Neo-Nazi organizations saw the greatest growth among hate groups last year, according to a new report by Southern Poverty Law Center released Wednesday.
There were 954 active hate groups in the United States in 2017, SPLC found, the greatest total since 2011’s record-breaking year. About half of the groups are white supremacist groups, including Neo-Nazis, Neo-Confederates, white nationalists, skinheads, and Christian Identitarians. Almost one-quarter of 900 hate groups are black nationalists, and 114 groups are anti-Muslim. Other groups with specific hatred for the LGBTQ community, the government, and women have risen, albeit in smaller numbers.
“Within the white supremacist movement, Neo-Nazi groups saw the greatest growth—soaring by 22 percent from 99 to 121,” since 2016, according to the SPLC report.
“The overall number of hate groups likely understates the real level of hate in America,” SPLC said, “because a growing number of extremists, particularly those who identify with the alt-right, operate mainly online and may not be formally affiliated with a hate group.”
The report comes after a year of notorious violence by the so-called alt-right. In August 2017, white supremacists gathered for a “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia that led to the deaths of Heather Heyer and two local law enforcement officials. In January 2018, a California man who allegedly murdered his gay, Jewish high school classmate trained with Florida-based Neo-Nazi group Attomwaffen, ProPublica reported. In December 2017, a man who frequented alt-right forums and websites like The Daily Stormer killed three people including himself at a New Mexico school, The Daily Beast previously reported.
Since 2014, 43 people have been killed and 67 people have been injured by men associated with the alt-right or white supremacists, SPLC reported earlier this month. Dylann Roof, the man who murdered nine black churchgoers in Charleston nearly three years ago, regularly commented on The Daily Stormer and admitted to planning the race-based attack. "I chose Charleston because it is most historic city in my state, and at one time had the highest ratio of blacks to Whites in the country,” Roof wrote in a note used in his prosecution.
SPLC also counted the murders of Elliot Rodger, the California man who killed seven people, including himself, as one of the first massacres killings carried out by the “alt-right” before the movement went mainstream. Nikolas Cruz, the alleged Florida school shooter who killed 17 people on Valentine’s Day, commented “Elliot rodger will not be forgotten” on a YouTube video last year. Law enforcement said it is investigating whether Cruz was affiliated with a white supremacist group in Florida that initially claimed he was a member.
In a first for the organization, SPLC added two male supremacy groups to its annual report on extremism: Texas-based A Voice for Men and Washington, D.C.-based Return of Kings. “The vilification of women by these groups makes them no different than other groups that demean entire populations, such as the LGBT community, Muslims or Jews, based on their inherent characteristics,” SPLC said in a statement.
Heidi Beirich, director of SPLC's Intelligence Project, said that the organization compares male supremacy groups' methods—using slurs and saying women are “destroying” men—to white supremacist groups like the New Century Foundation, which publishes a magazine that “focuses on the demonization of black people.”
President Donald Trump blamed “many sides” for alt-right violence in Charlottesville, and the SPLC report says Trump’s presidency has emboldened white supremacists. “They believed they finally had a sympathizer in the White House and an administration that would enact policies to match their anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim and racist ideas,” the report stated.
The only hate group that decreased its chapters in 2017 was the Ku Klux Klan, the oldest hate group in the country. “It’s clear that the new generation of white supremacists is rejecting the hooded movement that was founded after the Civil War,” the authors of the SPLC report wrote.