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The number of hate groups and anti-government organizations in the U.S. continued to climb in 2011, following an upward trend that has been accelerating in recent years, according to a new report from a civil rights group that tracks such organizations.
The Southern Poverty Law Center counted a total of 1,018 active hate groups in the nation last year, a slight uptick from the 1,002 it found the previous year. The group, however, found what it said was "stunning" growth in the number of anti-government organizations known as patriot groups, which do not typically meet the center's definition of a hate group. There were 1,274 such organizations active in the nation last year, a sharp rise from 824 in 2010 and 149 in 2008.
The report also found an increase in the number of anti-gay hate groups from last year (up 10 to 27) and anti-Muslim groups (up 20 to 30).
The report pointed to the economy, changing racial demographics and "the prospect of four more years under a black president" as the main kindling for the increased activity in hate groups and patriot organizations. In some instances—especially among a subset of patriot groups—the economy seemed to overtake race as the main issue driving group recruitment, which explains in part why some old extremist stand-bys didn't seem to benefit from the increased enthusiasm for far-right organizing. The Ku Klux Klan, for instance, lost 69 of their 221 chapters from a year ago.
Meanwhile, "nativist extremist" groups—vigilante anti-immigrant organizations—dropped from 319 in 2010 to 184 last year, albeit apparently for a slightly different reason. In states like Arizona and Alabama, the cause of these organizations has been taken up by state legislatures, apparently reducing the need for vigilante action, according to the report.
You can read the full report here.