Oren Segal, vice president of the ADL Center on Extremism, speaks at a press conference outside the Capitol in Sacramento about a new ADL report on hate in California, May 9, 2023. (Photo/Courtesy ADL)
Oren Segal, vice president of the ADL Center on Extremism, speaks at a press conference outside the Capitol in Sacramento about a new ADL report on hate in California, May 9, 2023. (Photo/Courtesy ADL)

ADL report: Extremism rising alongside antisemitism in California

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A new Anti-Defamation League report released this week shows California accounts for the second-highest number of antisemitic incidents in the U.S., surpassed only by New York. Meanwhile the state is No. 1 in the category of extremist murders and plots.

“Hate in the Golden State: Extremism and Antisemitism in California, 2021-2022,” a 21-page report released May 9, takes a deeper dive into statistics found in the ADL’s annual Audit of Antisemitic Incidents in the U.S.

As the country’s most populous state and one with a significant Jewish population, California’s ranking in antisemitic incidents may not be especially surprising. However, the ADL notes that the number of incidents here has risen dramatically and includes particularly brutal and dangerous events.

“Over the past two years, California has dealt with a significant increase in extremist activity driven by a variety of factors, including increased collaboration between small white supremacist and antisemitic networks, as well as continued activity by extremist groups such as the Proud Boys and Rise Above Movement,” the report states. “The state is home to the country’s highest number of extremist-related murders and plots and has seen numerous incidents of political violence.”

According to the ADL, antisemitic incidents in California rose from 367 in 2021 to 518 in 2022, an increase of 41 percent. Last year’s figure comprises 327 incidents of vandalism, 178 instances of harassment and 13 cases of assault.

“The findings of this report are absolutely horrifying,” state Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) said May 9 at a press conference outside the Capitol in Sacramento.

Wiener, co-chair of the California Legislative Jewish Caucus, was joined at the press conference by Assemblymembers Corey Jackson (D-Riverside County) and Mike Fong (D-Monterey Park/L.A.); Oren Segal, vice president of the ADL’s Center on Extremism; and David Bocarsly, executive director of the Jewish Public Affairs Committee of California. JPAC held its annual Capitol Summit this week in Sacramento.

“With resources like this report,” Bocarsly said, “we’re going to educate our communities about the dangers of these hate groups and letting bigotry go unchecked.”

The findings of this report are absolutely horrifying.

In 2021 and 2022, the ADL documented six extremist-related murders in California and identified 20 white supremacist events, including banner drops, flash demonstrations, training events, fight nights, protests, rallies and meetings. These include an incident in October 2022, when members of the Goyim Defense League displayed banners over a highway overpass in Los Angeles that read: “Kanye is right about the Jews” and “Honk if you know.”

Several of the 2021 incidents were connected to the 11-day violent flareup between Israel and Hamas in Gaza that happened in May that year.

On May 18, 2021, patrons in a Los Angeles restaurant were attacked by a group that arrived in cars carrying Palestinian flags. According to the ADL, the Palestinian supporters pushed one of the victims to the ground after confirming they were Jewish. A brawl erupted.

Distributions of white supremacist propaganda grew significantly, the report noted. In 2022, there were nearly 300 incidents in California — a 91 percent increase from the previous year.

Patriot Front and the Goyim Defense League were responsible for most of the propaganda distribution, the ADL found. The report also identified Proud Boys and the Rise Above Movement as groups perpetrating hate incidents in California.

The report cites FBI hate crime statistics indicating 1,765 hate crimes overall reported in California in 2021, an increase of 33 percent from 1,330 incidents in 2020.

The insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, also included ties to the state. Of the 948 people charged in connection with the insurrection, 61 are Californians.

The press conference in front of the state Capitol included two people who held up signs reading, “California is no place for hate.” It took place as dozens of Jewish leaders from across the state are visiting Sacramento this week to advocate for bills to improve safety for minority communities and to prevent hate incidents. This includes legislation that would increase funding for the state’s Nonprofit Security Grant Program.

ADL leaders said the report underscores the urgency of both acknowledging and combating antisemitism and other acts of bigotry in California.

“There’s no doubt that the state of California has an extremist problem and that’s reflected in our data,” said Robert Trestan, ADL’s western division vice president. “The state of California leads the nation in extremist murders. It is second in the country for antisemitic incidents, and it has experienced hundreds of white supremacist propaganda distributions in the past few years. It is time for our local state leaders to recognize that extremism poses a growing and dangerous threat to all Californians.”

Ryan Torok

Ryan Torok is an L.A.-based freelance reporter and former Jewish Journal staff writer.