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A map of hate groups in Colorado. Illustration by Sean Parsons.

The Animus Atlas: Tracking Bias Motivated Behavior Across the State

We examine where malevolence lives in Colorado—and what it looks like.

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Hate crimes are especially hurtful because they are “message” crimes aimed at particular communities, says Jeremy Shaver, senior associate regional director for the Anti-Defamation League’s Mountain States region. “They tear at the cohesion of our social fabric.” Colorado has been feeling a lot of that tension lately: According to Colorado Bureau of Investigation data, Colorado has averaged 126 hate crimes over the past five years; in 2018, we recorded 139. (Denver, Adams, Arapahoe, Boulder, Larimer, and El Paso counties regularly contribute the most to the state tally.) Equally concerning? The growth of hate groups and ugly rhetoric. We break down where the malevolence lives—and what it looks like.

Photo courtesy of Cliff Grassmick/dailycamera.com

Flag Flying
Radical right propaganda made a noticeable jump from the digital world to the real world in 2018. In Colorado, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) tracked 67 reports of posted flyers or banners espousing bigoted rhetoric. Most of the episodes occurred in the Front Range’s largest cities—homes to colleges and universities, which are recruiting targets for white nationalist and white supremacy groups. (The numbers of incidents in these towns in 2018 are represented in the map below.) Keep in mind: Many of these incidents are legal. Generally speaking, posting a flyer on public property, like publicly funded college campuses or in city parks, is legal, even if it contains hate speech, which—be it on a flyer or at a rally­—is protected by the First Amendment. The Supreme Court reaffirmed this as recently as 2017 in a lawsuit brought by a California man when his application for a racially insensitive trademark was denied. “Speech that demeans on the basis of race, ethnicity, gender, religion, age, disability, or any other similar ground is hateful,” Justice Samuel Alito wrote in the unanimous decision. “But the proudest boast of our free speech jurisprudence is that we protect the freedom to express ‘the thought that we hate.’”

Group Think
At last count in 2018, Colorado hosted 22 hate groups, defined by the SPLC as organizations that have “beliefs or practices that attack or malign an entire class of people, typically for their immutable characteristics.” While that’s fewer than 17 other states have (California and Texas lead the way), it’s still the largest number of hate groups to reside in Colorado since the SPLC started keeping records in the ‘90s. The SPLC (and, thus, 5280) has named them because its goal is to educate the public—even if that education is sometimes ugly—and because some of these groups’ generic names belie their true missions. (See map above)

Denver

Statewide Groups

Colorado Springs

Lakewood

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Boulder

Pueblo

Wheat Ridge

Elizabeth

LaPorte

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*Headquarters are located here

Key Words
In our connected world, the first move toward extremism can begin with a few keystrokes. This past winter, London-based Moonshot CVE analyzed keyword search data throughout the United States and found Colorado to be a hotbed of violent, far-right internet inquiries. Among Colorado’s most common search terms: “Sieg,” “Heil,” “1488,” “14 words,” and “Valknut tattoo” (all terms associated with white supremacists or neo-Nazi groups). Most (78 percent) of these queries were carried out by men, and two-thirds of the searchers were younger than 45. Among the counties researching far-right concepts the most? Denver, Grand, Gilpin, Archuleta, Dolores, and Summit.

Winter in Colorado

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