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Catalog of state hate groups


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"There is no official arbiter, at the end of the day; it's a matter of opinion," Potok said. "For the SPLC's list, it's a group that espouses doctrines that attack whole groups of people based on a class of characteristics that are unchangeable. The bottom line is that it's strictly about ideology. Does a group in its writings and speeches of its leaders somehow say someone is less by virtue of their class characteristics? The basis is to understand that it's not about violence or criminality, and that may be controversial in some minds."

With several of the groups rejecting the "hate group" label and disavowing violent ideologies, those on the list share a common bond, with each claiming to be victims of political correctness whose freedom of speech has been oppressed. Defending that right has become a rallying call for many landing on the SPLC's map, with the latest battleground in Michigan.

A recent lawsuit filed by Clinton Township attorney Kyle Bristow against Michigan State University (MSU) claims the school violated the constitutional rights of a Georgia State University student trying to plan a speech by a prominent white nationalist. Michigan State University denied renting the student accomodations to allow Richard Spencer, head of the National Policy Institute, to speak. The university said the decision wasn't an attempt at censorship, but out of concern for the safety of its students.

Spencer is credited with coining the term "alt right" as a mainstream description of white nationalist ideology being spread throughout college campuses across the country. While not the organizer, he has been considered key to the Unite the Right rally in August that left one person dead and several injured in Charlottesville, Virginia at University of Virginia. The rally is considered by white supremacists and the groups that monitor them to be the largest gathering of Neo-Nazis, KKK members, skinheads and other white nationalist groups in recent history. Michigan State University cited violence at the rally as cause for denying Spencer accommodations in East Lansing.

"With the efforts on campuses, there's a huge hubbub about free speech, and five universities have refused Richard Spencer, and now one is being sued," Potok said. "These groups are quite cleverly using the battle as if it were some sophisticated discussion of free speech. I'm not arguing they shouldn't have free speech, but it's a cynical effort to make their voices louder than they already are."

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