NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – According to one group tasked with tracking groups like the Ku Klux Klan and neo-Nazis, the number of white nationalist groups is rising.
Several of these organizations have their sights set on Middle Tennessee this month.
“Tennessee has become a state that is heavily targeted by white supremacist organizations for recruitment,” the Director of Intelligence for the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) told News 2 by phone.
The SPLC is a non-profit organization in Alabama that has been tracking these groups for years.
“It is not so easy for someone to spot someone like a klansman in a robe and a hood. These are people that look like anybody walking down the street,” explained Heidi Beirich.
Beirich said Tennessee is becoming a meeting place for groups like the League of the South.
“Tennessee is fertile ground to recruit people for their ideas,” she told News 2.
Each year, the center creates a Hate Map showing which groups are living within our communities.
“We define a hate group as basically an organization that believes a whole other group of people, based on their characteristics, are lesser,” said Beirich.
Across the country, there are more than 900 groups identified and Tennessee has the seventh highest total with 38.
“Between 2015 and 2016, we saw another jump to 917 hate groups in the United States and chances are that when we are done for our count this year that it will be up again,” explained Beirich.
Some of those groups are statewide, but others are believed to be active in many communities.
“Unfortunately for Tennessee, it is a target for recruitment and that is why these folks are coming to Shelbyville and Murfreesboro,” said Beirich.
She told News 2 these groups come to “unsettled” areas and hope to leave their mark behind after their rallies.
“We are very concerned about the danger of these hate groups to our society,” Beirich said.
The SPLC also said some of the same groups in Charlottesville will be here on Saturday, so it is hoping the rallies are more peaceful than those in August.