What a way for Florida to begin Black History Month. The state has the dubious distinction of being No. 2 nationwide in number of organized hate groups. Orlando Sentinel:
Like anybody needed another good reason not to visit DisneyWorld
The state famous for tourism and endless sunshine has a disturbing side. It is home to 43 so-called hate groups, second only to South Carolina, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, a Montgomery, Ala., organization that has tracked such groups for 25 years…
The center, the Anti-Defamation League and an FBI investigator who has monitored Florida extremist groups attribute the state’s prominence on the hate-group list to its booming population, shifting demographics and the vestiges of racism.
Today, about 19 percent of the state’s population is Hispanic, 15 percent is black and about 4 percent is Jewish. Extremists target all three groups. Florida has about 18 million people.
So I guess there are just more people to hate in Florida? In nearby Jacksonville, according to a graphic supplied with the article, there are two skinhead groups, one neo-Confederate, one neo-Nazi, and two groups classified as “other.” On the other hand, Jacksonville is home to the nation’s third largest Cambodian Buddhist temple as well as the newly launched Stetson Kennedy Foundation. Kennedy, who lives near my own St. Augustine, is the author of The Klan Unmasked, first published in the ‘50s to expose the Klan and a neo-Nazi hate group called the Columbians. Stetson didn’t do his undercover work in Florida but maybe he should have.
Though the total number is small, it’s unclear how many people join hate groups. Few organizations release membership numbers, and those that do likely inflate them.
Generally, experts say, local chapters include a handful to several dozen members. The National Socialist Movement reports about 50 members in Orlando.
“Central Florida,” said Bill White of the National Socialist Movement, “is our strongest growing area in the state.”
Like anybody needed another good reason not to visit DisneyWorld. Still, Tampa is no slouch.
Officials with the Tampa unit of the neo-Nazi National Vanguard would not discuss their activities, referring all questions to Vanguard headquarters in Virginia.
The Tampa group is one of the best organized in the state. It has produced compact discs, rented billboards and flown white-power banners over the Daytona 500. After Hurricane Katrina, members went to Mississippi to help “white families in need.”
Florida. Gotta love it.