Radical Right Wing Groups Growing in the U.S. Since Election of President Obama


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Radical right wing groups have reached an all time high, fueled by the election of President Obama, lack of jobs, and the debate about gun safety measures.

According to a report issued by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), this is the fourth consecutive year of an increase in the number of the groups.

In a letter to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, the SPLC warned of the potential for domestic terrorism and urged the creation of a new interagency task force to assess the adequacy of federal resources devoted to the threat.

http://www.splcenter.org/sites/default/files/SPLC-PATRIOT-MILITIA-_GRAPH.jpgClick image to enlarge.

“As in the period before the Oklahoma City bombing, we now are seeing ominous threats from those who believe that the government is poised to take their guns,”  wrote SPLC President Richard Cohen, a member of the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Countering Violent Extremism Working Group. In October 1994, the SPLC wrote to then-Attorney General Janet Reno about the growing threat of domestic extremism; the Oklahoma City federal building was bombed six months later in the country’s deadliest act of domestic terrorism.

According to the SPLCA, there are 1,360 right wing or ‘Patriot’ groups in 2012 – an 813 percent rise since 2008, the year before Obama took office. The groups include 321 militias. These numbers far exceed the movement’s peak in the 1990s, when militias were inflamed by the 1993 Brady Bill and the 1994 assault rifle ban.

The SPLC also found that hate groups remained at a near-record level of 1,007 groups in 2012, a slight drop from the 1,018 groups documented in 2011.

In 2009, conservative lawmakers criticized DHS for a report arguing the election of the first black president could cause a resurgence in right-wing extremism. Napolitano eventually apologized for issuing the report.

The center counts many militia and white black separatist groups in its total, along with secessionist groups in Texas and elsewhere.

There has been a decline in one category of hate group, according to the SPLC. The number of groups that harass immigrants has declined by 90 percent since 2010, with only 38 groups still operating.

The report is contained in the Spring 2013 issue of the SPLC’s quarterly investigative journal Intelligence Report. The SPLC also updated its comprehensive, state-by-state list of hate groups and interactive map showing their locations.

“We are seeing a real and rising threat of domestic terrorism as the number of far-right antigovernment groups continues to grow at an astounding pace,” said Mark Potok, SPLC senior fellow and author of the report. “It is critically important that the country take this threat seriously. The potential for deadly violence is real, and clearly rising.”

The SPLC headquarters in Montgomery, Alabama

The Southern Poverty Law Center, was founded by civil rights lawyers Morris Dees and Joseph J. Levin Jr. in 1971.  Headquartered in  Montgomery, Ala. (pictured at left), the organization began as a law firm to handle anti-discrimination cases in the United States. SPLC's first president was Julian Bond who served as president until 1979 and remains on its board of directors.  In 1979 the Center brought the first of its many cases against various Ku Klux Klan type organizations. In 1981 the Center began its Klanwatch project to monitor the activities of the KKK. That project, now called Hatewatch, has been expanded to include seven other types of hate organizations.

In July 1983, the center's office was firebombed, destroying the building and records. In February 1985 Klan members and a Klan sympathizer pleaded guilty to federal and state charges related to the fire. At the trial Klansmen Joe M. Garner and Roy T. Downs Jr. along with Charles Bailey pleaded guilty to conspiring to intimidate, oppress and threaten members of black organizations represented by SPLC." According to Dees over 30 people have been jailed in connection with plots to kill him or blow up the center.

In 1984 Dees became an assassination target of The Order, a revolutionary white supremacist group, for his work with the SPLC. Another target, radio host Alan Berg, was killed by the group outside his Colorado home.

In 1987, SPLC won a case against the United Klans of America for the lynching of Michael Donald, a black teenager in Mobile, Alabama. The SPLC used an unprecedented legal strategy of holding an organization responsible for the crimes of individual members to help produce a $7 million judgment for the victim's mother. The verdict bankrupted the United Klans of America and resulted in its national headquarters being sold for about $52,000 to help satisfy the judgment. In 1987 five members of a Klan offshoot, the White Patriot Party, were indicted for stealing military weaponry and plotting to kill Dees.

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/b/b4/Civil_Rights_Memorial_fountain.jpg/250px-Civil_Rights_Memorial_fountain.jpgIn 1989 the Center unveiled its Civil Rights Memorial, (pictured at left) designed by Maya Lin, who created the Vietnam Memorial.  The Center's "Teaching Tolerance" project was initiated in 1991, and its "Klanwatch" program has gradually expanded to include other anti-hate monitoring projects and a list of reported hate groups in the United States.

