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Trump Has ‘Unearthed Some Demons’: US Hate Groups Hit Record High in 2018

© REUTERS / Alejandro Alvarez/News2ShareWhite nationalists carry torches on the grounds of the University of Virginia, on the eve of a planned Unite The Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, U.S
White nationalists carry torches on the grounds of the University of Virginia, on the eve of a planned Unite The Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, U.S - Sputnik International
A new report by the Southern Poverty Law Center highlights the steady growth of hate groups in the US, which it finds hit an all-time high number last year. The 1,020 hate groups cover a range of identities, from race to gender, sexuality, religion and political creed.

According to the SPLC report, titled "Rage Against Change," the number of organizations meeting its definition of hate group grew 7 percent in 2018, to its highest number ever: 1,020. That's just a bit more than the previous record of 1,018, set in 2011. Last year was the fourth year in a row that the number has risen.

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Toward the end of Barack Obama's presidency, hate groups as well as hate crimes had been on the decline for three consecutive years, reaching a low of 784 in 2014. However, under US President Donald Trump, that number has ballooned by 30 percent.

"One of the main reasons for the rise of Donald Trump, the electoral success of his bigotry and our country's rising white supremacy is this: Trump has activated a growing fear in many white Americans who view their power as threatened by our country's rapidly changing demographics. He is taking advantage of their rage against change," the report says.

"The American population is moving toward a minority-majority future, a shift the Census Bureau predicts will occur sometime in the 2040s. Nativists, racists and our president are taking advantage of the browning of America, contrasting it with nostalgia for a perceived better, whiter past, and using that idea to activate citizens into white nationalist thinking."

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"The numbers tell a striking story — that this president is not simply a polarizing figure but a radicalizing one," Heidi Beirich, director of the SPLC's Intelligence Project, says in the report. "Rather than trying to tamp down hate, as presidents of both parties have done, President Trump elevates it — with both his rhetoric and his policies. In doing so, he's given people across America the go-ahead to act on their worst instincts."

Trump has, as former Rep. Mark Sanford (R-SC) said according to Reuters, "unearthed some demons."

According to the report, the vast majority of hate groups in the US adhere to some kind of white supremacist ideology. These include neo-Nazis and the Ku Klux Klan, but also skinheads, neo-Confederates, white nationalists and groups like the Proud Boys that rhetorically skirt the line by not openly calling themselves such things, but espousing similar ideology nonetheless.

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Black nationalist groups like Nation of Islam and the New Black Panther Party also make the SPLC's list. The report notes that the chapters of these groups, which often espouse anti-Semitic, anti-LGBT and anti-white positions, have also seen rapid growth in recent years. However, SPLC cautions that a direct comparison between these groups and white nationalist groups is unwarranted, since "the environment for black nationalist groups is categorically different than it is for white hate groups."

"Unlike white hate groups, whose champions found themselves in influential White House positions over the past two years, black nationalists have little or no impact on mainstream politics and no defenders in high office," the report reads.

One incident highlighted by the report is the June 30 riot in Portland, Oregon, when the Proud Boys and their West Coast partner group, Patriot Prayer, attacked a march of counter-protesters in the city's downtown. While Proud Boys founder Gavin McInnes has denied that the organization is a hate group and says it's focused on celebrating white masculinity, his rhetoric and that of the group is virtually indistinguishable from other white supremacist organizations.

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Following attacks by the Proud Boys in New York in November that led to charges being pressed against several of their members, McInnes resigned from leadership of the group in an effort to sidestep accusations that the group was a gang and to try and alleviate sentencing for the members charged with attacking leftist counter-protesters outside one of their events.

During the Portland melee, one Proud Boy, Ethan Nordean, knocked out an opposing demonstrator with a single punch. "It's so much fun to see that guy get fucking clocked," Mike Peinovich said on "The Daily Shoah," a podcast popular with alt-right white supremacists. That word, Shoah, is the name Jews use for the Holocaust, in which 6 million Jews and 5 million other victims were exterminated by the Nazi regime.

"This is the f*cking enemy," his co-host added, according to SPLC. "I hope they all drop dead."

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Many of the groups that fell victim to the Nazis' genocidal rampage across Europe in the 1930s and ‘40s appear as targets in the SPLC's report as well, including Jews and LGBTQ people. The report focuses on several incidents of anti-Semitic hate, including the massacre at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and the targeting of Jews for all manner of things, from supposedly being to blame for the sexual assault allegations against Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh in September to the high numbers of non-white immigrants coming to the US.

The Trump administration has helped fuel bigotry against LGBTQ people in myriad ways, not the least of which is having Mike Pence as vice president. The SPLC report notes numerous examples of Pence incorporating bigotry against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people into official political positions over his career.

"Homosexuality is incompatible with military service because the presence of homosexuals in the ranks weakens unit cohesion," reads one quote from his 2001 House of Representatives election campaign website. Another says, "Congress should oppose any effort to recognize homosexuals as a ‘discreet (sic) and insular minority' entitled to the protection of anti-discrimination laws similar to those extended to women and ethnic minorities."

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"Anti-LGBT hate groups also now enjoy access never afforded to extremist groups by a modern administration," says the report, noting that groups like Family Research Council (FRC) and Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) have enjoyed access to high-level government officials, including former Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

Under Sessions, the Justice Department prepared amicus briefs in support of ADF lawsuits that seek to allow discrimination against LGBT people, the report says.

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Six trans women and gender-nonconforming people were murdered in Florida last year and 26 across the US, which the report ties to the growing political offensive against trans people by the Trump administration. Since Trump took office, trans people have seen protections against discrimination systematically removed and language about LGBT issues such as HIV/AIDS scrubbed from the administration's website. The report also highlights how the policies of police forces with respect to how they handle transgender victims of crimes make few allowances for even basic respect of their identities. The most egregious of these is the use of a trans person's former name instead of their chosen name, which the SPLC notes happened in 11 of 23 deaths of trans people between January and October 2018.

"It is an indignity on top of the ultimate injustice," Human Rights Campaign spokeswoman Sarah McBride told SPLC. "It just breeds mistrust."

This often hinders investigations, the report notes, since few people know the victim by the former name and thus cannot come forward with important information in a timely fashion.

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The report also highlights the relationship between hate groups in the US and those overseas, noting in particular the World Congress of Families' anti-LGBT lobbying in Romania, Moldova, Italy and Spain, working with local groups cut from a similar cloth such as Generazione Famiglia, Lega and CitizenGO. It also notes the praise heaped upon Otoya Yamaguchi by McInnes. Yamaguchi was the sword-wielding assassin of prominent Japanese Socialist Party leader Inejiro Asanuma on October 12, 1960. McInnes has described the attack, in which Yamaguchi charged Asanuma on stage during a speech and plunged a yoroi-doshi into Asanuma's chest, as "inspiring."

"What a great icon," McInnes said in October 2018, immediately prior to what Bedford and Bowery called "street brawls" in Manhattan's Upper East Side. "What a great hero!"

Today, Yamaguchi's ideological progeny live on in Japanese groups like Zaitokukai, which translates to "Civic Group Against Privileges of Koreans in Japan," and the Japan First Party, founded by well-known Hitler-praisers Makoto Sakurai and Hiroyuki Seto, the report notes.

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