In a recent fund-raising appeal, the Alabama-based Southern Poverty Law Center said the organization is tracking an increasing number of hate groups around the nation, including a 40 percent spike in Georgia alone.
According to the center, hate groups increased from 784 groups in 2014 to 892 last year, a 14 percent increase. In Georgia, the number of groups identified by the center rose from 28 in 2014 to 39 last year. They include white racist organizations, like the Ku Klux Klan, but also black separatist organizations, anti-Muslim groups and groups opposed to LGBT rights.
In the Deep South, only Florida and Tennessee have more groups listed on the center's "Hate Map" than Georgia.
Last year, Georgia became one of the hubs for angry pro-Confederate flag protests that attracted elements of the KKK, skinheads and the secessionist League of the South. But those rallies have been dwindling. A white power rally at Stone Mountain earlier this spring drew a handful of protesters, but attracted hundreds of counter-protesters who clashed with police, effectively shutting down the park.
In the letter, founder Morris Dees said the number of hate group the center tracks is on the rise for the first time in three years, a situation he blames on heated rhetoric in the presidential campaign.
"I have no doubt that the ugly tone in the presidential campaign will embolden racists to commit more violence," Dees wrote.
There is little doubt where the left-leaning group places the blame. The materials promoting the non-profit's "Hate Map" feature a stark photo of presumed Republican nominee Donald Trump.
The SPLC has been accused by some conservatives as targeting groups for holding different political opinions, a charge the center denies. The center is considered a reliable source for information on generally agreed upon extremists groups like the Ku Klux Klan and racist skinhead groups.