A man holds a site protesting hate crime
People grieve while Jesus Estrella, 21 holds a sign outside Young’s Asian Massage following the deadly shootings in Georgia. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton

The white supremacy movement has undergone profound changes, as detailed in the influential Southern Poverty Law Center‘s annual report released Wednesday.

The Year in Hate and Extremism 2021” documents active hate and antigovernment groups across America, including those in California and San Diego

The storming of the Capitol on Jan. 6 exposed how “extremists leaders can mobilize large groups of Americans” and now has” coalesced into a political movement,” according to the SPLC

 Hate is now above ground, visible everyday in the media and on the internet, as extremist groups are becoming more centralized. The SPLC explained that extremists continue to organize but now more selectively given concerns over law enforcement focusing closely on their movements.

These organizations typically insert themselves in local “hot” debates like school board meetings and the anti-masking movement. One favorite online platform for extremists in San Diego and elsewhere is Telegram, a social media and messaging app.

 Leonard Trinh of the San Diego District Attorney’s Special Operations Division is familiar with the platform’s popularity and, based on what he’s observed, local extremists do use the site. But he noted that numerous hate websites are “THE platform of the moment” on social media, though individual ones move in and out of favor

On Telegram one sees “more openly violent messages” like “advocating for or valorizing acts of terror” from groups like neo-Nazis says, according to experts on extremism.

The latest report from the Alabama-based civil rights advocacy organization is drawn from information gathered by the Intelligence Project, a group of more than a dozen investigators working for the SPLC.

 The researchers found the number of groups has been dropping because of changes going on in the country. That doesn’t mean, however, that fewer people are involved with extremism. 

In 2018 there were 1,021 hate groups tracked by SPLC; this year that number has dropped to 733. The numbers include the infamous Klu Klux Klan, racist Skinheads, Neo-Nazis, and various anti-Muslim, anti-Immigration, anti-LGBTQ, and anti-Semitic coalitions. 

The report notes that some white supremacist groups have other interests. Trinh from the DA’s office said, “The issues the report raises are accurate about white supremacists moving into criminal activities more so than other hate groups.” 

San Diego has a number of hate and antigovernment groups, three of which are highlighted in the SPLC’s 2021 “hate map.”

The number of antigovernment groups in the United States stood at 566 in 2020. This most recent report puts the figure lower at 488 groups. In San Diego, the Sovereignty Education and Defense Ministry is listed as an antigovernment group.

Such groups sometimes deny they are under U.S. jurisdiction. Some members deny their U.S. citizenship and will pledge their allegiance to American National Citizenship. They claim the Federal Reserve is not a legitimate institution, and in the past members have been arrested for passing bad checks, warrants and other worthless monetary instruments.

The SPLC said the sovereign citizens movement has 9,421 members and provides followers with, among other things, information on how to deal with judges and information for pastors. When Trinh was asked about this group, he said he could not comment.

Similarly, he could not comment on the other San Diego group highlighted by the SPLC reporty, Sicarii 1715. Like the Proud Boys, Sicarii is among the hate groups that “defy simple categorization” because “they embrace a broad range of bigotries,” the report said.

The Anti-Defamation League describes them as believing “white people are agents of Satan, Jews are liars and false worshipers of God, and Blacks are the true “chosen people.” 

In San Marcos, Koschertified? is designated a hate group by the SPLC. The organization offers an anti-Kosher food app and claims the Kosher designation is used to rip off consumers. Followers frequently tweet content criticizing Israel and offering blatant anti-Semitic messaging. 

The SPLC report cautions that more “violent rhetoric and threats” will persist throughout this year.

JW August is a San Diego-based broadcast and digital journalist.