CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - A new report released Wednesday says the number of hate groups in the Palmetto state has grown in each of the past three years.
The Southern Poverty Law Center released its “Year In Hate and Extremism” report on Wednesday, which detailed the rise.
According to the report’s “hate map," South Carolina had 17 hate groups, up from 14 in 2017, and 12 in 2016. It’s the largest number since 2015 when the SPLC said there were 22 hate groups operating in South Carolina.
“Probably the most important thing about this report this year is that we calculated across the country that there are 1,020 hate groups,” Director of the Intelligence Project for Southern Poverty Law Center Heidi Beirich said. “And that’s the highest number that we have ever recorded of hate groups in the U.S.”
The SPLC definition of a hate group is based off of an organization’s official statements, principles or the statements or activities of its leaders. It also takes into account the group’s practices of attacking or “maligning” entire classes of people because of their race, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation or gender identity.
Beirich said the rise in hate groups threatens people’s safety.
“We have seen lots and lots of domestic terrorism inspired by the kinds of things we hear from hate groups in the last few years," Beirich said.
The National Socialist Movement is one of the organizations labeled as a hate group.
The law center describes it as a neo-Nazi group, notable for anti-Jewish rhetoric and racist views.
“It’s not about hate," National Socialist Movement member Kynan Dutton said. "It’s about love for the white race, it’s about wanting a whiter future.”
Dutton claims the Southern Poverty Law Center spreads misinformation and targets groups like his.
“We never advocate for violence," Dutton said. "We never advocate for anything that would be close even to a hate crime.”
But Beirich from the law center says even if these groups aren’t advocating for hate crimes or committing them, they can still inspire them.
“Many of us have to speak out to the Facebooks of the world to ask that more hate propaganda is removed from those mainstream platforms so we don’t get another Dylan Roof who ends up going down a rabbit hole of hate and committing mass violence," Beirich said.
Statewide and here in the Lowcountry, lawmakers have made an effort to reduce hate.
Last November, the city of Charleston also passed a hate crime ordinance.
The SPLC classified the various groups operating in South Carolina as anti-LGBT, anti-Muslim, white nationalist, "general hate, black nationalist, neo-confederate, neo-nazi, and the Ku Klux Klan.