anti-racist protesters as example of potentially inflammatory rhetoric. She also pointed to Trump’s hiring of people associated with hate groups, like former White House official Steve Bannon’s connection to Breitbart, which he founded. The White House declined to comment.
The report also noted a significant increase in the number of anti-Muslim groups, which rose from 101 to 114 (although this increase is much less significant than the 193 percent increase in 2016), and black nationalist hate groups, up from 193 to 233.
As the number of neo-Nazi and other hate groups grow, so does acceptance of their ideas, according to an ABC News-Washington Post poll this summer that found 9 percent of Americans think it is acceptable to hold neo-Nazi beliefs.
The Southern Poverty Law Center report said Ku Klux Klan chapters dropped from 130 to 72 last year. Beirich said the KKK is collapsing as “hipper” alt-right groups like Identity Evropa, Vanguard America and the National Policy Institute gain traction.
This year, the SPLC also added a new category to its survey: Male supremacy groups, which vilify women. It reported two of these groups.
It also identified 689 anti-government groups, up from 623 last year; 273 are armed militias.
The SPLC defines a hate group as a group that “has beliefs or practices that attack or malign an entire class of people, typically for their immutable characteristics.” These characteristics include race, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation or gender identity.
All of the groups considered hate groups have some kind of real-world activities like rallies or protests in addition to online platforms, Beirich said.