Three years ago I wrote a column titled “Is There No Hate In The 808?

It was in reaction to a report that year that there were no organized hate groups in Hawaii in 2015, unlike every other state that year except Alaska. This being the Land of Aloha, I had a naive working assumption that we we’re all one happy family, in spite of the occasional road rage incident to the contrary.

The column concluded that just because there were no reports of organizations dedicated to certain ideologies did not necessarily mean that they do not exist. It also cited stats from the Hawaii attorney general chronicling 24 hate crimes from 2002 to 2015 — nothing to be proud of but a pretty low figure nonetheless.

Local hate crimes remain rare — a total of 32 hate crime cases were reported to the Hawaii attorney general’s office from 2002-2018, which works out to an average of 1.9 cases reported annually statewide. More on that later.

But the number of hate groups tracked in Hawaii has changed significantly.

A screen shot of the SPLC’s hate map for 2018. Visit its website to access specific information on hate groups in the U.S., including Hawaii. 

The Southern Poverty Law Center’s latest hate map reveals that Hawaii is home to no less than five hate groups: one white nationalist, two black nationalist and two categorized under “general hate.”

Heidi Beirich, director of SPLC’s Intelligence Project, cautioned against me reading too much into the latest report, explaining that Hawaii has been historically “hate free” when it comes to the hate map.

“Hawaii is not a place where hate groups have a home — it’s just not,” she said. “Obviously Hawaii has ethnically diverse groups. It does not now mean there is a major presence of hate groups in town. It could be a dude with a computer in a basement, something we may not even list, or just a handful of chapters.”

Beirich said a Hawaii hate group first showed up on the SPLC’s radar in 2017: the Israelite School of Universal Practical Knowledge. The group was not listed operating in Hawaii in 2018, and Beirich said black Hebrew Israelites, as they are known, tend to “float” from group to group.

A screen shot from the Facebook page of the Hawaii chapter of Israel United in Christ. 

The Israelite School is described by SPLC as black nationalist, as are two of the five hate groups for Hawaii, specifically in Honolulu: Great Millstone and Israel United in Christ. They are said to have organized as “a reaction to centuries of institutionalized white supremacy in America.”

The answer to white racism is to form separate institutions or even a nation.

“This growth is a response to the current climate of racial divisiveness, specifically police violence and Donald Trump’s derisive remarks about African Americans, including journalists and NFL players, and majority-black countries,” according to the SPLC.

The most well-known black nationalist group is the Nation of Islam led by Louis Farrakhan. Black Hebrew Israelites also made headlines earlier this month during a confrontation at the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., involving students from Covington Catholic High School and a Native American activist.

Beirich said the SPLC primarily uses YouTube to find hate groups and to a lesser extent news reports. An internet search this week did not turn up anything about Great Millstone in Honolulu.

But I did find a Facebook page for an Israel United in Christ chapter in Hawaii. An email to IUIC was not returned, nor was a phone message left with someone identified as “Bishop Nathanyel.”

The Proud Boys Of Hawaii

I couldn’t find much on The Right Stuff, either, the white nationalist group said to exist in Hawaii. But I am told they have chapters (or “pool parties,” as they are known) all over the country.

The SPLC describes these groups as espousing white supremacist or white separatist ideologies, “often focusing on the alleged inferiority of nonwhites. Groups listed in a variety of other categories — Ku Klux Klan, neo-Confederate, neo-Nazi, racist skinhead, and Christian Identity — could also be fairly described as white nationalist.”

I had better luck searching online for the Proud Boys, thanks to a 2018 article — “Proud Boys in Paradise: Trump and Tribalism in Hawaii” — by Harrison Patino, a journalism student at the University of Hawaii Manoa. The article’s focus is Nick Ochs, a fellow UH journalism student who is president of a Proud Boys chapter in Hawaii.

Nick Ochs, president of Proud Boys of Hawaii, is at right. He declined to identify his colleague. Courtesy Nick Ochs

Never heard of them?

You might have heard of Gavin McInnes, a co-founder of Vice Media who established Proud Boys during the 2016 presidential election.

“Their disavowals of bigotry are belied by their actions: rank-and-file Proud Boys and leaders regularly spout white nationalist memes and maintain affiliations with known extremists,” according to the SPLC. “They are known for anti-Muslim and misogynistic rhetoric. Proud Boys have appeared alongside other hate groups at extremist gatherings like the ‘Unite the Right’ rally in Charlottesville.”

I managed to reach Nick Ochs this week and asked him about the SPLC report. He flatly dismissed it — “We are not a hate group,” he said — and told me his wife is black and that the Proud Boys “have many black, white members, any race you can think of … gay members.”

