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February 16, 2017

SPLC: Seven hate groups operated in Philly last year

Their numbers continue to increase nationwide

The number of hate groups actively operating within the United States increased in 2016, according to an annual report released Wednesday by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

The SPLC recognized 917 hate groups operating in the United States, including seven in Philadelphia. That's up from 892 in 2015, continuing an upward trend that began in 2014.

It also is nearing the all-time high of 1,018 counted in 2011.

The SPLC is the foremost U.S. nonprofit organization monitoring the activities of domestic hate groups and other extremists. It compiles its list by examining hate group publications, their websites, law enforcement reports and media stories.

The organization defines hate groups as those having "beliefs or practices that attack or malign an entire class of people, typically for their immutable characteristics." It identifies groups with a range of hateful ideologies, from white supremacy to religious extremism to black superiority.

The seven groups operating in Philadelphia include two new groups since 2015 — the Traditionalist Worker Party, a white nationalist group, and The Daily Stormer, a Neo-Nazi group.

The SPLC found six hate groups operating in Philly in 2015, but it no longer considers the Traditional Rebel Knights of the Ku Klux Klan active in the city.

Pennsylvania had 40 active hate groups last year, including two in the Philly suburbs, the same total number the state had in 2015. Active groups in New Jersey declined from 21 to 15.

The report cited the successful presidential campaign of Donald Trump as an opportunity for the "radical right" to enter the political mainstream "in a way that had seemed virtually unimaginable since George Wallace ran for president in 1968."

"Trump's run for office electrified the radical right, which saw in him a champion of the idea that America is fundamentally a white man's country," Senior Fellow Mark Potok wrote.

The report notes 1,094 bias incidents — defined as hate crimes and lesser hate incidents — occurred in the first 34 days after Trump's election. Most came immediately after Election Day, with the numbers steadily declining afterward.

"It was, by any accounting, a banner year for hate," Potok wrote.

Here are the seven groups the SPLC considers active in Philadelphia, beginning with the two newest additions:

Traditionalist Worker Party: Founded in 2015, the TWP is allied with neo-Nazi organizations that espouse white supremacist views, according to the SPLC. It touts an identitarianism vision that pushes for ethnically homogenous communities and is considered part of the "Alternative Right," an ideology that argues white American culture is under threat from political correctness and multiculturalism.

The Daily Stormer: The Daily Stormer was founded in 2013 as a neo-Nazi website that took its name from a vile and pornographic Nazi newspaper started by Julius Streicher, who was later hanged for war crimes. But last year The Daily Stormer spawned 31 local activist chapters of a "troll army," with founder Andrew Anglin urging groups to prepare for an upcoming race war. Anglin also dubbed Donald Trump "Our Glorious Leader" as the website became the most popular of the "radical right."

Nation of Islam: The SPLC considers the NOI a hate group for its "bizarre theology of innate black superiority over whites," noting mainstream Muslims reject the belief system. The SPLC also cites "deeply racist, anti-Semitic and anti-gay rhetoric" spouted by its leaders, saying such rhetoric escalated under Louis Farrakhan's leadership.

As-Sabiqun: The SPLC classifies As-Sabiqun as one of many groups espousing "general hate." Founded in 1995, the movement calls for an Islamic revolution to replace the federal government, with a "paramount goal" to establish Islam as "a complete way of life in America." Based in Washington, the organization also has branches in Philly, Los Angeles, Oakland, San Diego and Sacramento, California.

Keystone State Racist Skinheads: A branch of Keystone United, a Harrisburg-based skinhead group founded in 2001. The group touts a white supremacy ideology while hosting various picnics, hikes and a music festival known as "Uprise." Though the group claims it seeks to break stereotypes of "alcoholic thugs and violent drug-addicted criminals," the SPLC notes group members have been convicted of violent attacks dating back to 1998.

Israelite Church of God in Jesus Christ: The SPLC describes the group, headquartered in New York City, as a black separatist organization "obsessed with hatred for whites and Jews." The group is an extremist sect of the Hebrew Israelite movement, a black nationalist theology that considers African-Americans as God's true chosen people. The SPLC clarifies that most Hebrew Israelites are not explicitly racist or anti-Semitic, nor do most advocate violence.

Israelite School of Universal and Practical Knowledge: The SPLC considers the group a black supremacist rival to the Israelite Church of God in Jesus Christ. The group's leaders have declared that Jesus will return to enslave and destroy the white race. An old recruiting video features four Israelite School preachers verbally berating a Jewish man — to the point of tears — while outside Jefferson Station in Center City.

Elsewhere in Pennsylvania, the SPLC considers the Shoebat Foundation, in Newtown, Bucks County, and Catholic Counterpoint, in Broomall, Delaware County, as hate groups. The Shoebat Foundation is classified as an anti-Muslim group while Catholic Counterpoint is considered a radical traditional Catholic group that espouses anti-Semitism.

In South Jersey, the SPLC recognizes an active chapters of the Nation of Islam in the city of Camden and Willingboro, Burlington County. It considers Micetrap Distribution, located in Maple Shade, Burlington County, a racist music label.