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Hate in America: a News 5 Special Report - KOAA.com | Continuous News | Colorado Springs and Pueblo

Hate in America: a News 5 Special Report

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COLORADO SPRINGS -

Last June, a sticker calling for nuclear weapons to be used against Israel defaced the Orthodox Jewish Chabad Lubavitch in Rockrimmon. Colorado Springs.

Police Officers investigated the case as a hate crime and later arrested William Planer, a reported member of the Golden State Skinheads.

In August, swastikas were spray-painted on the marquee sign at Temple Beit Torah. The two incidents prompted a rally against hate a few days later. Rabbi Jay Sherwood has just moved to Colorado Springs a few weeks before the Temple Beit Torah vandalism happened.

"On the one hand, I thought, well Colorado Springs has the same problems that everyone else has. On the other hand, I thought, it's really sad that Colorado Springs has the same problems that everyone else has," Sherwood said.

He now serves on the city's Human Relations Commission and said it's important to call attention acts of hatred.

"I think a lot of people don't pay attention because we've become numb to it."

The Southern Poverty Law Center reports that participation in hate groups is growing across America. Colorado is no exception. The SPLC reports 21 active hate groups here in the Centennial State. That's the highest numbers since they began tracking these numbers.

Three groups on the list call Colorado Springs home.

The Southern Poverty Law Center lists the groups with the following classifications in Colorado Springs.

  • Family Research Institute - Anti-LGBT
  • Christian Civil Rights Watch - Anti-LGBT
  • The Pray in Jesus Name Project - Anti-LGBT

The group also reports several groups linked to white nationalists, black nationalists, the KKK, national socialism, anti-Muslim, and anti-immigrant.

Acts of anti-semitism, in particular, are growing in our region according to the Anti-Defamation League.

"In 2015, we measured 18 incidents that had occurred with anti-semitism involved. In 2016, the campaign year, an election year, it went to 45. In 2017, it went 57," said Scott Levin, the Mountain States Director for the ADL. "The rate of that increase is really troubling."

He believes there are many similar acts targeting other minorities groups that either unreported or draw less attention.

Officers with the Colorado Springs Police Department have investigated three hate crimes already this year.  There were five such incidents in 2017, including the vandalism at the two houses of worship.  But these numbers are actually down from 14 cases reported in 2016.

"When the society starts taking those lower-level, or what might be perceived as a lower level, items for granted, then it allows for things to progress and get worse," Levin said.

The racial violence that erupted in Charlottesville, Virginia last August is seen by many as a turning point in public opinion against hate groups.

That same month, City leaders pressured a local hotel to turn away a conference booked by the white nationalist group VDare. Levin said it's important for leaders to speak out against hatred.

"Stand up and say that this doesn't, isn't acceptable. And it doesn't matter whether your the chief of police, the mayor, the governor or the President of the United States; words matter," Levin said.

And Rabbi Sherwood believes one of the best ways to deflate bigotry is to meet people face to face, especially if they have different opinions from your own.

"Instead of relating to each other, which I think helps us learn how to talk to each other, we're learning how to talk to each other in a negative way by typing it out on a keyboard instead of actually looking a person in the eyes and talking with them face to face," Sherwood said.

You can learn more about the Southern Poverty Law Center and their systems of classification, along with a map of hate groups nationwide by visiting splcenter.org/

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