Trump’s Presidency Helping Local ‘Hate Groups’ Grow?

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Hate group activity has been on the rise nationwide since President Donald Trump’s candidacy and election, according to an assessment by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

And the Philadelphia region has not been immune to the growth. Pennsylvania has the fifth largest concentration of hate groups in the U.S., the SPLC said.

The NBC10 Investigators met face-to-face with leaders of accused hate groups to see how the new administration’s policies have changed their membership.

“For many years, there’s a lot of black people who didn’t realize how deep the racism of white America was, but now that Donald Trump is in office, boy, it’s clear now,” said Commanding General Yahanna, who leads the Israelite School of Universal Practical Knowledge.

The ISUPK is labeled as a black separatist organization by the SLPC. Its school is based in Upper Darby, Delaware County and the group holds rallies in Center City Philadelphia.

Yahanna said his group is thriving since Trump’s election, but disagreed with the characterization of being a hate group.

When asked for membership tallies, Yahanna declined to share numbers.

Daniel Burnside, who leads of the National Socialist Movement in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware and Maryland, did the same.

The NBC10 Investigators traveled to Ulysses, Potter County in north-central Pennsylvania to meet Burnside at his home. He said thanks to Trump, his movement feels like it has a voice.

“I chose not to back him and not to breath his name until he was elected because I didn’t want to cause him damage,” Burnside said.

“That’s how bad I wanted him in there.”

A hate group is defined as a collection of people who hate or discriminate another group of people based on race, religion or sex, according to the SLPC.

“I certainly do think that the Trump campaign and the election had an effect,” Southern Poverty Law Center Executive Director Mark Potok said. “What the Trump campaign and now the Trump presidency have done in effect is to normalize or legitimize a lot of the views of these groups.”

The SPLC reports the number of hate groups operating in the U.S. rose from 892 in 2015 to 917 in 2016. Fifty-nine of those groups are in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware.

The NBC10 Investigators asked the White House to respond to claims that the president’s candidacy and election are to blame for these rising numbers.

A spokesperson referred us to a specific line in the Trump’s February address before a joint session of Congress: “We are a county that stands united in condemning hate and evil in all its very ugly forms,” Trump said.

The SPLC reports anti-Muslim groups — in particular — have benefited from some of Trump’s rhetoric and policies, but one such group’s leader said that is not accurate in his case.

“We don’t hate Muslims,” Keith Davies said. He’s executive director of the Shoebat Foundation. “We hate the ideology that drives Muslims to do what they do.”

Davies runs his organization from Bucks County and said its purpose is to expose what he calls hateful and dangerous messages in Islam. Davies contends the foundation is not a hate group.

He said he’s glad the president is willing to talk about what he calls “extreme Islam,” but theorizes far right supporters now don’t think his group goes far enough. He said donations to the Shoebat Foundation are down.

Still, the SPLC has the Shoebat Foundation on its list of hate groups.

“We were within 100 groups of the highest count we have ever had in some 30 years of counting,” Potok said.

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