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A Look At Regional Hate Groups As Alt-Right Takes Hashtag Fame

John Bazemore
Members of the Ku Klux Klan organize in Georgia on April 23, 2016. The Loyal White Knights, styled after the KKK, is very active in Export, Pa. They're among seven hate groups identified by the Southern Poverty Law Center in southwestern Pennsylvania.

In a speech Thursday, Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton accused her opponent Republican nominee Donald Trump of encouraging hate groups, saying he had built a campaign on prejudice and paranoia.

In southwestern Pennsylvania, seven organizations are identified as “hate groups,” according to the Southern Poverty Law Center's "Hate Map." They're defined as organizations that “have beliefs or practices that attack or malign an entire class of people, typically for their immutable characteristics.”

Mark Potok, a fellow at SPLC, says the most active in the region is the Ku Klux Klan in Export, Westmoreland County.

“They have been doing an awful lot of leafleting," Potok said. "They’ve done things like threaten to go to Ferguson, Mo., to take up arms against the quote-unquote 'thugs,' who were at one point in the streets protesting the killings of black men by police.”

These and similar organizations have been classified under the term, “alt-right.”

People in the niche conservative movement are using the hashtag #AltRightMeans to define the philosophy, slam Muslims and denigrate both legal and illegal U.S. immigrants they see as a threat to their vision of America.

In Wilkinsburg, the Muhammed Mosque No. 22 is affiliated with the Nation of Islam, which Potok said is centered around black nationalism. White people, according to the Nation, were created 6,600 years ago by a rebellious black scientist, Potok said.

Mosque No. 22 states in their FAQ that they do not “hate white folks,” saying instead they desire to “instill awareness of the history in America in which cruel treatment, hatred, and murder was bestowed upon Blacks by whites for over 400 years for just being Black.”

In 2015, federal authorities arrested the leader of the so-called “White Church” in Baldwin Borough. Potok said the small outfit operated out of a garage. During the 2015 raid, authorities found anti-Semitic literature and explosive devices.

"#AltRightMeans knowing you cannot have a 1st World country with a 3rd world population," read a tweet under the username @Writeonright.

"#altrightmeans White people don't need to apologize for who they are or accept the smear that they have unearned 'privilege,'" said @ReactionaryIan.

Critics are using the #AltRightMeans hashtag, too, to expose what they see as bigotry.

"Have blood pressure medicine standing by if you decide to read the #AltRightMeans thread," Hillary Clinton supporter Jeffrey Jon Smith tweeted. "It's the Olympics of racist filth."

The hashtag became one of Twitter's most popular topics Thursday as Clinton linked Trump's rise to the "alt-right" movement.

Trump, the Republican presidential nominee, is "taking hate groups mainstream and helping a radical fringe" take over his party, Clinton said.

Trump's campaign said he's never used the term "alt-right" and disavows "any groups or individuals associated with a message of hate."

"Hillary Clinton's short speech is pandering to the worst instincts in our society. She should be ashamed of herself!" Trump tweeted.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Katie Blackley is a digital editor/producer for 90.5 WESA, where she writes, edits and generates both web and on-air content for features and daily broadcast. She's the producer and host of our Good Question! series and podcast. She also covers history and the LGBTQ community. kblackley@wesa.fm
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