By Marian Wright Edelman for the Huffington Post

Crime SceneIn the first week of May a sixteen-month-old girl was shot and killed along with her mother, grandmother, and her mother’s boyfriend allegedly by Arizona white supremacist, border vigilante and longtime neo-Nazi J.T. Ready. The murders were the apparent result of domestic violence but were tragically little surprise from a man the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Mark Potok called “a violent thug who typifies the very worst element in the American nativist movement.” In Tulsa, Oklahoma, hate crime charges were filed in April against two white men who went on a Good Friday shooting spree in a black neighborhood randomly targeting and killing three black victims and injuring two more. In Jackson, Mississippi, three white men pled guilty to federal hate crime charges in March after admitting to a pattern of harassing and assaulting black people that ended with one of the men killing James C. Anderson in June 2011 by driving over him with a pickup truck. And in Sanford, Florida, federal investigators considered whether hate crime charges might apply to the February killing of unarmed black teenager Trayvon Martin who was followed and killed by self-appointed neighborhood watchman George Zimmerman.

 For forty years, the Southern Poverty Law Center’s mission has been to fight hate and bigotry and seek justice for the most vulnerable members of society. In its latest “Intelligence Report for Spring 2012,” the news on hate groups in America was frightening. There were 1,018 hate groups in the United States in 2011 continuing a trend of significant growth that has lasted more than ten years.

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