Southern Poverty Law Center lists extremist groups operating in W.Va.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A national group that tracks hate and extremism groups believes that 13 such groups are operating within West Virginia's borders, according to an annual report released Tuesday.
The Southern Poverty Law Center, which released a report for all 50 states, said the largest increase in the groups they monitor comes from anti-government groups.
"We are seeing the fourth straight year of really explosive growth of anti-government 'patriot' groups," Mark Potok, a senior fellow at the Southern Poverty Law Center, said during a conference call on Tuesday.
"Capping four years of explosive growth sparked by the election of America's first black president and anger over the economy, the number of conspiracy-minded antigovernment 'Patriot' groups reached an all time high of 1,360 in 2012," Potok wrote in this spring's issue of SPLC's Intelligence Report.
"Hate groups also remain at near record levels. There are over 1,000 of these groups today," Potok said Tuesday.
The groups that the SPLC lists in West Virginia include three based in Hillsboro, Pocahontas County: the National Alliance, National Vanguard Books and Resistance Records.
William Luther Pierce ran the National Alliance for many years before his death in 2002. Since then, the group's influence has waned from being one of the nation's largest, most influential hate groups, Potok told the Gazette last year.
Other hate groups in West Virginia include the American Third Position, a white nationalist group based in Maidsville. That group, which now bills itself as the American Freedom Party, held a rally at the West Virginia Capitol last month.
Other groups include the Original Knight Riders Knights, associated with the Ku Klux Klan, in Beckley; the Aryan Terror Brigade, Creativity Alliance, Creativity Movement, Ku Klos<co> Knight of the Ku Klux Klan, Loyal White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan and National Socialist Movement.
Potok believes the re-election of Barack Obama as president and the ongoing gun-control debate sparked by the December killings of 28 people at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. have increased the rage of the radical right.
"It is not merely the person of Barack Obama, but the change that he represents," Potok said. "The Census Bureau predicts non-Hispanic whites will lose their majority in the country by 2043. This is animating a remarkable level of anger, fear and discomfort.
"Some 20 states are considering laws that would nullify any national gun control," he said. "About 500 sheriffs, mainly in the western United States, are saying they will not implement any federal gun control measure," Potok said.
"What these states and these sheriffs are proposing is unconstitutional. It is not legal. If the federal government passes gun control laws, they must be obeyed."
There could be 200,000 to 300,000 people involved in hate groups today, Potok believes, as well as 300,000 to 400,000 in militia groups or "sovereign citizen" movements.
Today's hate groups, he added, "are not particular to the Deep South. They exist from sea to shining sea. You don't find militias in New York City or San Francisco. But you do find anti-black groups and skinheads there.
"Overall, no geographic area is particularly worse or better than any other area."
Morris Dees, who co-founded the Southern Poverty Law Center in 1971, spoke at the annual W.E. "Ned" Chilton III Leadership Lecture Series in Charleston in November 1995.
On its website, the SPLC offers an interactive map of hate groups in all 50 states at www.splcenter.org/get-informed/hate-map. Potok's new article, "The Year in Hate and Extremism." is available at www.splcenter.org/home/2013/spring/the-year-in-hate-and-extremism.
Reach Paul J. Nyden at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-5164.