US right-wing extremist groups hit record

2013-03-07 08:15

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New York - The number of radical right-wing groups reached a record in 2012 in the United States amid President Barack Obama's re-election and renewed debate over gun control, according to a new study by the Southern Poverty Law Centre (SPLC).

The number of anti-government "patriot" groups, which often tout conspiracy theories fuelled by fears of despotic government, reached 1 360 last year.

In 2008, there were fewer than 150 such groups. The number tripled as President Obama took office in 2009 amid a severe economic downturn. By 2011, there were almost 1 280 groups.

The non-governmental SPLC gave no data on the number of members in radical groups or a count of individuals active in such movements.

The main factor behind the rise is a fear among certain populations that Obama, the first African-American president, might curb constitutional freedoms, such as the right to bear arms, with the goal of turning the United States into a totalitarian regime.

'Tool of international socialism'

Such conspiracy theories were stoked after the December massacre at a school in Newtown, Connecticut, which led to President Obama becoming more vocal on gun regulation and proposing a ban on some military-style rifles and higher-capacity magazines.

Many of these conservative groups see social changes including gay rights, growing Latino and Asian populations and immigration reform proposals that could lead to citizenship for millions of illegal residents as threats to traditional American values.

"Our federal government is just a tool of international socialism now, operating under UN agendas, not our American agenda," the research quoted from a letter written last year by the United States Patriots Union.

"This means that freedom and liberty must be defended by the states under their constitutional balance of power, or we are headed to civil war, wherein the people will have no choice but to take matters into their own hands."

The study found that the number of hate groups, which are often based on racial bigotry, was unchanged last year at around 1 000.

Read more on:    un  |  barack obama  |  us  |  gun control

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