The number of KKK groups in America more than doubled last year, says new report


After years of apparently dwindling away into the annals of history, the Ku Klux Klan saw something of a resurgence in activity last year, according to a report published by a hate group watchdog.

The number of Klan-affiliated groups in America grew to 190 last year, up from 72 in 2014, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center’s report, titled “The Year in Hate and Extremism.” (On the cover: Donald Trump.)

“The year saw an apparent comeback of Klan groups,” the organization found, with a 164% increase in the number of active groups.

The spike is partly attributed to the splintering last year of two of the nation’s largest KKK groups. The Fraternal White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan and the Knight Rider Knights of the Ku Klux Klan both disappeared last year, and the Southern Poverty Law Center estimates that most of their members moved on to form smaller splinter groups.

Nonetheless, KKK-affiliate groups were still “to some extent genuinely revitalized last year,” the report said, citing the estimated 364 pro-Confederate flag rallies that were held across the country. These rallies were organized after South Carolina decided to take down the Confederate flag from its state grounds in the wake of the murder of nine black parishioners in the state.

Dylan Roof, the suspect in the murders, is an avowed white supremacist and Confederate flag lover.

Overall, the number of active hate groups in the U.S. rose from 784 in 2014 to 892 in 2015—a 14% increase, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. Most of that growth is from the radical political right, the report finds.

“The bulk of that anger is coming from beleaguered working-class and, to a lesser extent, middle-class white people, especially the less educated—the very same groups that most vociferously support Trump,” the report reads.

In some hate-filled sections of the nation, numbers have dwindled, though even that may be cause for concern. For instance, the number of white-nationalist, skinhead, or neo-Nazi groups shrunk a bit in 2015. But as the Southern Poverty Law Center Report notes, that shrinking number might be a “reflection, perhaps, that hate in the mainstream had absorbed some of the hate on the fringes.”

In other words, traditionally fringe groups might finally be finding mainstream voices that they can get behind. That’s a frightening sign of the times, if there ever was one.

There are a multitude of possible factors related to the jump in active hate groups (which had been slowly going down every year since a peak in 2011).

There’s the rise of Trump, the persistent visibility of the Black Lives Matter movement, a major same-sex marriage ruling by the Supreme Court and the shifting demographics of the U.S., all set against the backdrop of the rise of ISIS, fears of radical Islamic terrorism entering the U.S., and our hemisphere’s own immigration woes.

The 2015 newscycle started with the attacks of the headquarters of Charlie Hebdo in Paris by ISIS-affiliated radical jihadists, and ended with the ISIS-inspired murder of 14 people in San Bernardino by a married radical jihadist couple.

In between those bookends, there was a mass shooting at a Planned Parenthood office in the U.S., another ISIS-inspired mass shooting in Tennessee, and numerous foiled attempts of right wing groups to commit terrorist acts on U.S. soil.

A few, just for illustrative purposes: A former New York congressional candidate was arrested and accused of plotting to bomb and kill Muslims in upstate New York; A right wing “sovereign citizen”—someone who believes most laws don’t apply to them—was charged for threat of terrorist acts in West Virginia for an alleged plot to overthrow the state government and kill anyone who tried to interfere with his plan; Five Virginia men were arrested for an alleged plot to attack synagogues and black churches. There’s more where that came from.

On the flipside of the dramatic rise of KKK-affiliated groups, the other hate group category that saw the most dramatic rise in 2015 was the rise of Black separatist groups—up to 180 active groups from 113 in 2014, according to the SPLC’s report, making for a 58% increase. New groups popped up last year in San Francisco, Baltimore, and New York, while active groups saw new chapters opening up. Police killings of black men, continuing institutional racism, and other perceived or actual mistreatments of black people have likely driven this rise, suggests the report.

“But unlike activists in the Black Lives Matter movement and their sympathizers, black separatist groups are more interested in demonizing ‘the Jews’ and whites than working for solutions to the very real racial problems in the country,” it states.

Hate groups, as designated by the SPLC, are active in 48 states and Washington D.C. The only two states without active hate groups are the ones that are physically removed from the continental U.S.: Alaska and Hawaii.

Daniel Rivero is a producer/reporter for Fusion who focuses on police and justice issues. He also skateboards, does a bunch of arts related things on his off time, and likes Cuban coffee.

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