White supremacist hate crimes surge in LA amid growing swastika graffiti

Happening amid a nationwide increase in hate crimes

Independent, UK/November 17, 2017

By Jeremy B White

White supremacist hate crimes in and around Los Angeles soared last year, according to a new report, mirroring a national increase in crime linked to animus against specific groups.

Most of those crimes were acts of vandalism that included swastikas or other hate symbols, according to the Los Angeles County Commission on Human Relations, the latest evidence of an upsurge in activity by newly emboldened white supremacists. The report examined Los Angeles County, a sprawling area of more than 10m people that encompasses both the city of Los Angeles and outlying areas.

The overall rate of hate crimes was essentially unchanged from the year prior, the report said. But the frequency has soared in the last few years, reversing a steady decrease from a previous peak in 2007.

Across California hate crimes increased by 11 per cent in 2016 compared to 2015, according to a California Department of Justice report, though the overall level was substantially lower than a decade ago.

Despite California’s reputation as a liberal bastion, the state remains home to a substantial number of white supremacists and the largest racist skinhead population in the country, according to an expert who testified before the legislature in October. Neo-nazis had brawled with adversaries on the grounds of the state capitol a year earlier.

Hate crimes increased nationwide in 2016, according to an annual FBI tally released this week. A clear majority were motivated by race or ethnicity, with African-Americans the most likely to be targeted. About a fifth were religiously motivated, with the majority of those directed against Jews.

Indelible images of neo-Nazis marching in Charlottesville, Virginia — hoisting torches and chanting “Jews will not replace us” — has forced America to confront the presence of organised white supremacist groups thought to be banished to the margins of society. That demonstration descended into violence after a car plowed into counter-protesters, killing one woman.

One of the consequences has been amplified demands for the technology industry to better suppress online hate speech. This week, Twitter began pulling verification marks from prominent white nationalist figures after it emerged that one of the organizers of the Charlottesville march had received the site’s imprimatur of authenticity.

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