Maui News

Politically Turbulent Times Brings to Light Tracking of Hate Groups in Hawaiʻi

By Andy Gross
November 13, 2021, 7:41 AM HST
* Updated November 13, 7:42 AM
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SPLC tracks hate groups in all 50 states. PC: SPLC

The Southern Poverty Law Center has identified the Proud Boys, the pro-white, far-right extremist organization as one of four hate groups in Hawaiʻi.

“We know there is an active Proud Boys chapter in Hawaiʻi, founded by Capitol insurrectionist Nick Ochs,” according to Cassie Miller, PhD, a senior research analyst at the Montgomery, Ala. based center.

The group itself claims there are three chapters in the state: the Big Island Chapter, Oʻahu Chapter, and Maui Chapter. However, Miller said, “We have not documented activity for all of these separate chapters.”

Among its other activities, the SPLC tracks hate groups in all 50 states.

Ochs was arrested at the Daniel K. Inouye International Airport in Honolulu by FBI agents without incident on Thursday, Jan. 7. He was part of the group who stormed the Capital Building Jan. 6.

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Miller said the Proud Boys were gaining more traction. “In these politically turbulent times, we have seen the Proud Boys recruit more men into their organization. In 2020, they organized against COVID-19 safety measures and have been consistently vocal in their opposition to Black Lives Matter – both positions that won them adherents on the right,”  she noted. “They have also used cultural flash points, particularly over ‘critical race theory’ in education, to inflame political tension.”

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Reportedly, members of the group have been present at school board meetings in an attempt to intimidate parents and elected officials into backing away from inclusive education and public health measures. 

In addition to the Proud Boys, the SPLC has identified the Sure Foundation Baptist Church, the Great Millstone, and Israel United in Christ as other hate groups. The latter three are Oʻahu-based.

The SPLC was formed in 1971 by Morris Dees, Joseph Levin Jr. and Julian Bond. It began as a nonprofit civil rights law firm, and is known for its cases and activism against white supremacist groups among others. The center has a lengthy history of fighting the Ku Klux Klan in court proceedings. The SPLC is also active in education and outreach work promoting awareness and tolerance.

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According to data compiled by the FBI, there were 120 hate crimes in Hawaiʻi in the past five years. Meantime, the Department of the Attorney General reported much more conservative number, with a statewide total of four hate crime incidents in the most recent 2020 report.

Andy Gross
Andy Gross is an experienced journalist who has worked many places both abroad and in Hawaiʻi. He says he has never lost his curiosity, compassion or empathy for the people, the world and the conditions that surround him.
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