Life After Hate: Inside the explosion of hate groups in Californ - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

Life After Hate: Inside the explosion of hate groups in California

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SAN DIEGO (NEWS 8) – A recent report by the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks hate activity, estimates there are 917 hate groups - ranging from white nationalists to anti-LGBTQ movements - currently operating around the country.

Tammy Gillies is executive director of the Anti-Defamation League in San Diego.

“Through this campaign season and thereafter, the language, the rhetoric that is out there has really emboldened people to feel they can say whatever they want,” said Gillies.

California leads the nation in the number of active hate groups – approximately 80 up and down the state. The majority of hate groups are located in Southern California.

“It’s the largest racist skinhead population in the country,” said Gillies.

San Diegan Chuck Leek was one of them.

In January of 1988, when he was only 20-years-old, Leek was on a special report News 8 broadcast on the growing ‘skinhead’ movement at the time.

“I was an angry young man,” he said.

Leek remained part of the white supremacist movement for more than two decades – even spending time in prison. “When I was in, we are very violent. Very radical.”

Now, Leek is part of a group called Life After Hate.

The group was created by former members of far-right extremist groups which helps those who are seeking to leave. Groups that are now experiencing a resurgence.

“[They] really helped me turn everything around. We have seen this past year like never before. I’ve seen more than I’d had in probably ten years,” said Leek.

Hate groups are even recruiting on college campuses, including San Diego State University and UC San Diego.

“They have slick marketing. They put out posters like they are just some fraternity or club on campus. I think that recent political events and attitudes have fueled that fire,” he said.

Movements that are gaining alarming momentum. Leek said he believes the current administration has helped embolden the far-right. “They certainly do not condemn it like they should.”

Even as condemnation from the other side grows louder as well.

“The overwhelming response is, ‘no this is not acceptable – we won’t have it,’” said Leek.

Visit the non-profit group Life After Hate website for more information. 

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