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Feb 28th, 2011


Police Worry About Sovereign Citizen Movement, SPLC Reports

By Matthew Harwood

February 28, 2011

Excerpts

A civil rights group says law enforcement from across the country have contacted it to report “a dramatic increase” in the level of sovereign citizen activity.

Last week, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) released its controversial annual report on hate and extremism inside the United States, “The Year in Hate & Extremism, 2010.”

The report claims that over 1,000 hate groups are now active in the United States, the most the SPLC has counted since it began keeping track in the 1980s. On top of hate groups, which the SPLC describes as groups with “beliefs or practices that attack or malign an entire class of people, typically for their immutable characteristics,” the organization counts 824 anti-government “Patriot” groups and 319 nativist extremist groups.

According to the SPLC, “taken together, these three strands of the radical right — the hatemongers, the nativists and the antigovernment zealots — increased from 1,753 groups in 2009 to 2,145 in 2010, a 22% rise. That followed a 2008-2009 increase of 40%.”

The SPLC says that the election of President Barack Obama combined with changing racial demographics and a faltering economy have produced this upswing in what it considers groups that espouse reactionary and conspiratorial theories aimed at minorities and the government.

Within the report, the SPLC notes that police nationwide have contacted it to report increased activity among sovereign citizens.

“Since the murder last May 20 of two West Memphis, Ark., police officers by two members of the so-called “sovereign citizens” movement, police from around the country have contacted the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) to report what one detective in Kentucky described as a ‘dramatic increase’ in sovereign activity,” the organization said. “Sovereign citizens, who, like militias, are part of the larger Patriot movement, believe that the federal government has no right to tax or regulate them and, as a result, often come into conflict with police and tax authorities.”

The SPLC also notes a Treasury Department report from this year that worries about increasing attacks and threats levied against IRS employees and facilities.

The report’s release has provoked backlash from conservative and right-wing groups [link added] who criticize the SPLC for having a flexible definition of what constitutes a “hate group” and opportunistically using incendiary language for fundraising purposes. …

Full report

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Southern Poverty Law Center

Home

2010 - The Year in Hate and Extremism

The Year in Hate & Extremism, 2010

Mark Potok

Intelligence Report, Spring 2011, Issue Number: 141

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Related reports on this site

Michele Bachmann: Political Paranoia (Aug. 25, 2010)

Extremism Rises in America (June 16, 2010)

Homeland Security Averse to Reporting Rightwing Extremism (April 17, 2010)

Tea Party Fomenting Rebellion? (April 5, 2010)

Sovereign Citizen Ultimatum to Governors (April  3, 2010)

Christian Militia Terror Plot (March 29, 2010)

Pentagon Plot Political Paranoia (March 5, 2010)

Extremism Explodes in America (March 3, 2010)

Suspicious Plane Crash in Texas (Feb. 19, 2010)

Economy and Obama Volatile Mix (April 16, 2009)

Obama, Economy Fuel Hate Groups (Feb. 28, 2009)

Obama Racist Backlash (Nov. 16, 2008)

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FROM THE ARCHIVES: One Year Ago — February 28, 2010

Pope Benedict on Chile Quake

Image: Pope Benedict XVI
Pope Benedict XVI delivers his 2008 Christmas Day blessing from St. Peter’s Basilica. (Photo credit: Franco Origlia / Getty Images)

One year ago today, I reported that Pope Benedict XVI, saying “I pray for the victims,” urged survivors of Chile’s devastating earthquake to be courageous and asked the Catholic Church to play a role in relief efforts.

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FROM THE ARCHIVES: Two Years Ago — February 28, 2009

Obama, Economy Fuel Hate Groups

A cross and swastika are burned at an event called Hated and Proud in Nebraska in July 2008.
A cross and swastika are burned at an event called Hated and Proud in Nebraska in July 2008. (Photo credit: Southern Poverty Law Center / CNN)

Two years ago today, on Feb. 28, 2009, I reported that the Southern Poverty Law Center had released its annual hate group report, titled “The Year in Hate.” The study identified 926 hate groups active in 2008 and found that the number of hate groups had grown by 54 percent since 2000.

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