Florida ranked 2nd highest in hate groups

Staff and wire report
In this Saturday, Aug. 12, 2017 photo, James Alex Fields Jr., second from left, holds a black shield in Charlottesville, Va., where a white supremacist rally took place. Fields was later charged with second-degree murder and other counts after authorities say he plowed a car into a crowd of people protesting the white nationalist rally. (Alan Goffinski via AP)

The number of active hate groups in Florida ranks second among other states in the nation.

According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, there are currently 63 active hate groups in Florida, behind California's 79. The SPLC's report features a map detailing more than 900 hate groups actively operating across the country.

None are listed for the Volusia-Flagler area. There are six in the Orlando region, according to the SPLC: ACT For America (anti-Muslim), Legal Immigrants for America (anti-immigrant), Insight USA (general hate), All Eyes on Egipt Bookstore (black separatist), Liberty Counsel (anti-LGBT) and Vanguard America (white nationalist).

One of the listed Florida groups, the Liberty Counsel, strongly refutes that it is a hate group. It provided this statement to The News-Journal about being on the SPLC list:

"Liberty Counsel is not a hate group. We believe that discourse should be civil and respectful. Liberty Counsel condemns violence and does not support any person or group that advocates or promotes violence. Some who disagree with the religious and moral values of Liberty Counsel have falsely called Liberty Counsel a so-called 'hate group.' This is false, defamatory, and dangerous.

Faith-based groups like Liberty Counsel are not the only ones to reject SPLC’s 'hate group' claims. Such labels have also been rejected as “uncivil” and 'frivolous behavior' by the U.S. Department of Justice."

Read more about the Liberty Counsel here.

James Alex Fields, the man charged with second-degree murder after driving into a crowd of anti-protesters at the Charlottesville, Virginia white nationalist event Unite the Right Saturday, was seen with the Vanguard America group at the rally. Vanguard America has since issued a statement claiming Fields was not an official member.

The rest of the groups in Florida are more spread out, although four of the 63 in Florida are in Miami-Dade County and two are in Fort Lauderdale. The Nation of Islam is among groups in both areas.

The report says in 2016 there were 130 Ku Klux Klan groups and 193 Black Separatist groups active nationwide.

In 2011 the groups peaked at more than 1,000 before decreasing to 784 in 2014. Last year's 917 was part of an increase since.

Read more about the Southern Poverty Law Center here.