The Southern Poverty Law Center released its annual report on active hate groups in the United States this week, and the findings reveal that numbers last year were at the highest level in two decades.
USA Today reported on Wednesday that the civil rights organization found a 7 percent rise in extremism from 2017 to 2018.
The total number of groups designated as hate groups by the SPLC — which “range from white supremacists to black nationalists, neo-Nazis to neo-confederates” — jumped from 784 four years ago to 1,020 today.
Director of SPLC’s Intelligence Project Heidi Beirich, who authored the report, said white nationalist groups have seen the most significant growth in the past two years, jumping from 193 to 264.
According to the report: "Much of the energy on the radical right this year was concentrated in the white supremacist milieu. After a lull that followed the violence in Charlottesville, which brought criminal charges and civil suits that temporarily dampened the radical right's activism and organizing, newer groups gathered momentum."
Though the first half of the decade saw a decline in hate group activity, Beirich said concern over white Americans losing their majority in coming years combined with the 2016 election brought such groups out of the shadows.
Jack McDevitt, director of the Institute on Race and Justice at Northeastern University, said the SPLC’s findings are “depressing, but it’s not surprising,” adding that "you got a whole bunch of indications we're seeing a resurgence in hate activity."
One group added to the SPLC’s list was apparently pleased to learn of its new status: American Freedom Party Chairman William Johnson told USA Today that he was “flattered.”
On its website, American Freedom Party says the "core European American population" is being overrun by "tens of millions of legal and illegal immigrants.”
Johnson characterized the group as a “love group,” not a hate group. The American Freedom Party counts "nationalists of many stripes and races" as members, he told USA Today, adding that "white people are becoming comfortable with being proud of their heritage."