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SPC hosts ex-hater who is now an advocate for tolerance

By TBN Staff, For Tampa Bay Newspapers , On 14 December 2017, Read Original

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SEMINOLE - A former member of a violent right-wing extremist group who left that lifestyle and now promotes love will be the featured speaker at a dinner program on Jan. 25 sponsored by the Institute for Strategic Policy Solutions at St. Petersburg College.

Titled “Full of Hate: The Toll of Violent Extremism,” the forum will be from 6-8:15 p.m. in the Conference Center at the Seminole campus, 9200 113th St. N. Media co-sponsors are the Tampa Bay Times and WEDU Television. Tickets are $25, or $20 for students and educators.

Angela King, a Florida native who turned to hate groups as a student to escape being bullied, will describe her journey from extremist hater to author, scholar and crusader against hate. She will be joined by a panel of experts representing groups most often targeted by hate groups: Jews, Muslims, blacks and LGBTs.

 
 

Serving a six-year term for her part in a hate crime in 1998, King found kindness and respect in prison from some of the very people she had hated on the outside. That transformative experience led her to co-found Life After Hate, a non-profit organization dedicated to compassion and forgiveness that helps hate group members disengage from that lifestyle.

Hate groups are on the rise – as is the violence their members generate. Since the violent marches last August in Charlottesville, Virginia, that left one woman dead and dozens injured, Americans are regularly confronted by white nationalists, neo-Nazis and “patriot” militias spewing messages of hate at political rallies, street marches, over the air waves and, most predominantly, on the internet.

Since the presidential campaign of 2015-2016 and the populist movement sparked by President Trump, the hate industry has undergone a resurgence. The Southern Poverty Law Center reported 917 hate groups in 2016, a figure which includes a 197 percent increase in anti-Muslim groups, from 34 in 2015 to 101 currently. There were only five such groups in 2010.

 
 

That surge was accompanied by a spike in hate crimes, with almost 1,400 reported in the first three months of Trump’s presidency and 6,121 reported in 2016, a 4.6 percent increase from 2015. The Anti-Defamation League reported an 86 percent spike in anti-Semitic incidents in the first quarter of 2017.

What prompts people to join violent hate groups? How do their actions affect the American political scene? How does the Trump administration’s nationalistic bent broaden their appeal to mainstream America? And how do these groups impact the lives of the minority groups they despise?

King and the panel will discuss their real-world experiences as they explore these questions in depth at the forum. Joining her in that discussion will be: Gina Duncan, director of Transgender Equality, Equality Florida; Hassan Shibly, chief executive officer, Council on American-Islamic Relations Florida; and Jack Packer, professor of history, St. Petersburg College. The moderator will be Maura Sweeney, principal, Living Happy Inside Out.