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There were 31 hate and extremist organizations operating in Michigan in 2018, according to a new report from the Southern Poverty Law Center, a civil rights organization located in Alabama.
The SPLC released a 73-page report, titled “Rage Against Change,” on Wednesday, Feb. 20, which documents an increase in active extremist and hate organizations in Michigan. The organization’s Hate Map report found Michigan experienced a 6.5 percent increase in active hate and extremist groups.
“This is a troubling trend,” said Michigan Department of Civil Rights Director Agustin V. Arbulu. “These groups range in the ideological extremes from anti-Muslim, to anti-LGBT to black nationalist and white nationalists. Particularly of concern, over one half of the identified groups are located east of US-23 between Flint and Ann Arbor.”
Of the 31 active hate groups listed in Michigan, eight are based in Detroit: Great Millstone, Israel United in Christ, Israelite School of Universal Practical Knowledge, Nation of Islam, National Socialist Movement, Northern Hammerskins, NSM88 Records, and the United Nuwaupians Worldwide/All Eyes on Egipt.
Attorney General Dana Nessel said she would stand up to hate in Michigan.
“Hate cannot continue to flourish in our state,” said Nessel, who founded the Fair Michigan Justice Project with Wayne County Prosecutor Kym L. Worthy to investigate and prosecute hate crimes. “I have seen the appalling, often fatal results of hate when it is acted upon.”
That is why Nessel has established a hate crimes unit in her office lead by former Macomb and Wayne County Prosecutor Sunita Doddamani.
“To fight against hate crimes and the many hate groups which have been allowed to proliferate in our state,” she said.
In addition to Nessel’s hate crime unit initiative, MDCR is developing a process to document hate and bias incidents in the state.
Hate and bias incidents are those instances where an action does not rise to the level of a crime or a civil infraction. For instance, Lansing’s Old Town experienced a spat of flyering by the white nationalist group Patriot Front over President’s Day weekend. Flyers were removed by residents and visitors, but were posted on social media, showing the group was targeting immigrants as well as Jews with the flyers. The flyers are protected under the First Amendment and do not rise to a crime.
“Hate and bias incidents serve to create a chilling effect in diverse communities, such as Old Town,” said Arbulu.
This is not the first time the Lansing area has been affected by a hate and bias group.
Michigan State University Young Americans for Freedom, a key group with a history dating back to 2006, was listed as the first university recognized hate group in SPCL Hate Map history. Until last year, the white nationalist group was led by Kyle Bristow as well as Richard Spencer. Bristow withdrew from public white nationalist activism over alleged threats. He also ran the Foundation for the Marketplace of Ideas until his break from public white nationalism.
FMI had several high profile white nationalists on the board, including Spencer and Jason Van Dyke.
Van Dyke, a former Michigan resident now living in Texas, served as the legal advisor to Bristow’s MSU YAF in 2006-2007 while it was on the Hate Map. Van Dyke most recently served a brief stint as the interim executive director of Proud Boys. Van Dyke is currently facing felony charges for filing a false police report in Texas over an alleged complaint of his gun and camera gear being stolen from his vehicle. He sued an activist in Texas for revealing his white nationalist history to a prosecutor’s office in Texas which rescinded his job offer as a result.
Moving forward, by documenting such incidents in a database, MDCR, working with community partners, will be able to create targeted awareness and education programs to address and combat such incidents in general.
“Identifying and calling out hate and bias incidents is an important tool in our toolbox to educate Michiganders about the undertone of hatred in our communities,” Arbulu continued. “But they also serve as a first step in developing community dialogs to strengthen our collective resolve to reject hate, bias and division. The Department looks forward to helping all of our community partners in fostering these important, powerful and ultimately life-changing discussions as we become more diversified.”