Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Civil-rights advocates say hate groups proliferate, especially in rural areas

Concerns about presidential security have increased during Barack Obama's presidency, and at least one group points to his race as the primary cause. The Southern Poverty Law Center, which calls itself a "nonprofit civil-rights organization dedicated to fighting hate and bigotry, and to seeking justice for the most vulnerable members of society," has been keeping track of potentially violent domestic militia groups since the 1990s and reports activity is up dramatically since Obama won the Democratic nomination in September 2008. Much of the violent activity can be traced to rural areas, reports Ed Pilkington of The Guardian, a leading and liberal British newspaper.

The center's latest report says the 149 anti-government groups in 2008 more than tripled in 2009 to 512 groups, 127 of which were classified as paramilitary. Brian Levin, a criminologist who heads the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University, told Pilkington the phenomenon is evident in rural areas around the Appalachian Mountains and Great Lakes and into the West and Pacific Northwest. "We've always had people who hate the president, we've always had conspiracies," Levin told Pilkington, "but the fact that we have a black president at a time of economic tumult makes these conspiracies much more volatile among a far wider group of people."

Chip Berlet, an analyst of right-wing extremism for Political Research Associates, "estimates that there have been nine murders by individuals who have white supremacist, xenophobic or anti-semitic leanings since the inauguration of Obama," Pilkington writes. "The hatred that's there is very real," Travis McAdam, who has been tracking such activity for the last two decades on behalf of the Montana Human Rights Network, told Pilkington. "It's more than a gut-level hatred of having an African-American as president, it's also ideological – these people see black people as sub-human. Groups are popping up that have a new message and are using Obama to recruit new members." (Read more)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

"the phenomenon is evident in rural areas around the Appalachian mountains and Great Lakes and into the west and Pacific northwest."

Why doesn't he say everywhere but NY and California?