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Number of hate groups in US rose in 2016, report says

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The number of hate groups in the United States rose during 2016 for the second straight year, driven by a surge in anti-Muslim groups, according to a new report from the Southern Poverty Law Center.

The center counted 101 anti-Muslim groups nationwide last year, about three times as many as the 34 that were identified in 2015.

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The center in its annual report said the increase in anti-Muslim hate groups “was not unexpected.”

“Anti-Muslim hate has been expanding rapidly for more than two years now, driven by radical Islamist attacks … the unrelenting propaganda of a growing circle of well-paid ideologues, and the incendiary rhetoric of [President] Trump — his threats to ban Muslim immigration, mandate a registry of Muslims in America, and more.”

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FBI statistics, as well as data tracked by the Council on American-Islamic Relations and the Center for Race and Gender at the University of California Berkeley, have also shown dramatic rises recently in reports of anti-Muslim hate crimes and anti-Muslim incidents at mosques nationwide.

The center has said previously that in the 10 days after the November presidential election it tracked more than 860 bias- and hate-related incidents of varying types, including anti-Muslim cases.

In all, the center counted 917 hate groups in the United States last year, up from 892 in 2015 and 784 in 2014.

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The center’s count of hate groups rose consistently each year between 1999 and 2011, from 457 to a peak of 1,018. But after that, the number declined for a few years before the recent spike began.

The center said its counts “undoubtedly understate the real level of organized hatred in America.”

“In recent years, growing numbers of right-wing extremists operate mainly in cyberspace until, in some cases, they take action in the real world,” the center’s report said.

The center counted 28 hate groups based in New England in 2016, up from 26 in 2015. Of those totals:

• Massachusetts accounted for 12 last year, up from 10 in 2015.

• New Hampshire accounted for six in each year.

• Connecticut accounted for five, up from two.

• Maine accounted for three up, up from two.

• Rhode Island accounted for one, down from three.

• Vermont accounted for one, down from three.

The center defines hate groups as having “beliefs or practices that attack or malign an entire class of people, typically for their immutable characteristics.”

Matt Rocheleau can be reached at matthew.rocheleau@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @mrochele



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