The ADL’s Center on Extremism released its annual report on white supremacist activity in the US on Tuesday, showing that white supremacist propaganda efforts increased by 182 percent in 2018 from the previous year, to a total of 1,187 instances. Their biggest efforts focused on college campuses, where there was nearly sevenfold increase from 129 to 868 instances.
“Posting fliers is a tried-and-true tactic for hate groups, one that enables them to spread hateful ideas and sow fear across an entire community,” Jonathan Greenblatt, ADL’s CEO and national director, said in a press release Tuesday. “Hate groups were emboldened in 2018, but their increasing reliance on hate leafleting indicates that most of their members understand this is a fringe activity and are unwilling to risk greater public exposure or arrest.”
In addition, there were at least 91 public rallies or events, up from 76 in 2017, although those demonstrations were much smaller than the previous year and increasingly forced to rely upon the “flash mob” tactic, as more and more venues are refusing to tolerate the groups and the often large counter-protests that follow them.
Rallies and propaganda targeted Jews, black people and the LGBTQ community, but Muslims, Latinos and the general topic of immigration were their main focus, ADL reports.
White supremacist activity was most heavily concentrated in large metropolitan areas and the states of California, Texas, Colorado, New York, Illinois, Florida and Virginia, although activities were recorded on the campuses of 37 states and the District of Columbia.
The most common groups involved in these efforts were Identity Evropa and Patriot Front, the country’s two largest alt-right groups, which commonly mask their ideology in vague patriotic imagery that features US Presidents Andrew Jackson or George Washington and uses phrases like “European roots American greatness.” These serve as dog whistles, conveying the groups’ white supremacist messages to those who know to look for them, but remaining “unheard” by passers by, just like a whistle that’s at too high a pitch for humans to hear, but that dogs perceive just fine.
Other groups engaged in propaganda efforts, which most commonly included flyering and banner drops, were more openly neo-Nazi groups like Atomwaffen Division and Daily Stormer Book Clubs.
ADL recorded activities by 11 different groups of the Ku Klux Klan (KKK), a white supremacist organization known for its white hoods and robes — and the lynchings and cross burnings it uses to create terror. The North Carolina-based Loyal White Knights, which ADL describes as “a Nazified Klan group best known for their vitriolic and often anti-Semitic propaganda,” was responsible by itself for 78 of the 97 incidents of Klan activity the ADL recorded in 2018.
However, an annual report last month by another hate group-tracking organization, the Southern Poverty Law Center, found that the actual number of KKK chapters fell drastically in the last two years, from 130 in 2016 to 72 in 2018.
The SPLC also found that the number of neo-Nazi groups has increased, though, from 99 in 2016 to 121 last year. It also recorded the highest-ever total number of hate groups in 2018: 1,020, Sputnik reported.
After the August 2017 Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in which clashes between an enormous variety of white supremacists and anti-fascist counter protesters turned deadly when one attendee drove his car into a crowd of counter protesters, towns and establishments became much more hesitant to provide such groups with permits and spaces in which to hold their rallies and demonstrations. When they have, such as when Michigan State University reluctantly decided to let alt-right leader Richard Spencer speak on their campus in March 2018, large protests have tried to shut them down.
ADL noted “the tone was set early in the year” by the Spencer event, and so white supremacists turned to “unannounced, quickly disbanded gatherings,” which, while drawing far fewer counter-protests, drew fewer participants, too. Between Identity Evropa and Patriot Front, the two groups had more than 30 flash demonstrations, but ADL notes that two-thirds of them had fewer than 10 participants.
Most of these demonstrations focused on immigration issues: sanctuary cities, Mexican consulates in the US and demonstrations at the US-Mexico border itself, where US President Donald Trump has pledged to build a wall to control what he characterizes as dangerous levels and quality of immigration.
However, over the course of the year, white supremacist groups attacked a wide range of activities and institutions, including an anarchist book fair in Boston, a “Bingo against borders” event at a bar in Houston and an “Occupy ICE” event in San Antonio, as well as women’s marches, gay and trans pride events, anti-gun “March for our Lives” demonstrations and protests against Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the US Supreme Court.
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