Hate groups in N.J. and nationally on the rise

 This Saturday, Aug. 12, 2017 image shows a white supremacist carrying a Nazi flag into the entrance to Emancipation Park in Charlottesville, Va. (Steve Helber/AP Photo)

This Saturday, Aug. 12, 2017 image shows a white supremacist carrying a Nazi flag into the entrance to Emancipation Park in Charlottesville, Va. (Steve Helber/AP Photo)

The number of hate groups operating in New Jersey rose by one last year, according to a report from the Southern Poverty Law Center and state officials say the groups are distributing flyers far more often.

Eighteen hate groups were active in the state in 2018, up from 17 the year before.

The increase was part of a national trend. The Southern Poverty Law Center documented in 2018 what it said was the largest number of hate groups it has seen in decades: 1,020.

“The number reflects an enlivened American hate movement that is growing and has been for the last four years in particular,” said Heidi Beirich, director of the center’s Intelligence Project.

“This time period dovetails with [Donald] Trump’s [presidential] campaign and then his presidency, a period that has seen a 30 percent increase in the number of these groups,” she added.

Many hate groups have been influenced by President Trump — both in support of him and in opposition, she said. The number of white nationalist groups grew amid fears of rising immigration and changing demographics highlighted by the president, the center found, and black nationalist organizations proliferated in opposition to Trump, whom they believe is racist.

According to the center, hate groups operating in New Jersey include the white nationalist organizations Identity Evropa and Forza Nuova, black nationalist groups such as the National of Islam, a branch of the Ku Klux Klan, the Neo-Nazi publication the Daily Stormer, and the music label Elegy Records.

Last month, the New Jersey Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness noted an increase in reported instances of recruitment by white supremacists across the state.

Since January 2018, N.J. white supremacist groups distributed propaganda at least 46 times, including more than a dozen instances at colleges and universities.

That is up from about 20 reported instances in 2017.

A senior intelligence analyst with the state Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness said it is more accurate to view the increase as a change in tactics among hate groups that feel more comfortable sharing their ideologies in public.

“We’ve seen across the country that white supremacists feel more emboldened to express their views,” said the analyst, who remained anonymous for security reasons.

“This is what we would call ‘intellectual white supremacists,’” he added. “They’re trying to go after young, college-educated white males.”

Officials also suggested that the public is more aware of hate group activity due to media reports and more willing to report it.

N.J. officials said residents could report suspicious activity by calling 1-866-4-SAFE-NJ or emailing tips@njohsp.gov.

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