The number of hate groups in Maryland and across the country grew in 2018 to its highest level on record, the Southern Poverty Law Center reported Wednesday. The legal advocacy group counted 21 in Maryland, up from 19 the year before.
Although six groups in Maryland were delisted, eight new organizations were added. These included four black nationalist groups, the Proud Boys (a self-described “western chauvinist” group launched by Vice media co-founder Gavin McInnes) and a mix of Ku Klux Klan, neo-nazi and white nationalist.
The Southern Poverty Law Center, based in Montgomery, Ala., counted 1,020 active hate groups nationwide, a 7 percent increase over 2017, and about double the number it counted since it began researching such groups in 2000.
White nationalist groups surged by nearly 50 percent, energized by the presidency of Donald Trump, the center said.
Response to Trump also drove a rise in black nationalist groups, according to the center.
“The number reflects an enlivened American hate movement that is growing and has been over the last four years,” said Heidi Beirich, director of the center’s Intelligence Project. “This time period dovetails with Trump’s campaign, and then his presidency.”
The Southern Poverty Law Center defines a hate group as an organization that “based on its official statements or principles, the statements of its leaders, or its activities — has beliefs or practices that attack or malign an entire class of people, typically for their immutable characteristics.” The center tracks groups through the organizations’ publications, citizen and law enforcement reports, field sources, news media and its own investigations.
Most American hate groups -- including the white nationalists, neo-Nazis and racist skinheads -- have some form of white supremacist ideology, according to the center’s new report.
Of the other 13 hate groups that were already in Maryland, four are black nationalists, two are Ku Klux Klan groups and two are “general hate” — which represents an array of hateful ideologies. The others are white nationalist, anti-muslim, Holocaust denial, racist skinhead and hate music.
The Baltimore Sun attempted to contact each of the eight groups added to the list in Maryland. Only one responded Wednesday — The United Kingdom of Israel Congregation, categorized as black nationalist.
Shaul Israel, elder and chief priest of United Kingdom of Israel Congregation, said he strongly disagreed with the center’s characterization of his group as a hate group. He said while they are against integration of races or ethnicities, they do not teach hate or violence.
“We teach obedience to the book that this country was founded on – the bible. We teach that it’s not right to steal, murder or lie,” he said.
Whereas the Southern Poverty Law Center describes black nationalist groups generally as being anti-white, anti-Jewish and anti-police, Israel said, “We are not anti-police. There are members of law enforcement in our group. We’re also not anti-white or anti-Israel.”
A YouTube video called “Watchmen For Israel Setting The Harbor Ablaze” features Watchmen for Israel, one of the groups listed as new black nationalist hate group in Baltimore. It features men along Baltimore’s Inner Harbor asking others whether they know their nationality and reading to them from a religious text.
The center said black nationalists do not have the same kind of following as white nationalists and “should not be confused with the many non-racist African-American organizations that work for social justice and the elimination of institutional racism in America.” They also do not have anywhere near the history of violence or terrorism as the white supremacist groups.
Proud Boys founder McInnes earlier this month sued the Southern Poverty Law Center over its designation of his organization as a hate group.
The new organizations in Maryland that the Southern Poverty Law Center classified as hate groups:
- Israelites the Branches, Baltimore, black nationalist
- Revolutionary Black Panther Party, Baltimore, black nationalist
- United Kingdom of Israel Congregation, Baltimore, black nationalist
- Watchmen of Israel, Baltimore, black nationalist
- Proud Boys, Baltimore, general hate
- Noble Klans of America, statewide, Ku Klux Klan
- Atomwaffen Division, statewide, neo-nazi
- Patriot Front, statewide, white nationalists