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Charleston Church Shooting: KKK, White Supremacists Operate in South Carolina

South Carolina is home to 19 hate groups, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.
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South Carolina is home to 19 known hate groups — including two factions of the Ku Klux Klan and four “white nationalist” organizations, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.

While police described Wednesday's massacre in Charleston, South Carolina, of nine people at one of the nation's oldest African-American churches as a hate crime, they did not suggest the attack was linked to any group.

The SPLC's database records the distribution of KKK leaflets in a Seneca neighborhood was among four hate crimes committed in the state last year.

Related: All You Need to Know About Hate Crime in America

More than a dozen of the groups listed are explicitly based on racial hatred — perhaps a reflection of local history in a corner of the U.S. where the Confederate flag still flies in the grounds of the State House.

Six neo-Confederate groups listed by the SPLC include two branches of the League of the South, which advocates for Southern secession and “the advancement of Anglo-Celtic culture.” Its website states: “If you call us racists, our response will be ‘So what?’”

Among the White Nationalist groups active in the state is the Council of Conservative Citizens, which is opposed to racial integration and affirmative action “and similar measures to destroy or denigrate the European-American heritage, including the heritage of the Southern people.”

Image: The Southern Poverty Law Center's map of hate groups in South Carolina
The Southern Poverty Law Center's map of hate groups in South Carolina.

Formed in response to the desegregation of schools in the 1950s and 1960s, its key figures include Kyle Rogers. He was quoted by Charleston’s Post and Courier newspaper in 2012 as saying that African Americans “are the most privileged members of their race.” He reportedly told the newspaper: “I don’t see a legacy of oppression. Blacks have always benefited from being in the United States.”

Other hate groups listed by the SPLC include three neo-Nazi cells, a chapter of the racist skinhead movement Confederate Hammerskins, a branch of black separatist organization Nation of Islam, an "anti-gay" church and an anti-immigration protest group called Americans Have Had Enough.

In the Seneca incident in July 2014, residents in Oconee County reportedly found bags in their street containing candy and a leaflet with the message “Save Our Land, Join the Klan." It had a phone number that led to an automated message discussing KKK efforts against illegal immigration.

In the same month, a KKK rally was held in Abbeville, according to NBC station WYFF.

South Carolina last year elected Senator Tim Scott, the first African-American voted into the U.S. Senate from the South since the post-Civil War era of Reconstruction.

South Carolina is one of only five states that does not have a hate crimes law, according to campaign group SC Equality, although a recent extension of federal law means there are legal protections for victims of hate crimes in all states.