Washington: The number of hate groups across the United States surged during the first year of Donald Trump’s presidency, echoing his often incendiary stances on race, according to a new report Wednesday.
The Southern Poverty Law Center’s annual survey of extremist groups said the number of hate groups and their chapters rose by four percent last year to 954, with Trump-inspired alt-right and white supremacist groups provoking a backlash from hardline African-American groups.
“President Trump’s first year in office proved to be just as racially divisive as his campaign — but even more consequential,” the SPLC said in it “The Year in Hate and Extremism” report.
In a year that saw them emerge more openly, including in an August 2017 rally that turned deadly in Charlottesville, Virginia, neo-Nazi groups surged in number, to 121 from 99, the report said, in part by recruiting college students.
Anti-Muslim groups also jumped to 114 chapters from 101 in 2017, after a tripling the year before, when Trump marked his presidential campaign with a promise to close the country’s doors to Muslims.
“President Trump in 2017 reflected what white supremacist groups want to see: a country where racism is sanctioned by the highest office, immigrants are given the boot and Muslims banned,” said Heidi Beirich, director of the SPLC’s Intelligence Project.
“When you consider that only days into 2018, Trump called African countries ‘shitholes, it’s clear he’s not changing his tune. And that’s music to the ears of white supremacists.”
This has provoked a backlash, the report said. Hardline black nationalist groups and the African-American Nation of Islam have also grown sharply, their chapters rising to 233 from 193 in 2016.
One notable shift though is the sharp fall of the Ku Klux Klan, which symbolized the oppression of black Americans in the 20th century.
“The decline is a clear indication that the new generation of white supremacists is rejecting the Klan’s hoods and robes for the hipper image of the more loosely organized alt-right movement,” the SPLC said.
The report counts hate groups of all kinds — extremist anti-government militias, anti-semitic groups, anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant, and others — in all 50 states of the country.
It also for the first time two male supremacy groups which the SPLC said vilify women.