Ochs, who said he is 32 and from Indiana, declined to tell me how many people are in the local Proud Boys chapter.

“Top secret,” he said.

A recent tweet from Nick Ochs:

I asked him if his group was affiliated with other organizations in Hawaii.

“We might be,” he said but declined to say more.

Ochs did describe the Proud Boys as “a drinking club that likes Trump.” He also said many faculty and students at UH are “very leftist.”

Ochs made headlines in the UH Manoa student newspaper, Ka Leo, last fall, when he invited two speakers from the Turning Point USA to a talk billed as “Free Speech Comes to UH” and a panel called “White Privilege is a Myth: Change My Mind.”

Turning Point USA bills itself as an advocate of free markets and limited government. But SPLC said it has a “blooming romance with the alt-right.”

After our phone call Tuesday, Ochs sent me a more “polished” quote via email:

“The SPLC is a hard left advocacy group that exists to slander conservatives. The only people that use them as a source anymore are activists disguised as journalists.

“They have been learning the hard way that libel is illegal with all the recent lawsuits they are facing, or have already lost. The SPLC doesn’t care about facts. Forget the politics, they can’t even get the number of chapters we have right. There is only one Proud Boys Hawaii and we welcome all races and sexual preferences.

“Making fun of leftists isn’t hate. But if you do that, that’s what leftists will call it.”

Giving Them Oxygen?

There is an ongoing discussion in journalism about how and when to report on fringe groups, and I find myself somewhere in the middle of it.

On the one hand is the worry that, by writing about them, we are legitimizing fringe groups and helping them spread their message. The counter argument is that the job of journalists is to uncover truth however unpleasant.

Hate crime data from the Hawaii Attorney general’s office for 2018. 

The agreed-upon reality is that hate is on the rise in this country. The New York Times reported earlier this month the SPLC’s finding that the number of hate groups rose for the fourth year in a row in 2018.

“The center’s findings run parallel to a report on extremist-related killings in the United States that was issued last month by the Anti-Defamation League’s Center on Extremism,” said the Times. “That report said that right-wing extremism was linked to every extremist-related killing the group tracked in 2018, at least 50, and that jihadist groups were linked to none. It said that made 2018 the deadliest year for right-wing extremism since the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing.”

To read the list of 1,020 active hate groups on the SPLC website in 2018 is a stark reminder that we are not all “e pluribus unum.” To underscore that, here are the names of just six hate groups nationally, an example of their location and how they are classified:

  • Heterosexuals Organized for a Moral Environment (H.O.M.E.), Illinois, Anti-LGBT
  • Californians for Population Stabilization, Santa Barbara, anti-immigrant
  • Committee for Open Debate on the Holocaust, Pennsylvania, Holocaust denial
  • Confederate White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, Maryland, KKK
  • Aryan Nations Sadistic Souls MC, Wisconsin, neo-Nazi
  • Bomb Islam, Phoenix, anti-Muslim

The concern is that these groups will turn their hate on victims.

Bill Hoshijo, the executive director of the Hawaii Civil Rights Commission, said he had not heard about the SPLC report until I called him Tuesday.

“It’s disturbing that we have hate groups in Hawaii,” he said. “We want all of us to be conscious that it is our responsibility to fight that.”

Hate crimes happen without organized help, even in our backyard.

The AG’s Crime Prevention & Justice Assistance Division lists two cases in Hawaii in 2017 that were resolved in 2018:

  • In Maui County a 49-year-old white male with no prior criminal history in Hawaii approached the victims, a 15-year-old male and a 16- year-old female, in a fast food restaurant and uttered anti-black statements and epithets as he chastised the teens about the perceived interracial nature of their relationship.
  • In Kauai County, the offender, an adult Hawaiian male who appeared to be intoxicated approached a 50-year-old black male who was entering his own residence. The offender then tried to pick a fight with this victim. A second victim, an adult white female, began taking video with her cell phone. The offender then made anti-black statements toward the first victim and anti-Russian statements toward the second victim, slapped the phone out of the second victim’s hand, and attacked the first victim until the police arrived.

In the first case, the offender was convicted on one count of harassment and one count of disorderly conduct and sentenced to a 30-day jail term. The second offender was sentenced to a one-day jail sentence, six months of probation and 50 hours of community service and was also ordered to receive anger management counseling and substance abuse assessment/treatment.

I realize the two incidents don’t rise to the level of more serious crimes. But vigilance, it seems, is eternal because haters gonna hate — even in the 808.

Support Civil Beat during the season of giving.

As a small nonprofit newsroom, our mission is powered by readers like you. But did you know that less than 1% of readers donate to Civil Beat?

Give today and support local journalism that helps to inform, empower and connect.

About the Author