Ohio saw an increase in active hate and anti-government groups last year, and this region is home to nine of them — three black separatist organizations, one radical religious group, one white nationalist group and four militia extremist groups, according to a recent report from the Southern Poverty Law Center.
In 2015, the state had 34 active hate groups and 52 anti-government groups, including several local chapters of organizations responsible for nasty and dangerous rhetoric or that have espoused racist and homophobic beliefs, the center said. That was up from 27 hate groups in 2014.
The groups included local chapters of the New Black Panther Party, the Nation of Islam, the Council of Conservative Citizens, the Ohio Minutemen Militia and the Oath Keepers, as well as the locally based online group, Christ or Chaos. The center claims all of them have ideologies rooted in race-based hatred or extreme anti-government sentiment.
The Nation of Islam has chapters in Dayton and Springfield. Dayton also is home to the Oath Keepers and the New Black Panther Party.
Springboro has a chapter of the Council of Conservative Citizens, which opposes mixing of races and immigration.
West Chester has Christ or Chaos, an online website whose leader says anyone who knowingly breaks even one article of the Catholic faith are expelled from the church, even the leaders.
Members dispute labels
But some members of these organizations and critics of the law center said the labels are untrue and reckless.
The law center is radically left wing and sees the Oath Keepers as an ideological enemy and a threat to their interests, said Stewart Rhodes, founder and president of the national organization.
Donald Domineck, chair of the Dayton chapter of the New Black Panther Party, said some national members of his party have made irresponsible statements about race and current events, but they do not reflect the views of the local chapter and its members.
“It’s definitely an inappropriate label,” he said. “Whether it be my organization, the Republican Party or Democratic Party, you have elements within the party that say things that are not what most party members believe.”
Montgomery County Sheriff Phil Plummer said he is well acquainted with the leaders of the New Black Panthers, the Nation of Islam and the Oath Keepers. He said they pose no threat to the community.
“I’ve never had a problem with any of them, locally,” he said.
Hate groups are organizations whose only reason to exist is to violate people with whom they disagree, and hate groups are certainly a threat to public safety in Ohio, said Murray Murdoch, a senior professor of history with Cedarville University.
The racial mistrust in America today seems greater than it has been in decades, which can stimulate hate groups, he said.
“This is very disheartening for those of us who fought so hard for equality back in the sixties,” Murdoch said.
Reasons vary for increase in hate groups
Last year, the United States saw the number of active hate groups and anti-government groups grow by 14 percent, the law center said.
In 2015, hard-right groups were enraged by the Supreme Court’s legalization of same-sex marriage, efforts to accept and resettle Syrian refugees, the debate over the Confederate flag and President Barack Obama’s executive order seeking to stall the deportation of undocumented workers, wrote Mark Potok, the editor of the law center’s Intelligence Report, which contains the state- and city-specific data.
Highly publicized incidents of police shooting and killing black men and mistreatment of black people contributed to a rise in the number of racist black separatist groups, Potok said.
Anti-government groups, like the far-right Oath Keepers, tend to believe dangerous conspiracy theories, such as the idea that the federal government wants to confiscate Americans’ firearms and create a global socialistic government, according to the center.
Black separatist groups tend to demonize whites and Jewish people rather than advocate for real solutions to racial problems, the center said.
The Oath Keepers describes itself as a nonpartisan association of current and former military, police and fire workers and first responders committed to defending the Constitution against all enemies.
Stewart, president of the Oath Keepers, said his organization stands for obedience to the U.S. Constitution and will refuse unlawful orders.
Blind obedience is not a valid defense in the military justice system, and people have a duty to ignore orders that are unlawful, he said.
Stewart said the law center does not want current serving members to think independently about the orders they receive.
“They love Big Brother,” Stewart said. “They just want it aimed at the ‘right’ people — at people they don’t like.”
Some critics claim the law center has a biased and liberal agenda, ignores left-wing hate groups and publishes a misleading report.
Domineck said Dayton’s New Black Panther Party has a great deal of autonomy from the national organization and does not participate in armed protests and has no interest in displaying and “glamorizing” guns.
The Dayton chapter focuses on “survival programs,” which help meet the basic needs of members of the black community, Domineck said.
He said the party participates in discussions and coalitions to promote change and racial justice.
He said the group is not racist.
“The Southern Poverty Law Center labeled us a hate group based on the speech of some irresponsible people,” he said.
In 2012, Mikhail Muhammad, a national member of the New Black Panther Party, stirred controversy by offering a $10,000 bounty for the capture of a white Hispanic man, George Zimmerman, who killed Trayvon Martin, an unarmed black teen.
The Nation of Islam’s Dayton study group declined to comment for this article.
Christ or Chaos has a website that is primarily devoted to the writings of a Dr. Thomas A. Drolesky and appears to be run by him.
The website was launched in February of 2004, and continues the work of the formerly printed publication, Christ or Chaos, which was produced in printed form from August of 1996 until June of 2003, the website said.
Christ or Chaos has been dedicated from its outset to the restoration of the Social Reign of Christ the King and the restoration of the Immemorial Mass of Tradition as the fruit of the end of the era of apostasy and betrayal in which we find ourselves at the present time, according to the website.
“If there is one thing I have tried to hammer home in Christ or Chaos it is this: that we cannot fight secularism with secularism,” the site said. “We can only fight secularism with Catholicism. Alas, the novelties of the past forty years have convinced many believing Catholics that it is neither doctrinally correct nor prudent to insist that the true Faith be seen as the solution to all personal and social problems.”
There are no contacts or phone numbers listed on the site.
Human relations works to reduce tension
Catherine Crosby, executive director of the city of Dayton Human Relations Council, said the city works with various people and organizations to reduce inter-group tensions, including the Nation of Islam and black panther members.
“We may not always agree on how to resolve issues, but we are always open to allowing individuals and groups to share valuable information and suggestions on how to improve the quality of life for all, including our most vulnerable communities,” she said.
Sheriff Plummer said he regularly communicates with the leaders of the three local groups identified by the law center.
He said they have agendas and strong ideologies, but their members are respectful and peaceful.