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Tracking extremism in Arizona

By: - March 18, 2019 1:37 pm

Incidents of hate, extremism and anti-Semitism in Arizona in 2017 and 2018, as tracked by the Anti-Defamation League. Screenshot via ADL.org

In the wake of last week’s mass murder of 50 Muslim congregants in Christchurch, New Zealand, a committee in the U.S. House of Representatives is planning a hearing in the near future on “the rise of white nationalism in the U.S. and the hate crime and hate speech surrounding the movement,” the Daily Beast reported.

The man charged with those murders, which were committed at two mosques in the capital city of New Zealand, wrote a manifesto that outlined his white nationalist views. The hearing by the House Judiciary Committee may happen by early April, though sources told the Daily Beast that details were still being worked out.

In November, The New York Times Magazine wrote at length about how law enforcement agencies across the country, including the FBI, were utterly unprepared to deal with the threat of violent white nationalist groups and are now struggling to both gather intelligence, contain the groups and prevent adherents from committing violence.

Law enforcement may not have been tracking the growth of white extremist groups or their activities, but others have been. Earlier this year, the Anti-Defamation League and the Southern Policy Law Center both issued reports on the subject.

The ADL’s Center on Extremism, which tracks extremist activity in the U.S. and elsewhere, in February published what it calls its H.E.A.T. Map, which displays incidents of hate, extremism, anti-Semitism and terrorism across the U.S.

The ADL documented 59 such incidents in Arizona in 2017 and 2018, all in Maricopa and Pima Counties. The incidents ranged from anti-Semitic harassment to swastikas being drawn on buildings to white supremacist groups recruiting new members at area colleges and universities.

Of those 59 incidents, 31 involved white supremacist propaganda, mostly from the group Identity Evropa distributing flyers at Arizona State University, University of Arizona and Glendale Community College. On two separate occasions, the white nationalist group also hung banners: once in Tempe celebrating white “traditions” at Christmas in late 2017 and then in Tucson in September 2018 calling for an end to immigration and “invasion.”

Also in February, the SPLC released its annual census of hate groups in the U.S. Nationally, they documented 1,020 such groups, with ideologies including anti-immigrant, anti-LGBT, black nationalist, neo-Nazi, white nationalist and “general hate.” That figure marks a 70-percent increase since 2000, and SPLC notes that white nationalist groups specifically have grown by 50 percent in that time.

SPLC tracked 20 hate groups in Arizona in 2018, a 150-percent growth from the 8 it tracked in 2000. Among them are organizations like Bomb Islam, American Border Patrol, Patriot Movement AZ, Proud Boys, National Socialist Movement and Identity Evropa.

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Jim Small
Jim Small

Jim Small is a native Arizonan and has covered state government, policy and politics since 2004, with a focus on investigative and in-depth policy reporting, first as a reporter for the Arizona Capitol Times, then as editor of the paper and its prestigious sister publications. He has also served as the editor and executive director of the Arizona Center for Investigative Reporting.