Organizations that study hate crimes in the United States say that the number of hate groups in the country has risen since 2015.
Hate groups are organizations that call for hatred or violence against people because of their race, religion, sexual orientation or other characteristics.
The Southern Poverty Law Center, or SPLC, is a civil rights organization that researches hate groups, incidents of hate and hate crimes.
In a report released last month, the SPLC said the number of hate groups in the United States reached a near-record of 917 in 2016. That is up from 892 in 2015. The SPLC has been counting hate groups for 30 years. The highest number of hate groups was 1,018 in 2011.
President Trump began his address to the United States Congress last week by recognizing recent hate crimes in America.
“Recent threats targeting Jewish Community Centers and vandalism of Jewish cemeteries, as well as last week’s shooting in Kansas City, remind us that while we may be a nation divided on policies, we are a country that stands united in condemning hate and evil in all of its very ugly forms.”
There have been a number of anti-Jewish incidents in 2017.
The Anti-Defamation League is a rights group that seeks fair treatment for Jewish people. It released a security warning to Jewish organizations across the U.S. late last month.
The warning comes as a sixth wave of bomb threats targeted 110 Jewish community centers and day schools since January. The latest wave was Tuesday. According to the ADL, bombs threats were made to at least 13 Jewish centers and schools in 10 states.
In many places, people had to evacuate buildings while police and dogs searched for bombs. No bombs were found.
The FBI arrested Juan Thompson in St. Louis, Missouri in connection with some of the bomb threats. Thompson is suspected of making at least eight bomb threats to Jewish organizations this year. The FBI says that Thompson might have made the threats as part of a campaign to insult a woman who ended a relationship with him.
Three crimes in Jewish cemeteries also were reported in recent weeks. Criminals damaged and knocked down at least 154 headstones in St. Louis, Missouri on February 19. A week later, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, about 100 headstones were damaged.
And, on March 2, five headstones were found damaged in Rochester, New York. Many of those headstones were over 100 years old.
Days after the incident in St. Louis, Vice President Mike Pence visited the cemetery to help clean up the damage. He said there is no place in America for hatred or acts of prejudice, violence or anti-Semitism.
Several incidents being investigated as hate crimes
One of the latest incidents of violence happened Friday in the state of Washington near Seattle.
The Associated Press, or AP, reported that a U.S. national of Indian origin told police that a man with a gun approached him at his home. The Indian foreign minister identified the victim as Deep Rai who is a member of the Sikh religion.
Rai said the gunman shouted “go back to your own country” and shot him in the arm. Rai is expected to recover. Police are looking for the gunman.
AP also reported that Hira Singh, a Sikh community leader near Seattle, said Sikhs have recently been the target of offensive language.
Last month in the central state of Kansas, an engineer from India, Srinivas Kuchibhotla, died after being shot in a crowded bar. Another Indian man and an American who tried to help were injured in the incident.
The Kansas City Star newspaper reported that a witness heard a man shout “get out of my country” before shooting at the men.
Adam Purinton was arrested hours after the shooting and has been charged with murder and attempted murder.
Kuchibhotla and his wounded friend, both from the southern Indian city of Hyderabad, worked at an American technology company in Kansas.
Hate groups targeting Muslims increase
The SPLC says the largest increase in hate groups were those targeting Muslims. In 2015, there were 34 anti-Muslim hate groups. That number grew to 101 in 2016.
In St. Louis, Missouri, Muslims are raising money to help pay for the damaged Jewish cemeteries. Organizers of the campaign want to "send a united message from the Jewish and Muslim communities" and to condemn "hate, desecration, and violence."
Professor Steven Goldstein is the national director of the Anne Frank Center for Mutual Respect. He told VOA that President Trump should hold a televised speech that deals with hate crimes.
“The president should give a prime-time, televised address outlining specifically what he will do to combat not just anti-Semitism, but all forms of hatred.” he said.
Goldstein said public figures have an influence on other people’s behavior. He said they have a responsibility to set a good example.
I’m Dorothy Gundy.
Words in This Story
sexual orientation - n. a person's sexual identity
characteristics – n. special qualities or traits that make a person, thing, or group different from others
evacuate – v. to leave a dangerous place
cemeteries – n. places where dead people are buried
headstone – n. a stone that marks the place where a dead person is buried and that usually has the person's name and birth and death dates on it
anti-Semitism – n. hatred of Jewish people
bar – n. a building or room where alcoholic drinks and sometimes food are served
desecration – v. to damage a holy place or object
prime-time - n. the time in the evening when the largest number of people are watching television
specifically – adv. in a definite and exact way
combat - v. to try to stop something from happening or getting worse