In October 1990, the SPLC won $12.5 million in damages against Tom Metzger and his White Aryan Resistance when a Portland, Oregon, jury held the neo-Nazi group liable in the beating death of an Ethiopian immigrant.  While Metzger lost his home and ability to publish material, the full amount of the multi-million dollar reward was not recovered. In 1995, a group of four white males were indicted for planning to blow up the SPLC.

In May 1998, three white supremacists were arrested for allegedly planning a nationwide campaign of assassinations and bombings targeting "Morris Dees, an undisclosed federal judge in Illinois, a black radio-show host in Missouri, Dees's Southern Poverty Law Center in Alabama, the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles, and the Anti-Defamation League in New York.

In July 2007, the SPLC filed suit against the Imperial Klans of America (IKA) in Meade County, where in July 2006 five Klansmen allegedly beat Jordan Gruver, a 16-year-old boy of Panamanian descent, at a Kentucky county fair. After filing the suit the SPLC received nearly a dozen threats. During the November 2008 trial on the lawsuit, a former member of the IKA said that the Klan head told him to kill Dees.

 

Visit your local library for these resources:

Fighting the Devil in Dixie: How Civil Rights Activists Took On the Ku Klux Klan in Alabama
Wayne Greenhaw, (2011).
Journalist Greenhaw grew up in Alabama and had relatives and family friends deeply ensconced in the Ku Klux Klan. As an individual and later a reporter covering the civil rights movement for the Alabama Journal and the Montgomery Advertiser, Greenhaw made close contact with the heroic and villainous elements of the civil rights era. He chronicles the famous and the lesser-known, the activists and the people on the sidelines, black and white, who were compelled to make difficult choices to challenge or comply with heinous social customs.—Excerpt of review by Vanessa Bush first published December 15, 2010 (Booklist).

The Backlash: Right-Wing Radicals, Hi-Def Hucksters, and Paranoid Politics in the Age of Obama
Will Bunch, (2010).
Already fretting over the U.S. Census Bureau prediction that by 2050 whites will no longer be in the majority in the U.S. and worried by the loss of jobs and home equity, a certain element of the white population has been unhinged by the election of the nation’s first black president, argues Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist Bunch.  Bunch traveled the circuit from Delaware to Arizona, attending anti-immigration meetings and shooting rallies, to record the astonishing anger, fear, and discontent that has formed into a backlash against President Obama, alleging that he is not a U.S. citizen, that he means to take away guns from private citizens, and that he is directing FEMA to set up internment camps, all of which Bunch debunks.
— Excerpt of review by Vanessa Bush first published August 16, 2010 (Booklist Online ).

Political violence and terrorism in modern America : a chronology
Christopher Hewitt, (2005).    
American terrorism - terrorism that occurs within the United States and Puerto Rico - has been remarkably diverse in terms of the causes and ideologies of the terrorists. Here, Christopher Hewitt has compiled the details of over 3,100 bombings, shootings, kidnappings, and robberies carried out for political or social objectives between 1954 and 2005.

The Terrorist Next Door: The Militia Movement and the Radical Right
Daniel Levitas, (2002).
With so much attention focused on international terrorism, this book hits closer to home with an eye-opening look at potential domestic terrorist threats. Levitas explores the historic roots of Far Right hate groups in the U.S., how they have developed and evolved, and how the government has responded or failed to respond to this potent threat from within. Levitas notes the groups’ efforts to broaden their appeal beyond racism by promoting tax protests, resistance to gun control, and discontent about government intrusion, and the troubling political trends that have lent support to antigovernment militia groups since the 1960s. This is a well-researched, disturbing look at domestic terrorism. — Excerpt of review by Vanessa Bush first published November 1, 2002 (Booklist).

Women of the Klan
Kathleen M. Blee, (1992).

Backfire: how the Ku Klux Klan helped the civil rights movement
David M. Chalmers, (2003).

 

 

Images:

Guns and Sheets South Eastern Ohio, KKK by escapedtowisconsin.

Southern Poverty Law Center headquarters in  Montgomery, Ala.

Civil Rights Memorial  designed by Maya Lin.

 

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