‘Radical right’ extremism and ‘hate’ groups are becoming more common in American society, report says

MISSION, TX (Border report) — The serene 100-acre National Butterfly Center on the banks of the Rio Grande in South Texas is quieter than before.

For the past six weeks, the nonprofit has closed its facilities to thousands of wildlife enthusiasts after the center’s executive director and staff received ‘credible threats’ ahead of a far-right conservative rally on border security which was held nearby at the end of January.

The doors remained locked on Wednesday and National Butterfly Center executive director Marianna Treviño-Wright said they were tightening security and hiring experts to assess the facility to determine if and when it would be safe to reopen. to the public.

In the meantime, the Mission Police Department has set up a mobile watchtower inside the property as a deterrent.

The National Butterfly Center in Mission, Texas draws thousands of nature lovers to the southern Texas border each year. (Sandra Sanchez/Border Report)

The Butterfly Center is just one victim of what the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) says in a new report is a nationwide “radical right-wing rise”.

The SPLC report, “The Year of Hate and Extremism 2021”, says there were 733 hate groups across the United States in 2021, including 72 chapters of the all-male white nationalist group The Proud Boys, which has backed President Donald Trump.

Hate groups “vilify others,” the SPLC’s Cassie Miller said during an online briefing Wednesday morning to release the report. The briefing was posted on the organization’s Facebook page.

The number of hate groups in 2021 actually decreased from 1,020 groups in 2018, Miller noted. But the nonprofit, which tracks civil rights injustices, said a drop in the number of groups does not mean there are fewer members. On the contrary, the SPLC says it shows that extremist ideals are more readily accepted by society at this time.

“The dwindling number of organized hate and anti-government groups suggests that the extremist ideas that mobilize them are now operating more openly in the political mainstream,” the report said.

“The main finding is that they operate more in the mainstream,” said Susan Corke, director of the SPLC’s intelligence project. “They show up to school boards, judges. They are on social networks and manufacture misinformation.

Additionally, the report states that there were 488 anti-government groups operating in the United States in 2021, and much of the report focuses on the events leading up to the January 6 uprising on the US Capitol.

(Chart by Southern Poverty Law Center)

But the report also notes that hate groups — like militias — have targeted the southwestern border and areas such as where the National Butterfly Center is located.

“In 2021, far-right extremists continued to harass humanitarian aid groups, with some using their connections to border patrol agents to circumvent and legitimize vigilante activities. Militia activities have gone unchecked and groups continue to illegally detain migrants,” the report said.

“We are seeing signs of dangerous white supremacists taking over society,” Miller said. “They believe that society is systematically trying to replace white people through immigration.”

She said the “hard right” is in an “all-out effort to silence the conversations and their anti-black and anti-immigration policies can really take hold.”

Additionally, LGBTQ groups are also particularly vulnerable, she said.

Migrants crossing the border from Mexico are particularly “vilified” and portrayed as taking jobs from US citizens by conspirators.

“It’s called the big replacement,” the SPLC’s Rachel Carroll Rivas said Wednesday. “It’s a conspiracy theory that says political elites try to systematically and deliberately replace whites with non-whites through policies like immigration.”

“It’s anti-immigrant nativist rhetoric,” Corke said. “These groups are targeting migrants and really looking into Q’Anon conspiracies and manipulating people into thinking they are actually saving children.”

National Butterfly Center Executive Director Marianna Treviño-Wright is seen September 28, 2021 at the 100-acre wildlife sanctuary on the banks of the Rio Grande in Mission, Texas. (Sandra Sanchez/Border Report File Photo)

Treviño-Wright has been accused on social media of trafficking migrant children into the facility. She has a civil libel lawsuit pending in state court against We Build The Wall founders Steve Bannon and Brian Kolfage.

She says she was targeted after her facility’s parent organization, the North American Butterfly Association (NABA), filed a lawsuit in 2019 to try to stop the construction of a private border wall adjacent to their sanctuary.

The private 3.5 mile border wall was finally built.

And Treviño-Wright told Border Report he’s drawn a lot of “ultra-conservative types” to the Rio Grande and its facilities.

In late January, she accused a congressional candidate running for office in Virginia of running down and assaulting her at the facility.

The altercation happened just days before a border security rally called ‘We Stand America’ drew hundreds to the Rio Grande Valley over the weekend of Jan. 28-30. .

The NABA board of directors decided to close the doors of the facility on January 28, but threats made on social media during and immediately after prevented the center from reopening, she said.

The National Butterfly Center is located on the banks of the Rio Grande south of Mission, Texas. (Sandra Sanchez/Border Report File Photo)

NABA President and Founder Jeffrey Glassberg told Border Report in a written statement on Wednesday that they were trying to find safe ways to reopen to the public. And he said the extended closure has been hard on staff and the eco-community that benefits from the sanctuary.

“We have experienced significant disruptions to our operations and terrible distractions from our primary mission, which remains environmental education and conservation for the benefit of butterflies,” Glassberg said. “We look forward to resuming business as usual, so that we can continue to share the wonder of the butterflies and the beauty of this place with our members, visitors and community.”

SPLC officials, however, said Wednesday they believe the rhetoric will continue as long as it is accepted into American society.

And they called on Congress to enact the Domestic Terrorism Prevention Act (S.964/HR 350) to establish offices within the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Justice, and the FBI to monitor, investigate, and prosecute cases of domestic terrorism – and require regular reporting from these offices.

“The Great Replacement is the central narrative that drives the white nationalist movement,” said Carroll Rivas. “When you combine that with this hard-right effort to silence conversations about racism in our schools and other political venues, you create an atmosphere in which anti-black, anti-immigrant, and nationalist politics tend to take root more.”

Sandra Sanchez can be reached at [email protected]

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