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Southern Poverty Law Center Records Rise In U.S. Hate Groups


The number of anti-Muslim hate groups nearly tripled last year. That's just one of the dramatic statistics in a new report by the Southern Poverty Law Center. NPR's Cheryl Corley has more on the growth of hate groups in the U.S.

CHERYL CORLEY, BYLINE: This annual count from the Southern Poverty Law Center includes groups like the Ku Klux Klan, neo-Nazis and other white nationalists, along with anti-government patriot groups and anti-LGBT groups. The SPLC's Mark Potok says their numbers have consistently been on the rise since about 2000.

MARK POTOK: The radical right out there is booming.

CORLEY: The overall increase shows a 3 percent rise in the number of hate groups.

POTOK: From 892 groups in 2015 to 917 last year.

CORLEY: And part of that growth is due to what Potok calls the Trump phenomenon.

POTOK: So in many ways, Trump has co-opted these groups, co-opted their issues in terms of land use, in terms of guns, in terms of opposition to immigration, in terms of seeing Muslims as a threat.

CORLEY: The count for anti-Muslim hate groups went up by nearly 200 percent, from 34 groups in 2015 to 101 in 2016. Ibrahim Hooper is with the Council of American-Islamic Relations (ph).

IBRAHIM HOOPER: Unfortunately, what we've seen over particularly the past year and during the presidential campaign was the mainstreaming of Islamophobia.

CORLEY: Which Hooper says has led to the burning of mosques and other incidents. The SPLC report also shows less dramatic increases for neo-Confederate groups in the South and for black separatists, and declines in the number of patriot or anti-government groups and the Ku Klux Klan. Even so, the report says at 917, the number of hate groups in the country is still very high. Potok says they are less tied to a region, but instead to population centers.

POTOK: So in very, very low population states like North Dakota you might have one group. In a very high population state like California, we've got 79.

CORLEY: He says more and more, people on the radical right don't connect directly with hate groups but instead lurk on the internet until they decide action is needed. A good example, he said, is mass murderer Dylann Roof, who killed nine African-Americans in a South Carolina church in 2015 and apparently did not have direct contact with hate groups or white supremacists. Cheryl Corley, NPR News, Chicago. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Cheryl Corley is a Chicago-based NPR correspondent who works for the National Desk. She primarily covers criminal justice issues as well as breaking news in the Midwest and across the country.