A leading civil rights group on Thursday unveiled what it called a first-of-its-kind digital map tracking incidents of hate and extremist violence nationwide dating back to 2002.
The map, released by the Anti-Defamation League, is dubbed H.E.A.T. (Hate, Extremism, Anti-Semitism, Terrorism) and shows distressing data for Massachusetts.
The state had 188 white supremacist and anti-Semitic incidents last year, an increase of more than 30 percent from 2016, according to the map.
“It’s troubling,” said Talia Ben Sasson-Gordis, senior associate regional director for the ADL’s New England chapter, in a phone interview Thursday. “I think that we’re seeing a very disturbing trend across the US . . . and unfortunately Massachusetts is not immune to what’s going on.”
The divisive national political discourse has contributed to diminished civility and emboldened white supremacists, Ben Sasson-Gordis said.
Nationally, the ADL documented 1,317 hate incidents in 2016, a number that increased to 2,485 last year.
“There is something extremely problematic happening in our country, and we need to address it,” Ben Sasson-Gordis said.
The ADL noted the map was being released days before the one-year anniversary of violent clashes between white supremacists and counter-protesters in Charlottesville, Va., that left a counter-demonstrator dead.
“The tragedy and violence that was witnessed in Charlottesville gave us all a terrifying glimpse of the rising tide of extremism in our country,” Robert Trestan, the ADL’s New England regional director, said in a statement. “With nearly 300 anti-Semitic and white supremacist incidents taking place in New England in 2017-2018, ADL’s H.E.A.T. map is proof that New England is not immune to the explosion of anti-Semitism, racism and hate that our country is battling.”
He added: “Sadly, bigotry is becoming routine in mainstream society. As hate incidents continue to plague our communities and schools, we are steadfast in our commitment to exposing them and preventing their spread.”
So far in 2018, Massachusetts has seen 14 incidents of white supremacist propaganda being distributed, according to the map.
The most recent episode occurred June 27 in Westford. A man was arrested for “allegedly distributing racist, anti-Semitic, and white supremacist propaganda in the Nabnasset neighborhood which threatened violence against minorities,” according to a description posted on the map. The suspect “reportedly told police officers that he spray-painted swastikas on two stop signs.”
Nationwide, the H.E.A.T map tracks extremist-related murders from 2008 to 2017; terrorist plots and attacks from 2002 to 2017; right-wing extremist incidents from 2002 to 2017; Islamist extremist incidents from 2002 to 2017; left-wing extremist incidents from 2008 to 2017; extremist shoot-outs with police from 2008 to 2017; white supremacist propaganda distributed on and off campuses from fall 2016 to the present; white supremacist rallies from 2017 to 2018; and anti-Semitic incidents from 2016 to 2017, according to the statement.
“Since the beginning of 2017, ADL’s Center on Extremism has tracked more than 900 white supremacist propaganda incidents nationally, from distributions of white supremacist literature to display of white supremacist handbills, posters, and more,” the statement said.
The ADL created the map using news media reports, government documents, police reports, and victim reports that the organization receives from its regional offices. Information from extremist sources was also analyzed, said Oren Segal, director of the ADL’s Center on Extremism.
“We’ve been monitoring and tracking extremist activity for decades,” Segal said.
Segal acknowledged that some of the map’s categories can be “somewhat subjective” but said the group took “great pains” to make sure they were “listing people in the appropriate categories.”
The map also provides a detailed look at hate incidents in specific communities.
In Boston, for instance, there were 18 hate incidents documented in 2017 and 2018, according to the map. Of that number, six were incidents of white supremacist propaganda, according to the ADL. The most recent incident in the city, on June 22, was described as “Patriot Front, an alt right group, posted flyers that read ‘Keep America American . . . ’ and ‘Not Stolen, Conquered.’ ”
The remaining dozen hate incidents in the city during 2017 and 2018 were anti-Semitic in nature, according to the ADL.
A spokeswoman for Mayor Martin J. Walsh said his office had not reviewed the map, but the mayor “has made clear that messages of hate will not be tolerated in Boston, and we must always stand together in unity to promote peace in our city.”
In Newton, there were 23 hate incidents in 2017 and 2018, all of which were anti-Semitic in nature. They included several instances of Nazi graffito at schools, a warning of an active shooter at a Jewish school, and a school bomb threat.
Worcester saw seven documented hate incidents during that same time frame; six of them were anti-Semitic and one was related to white supremacist propaganda.Travis Andersen
can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @TAGlobe.