Central Coast Curious: Are there hate groups on the Central Coast?

Aug 27, 2018

The KCBX Central Coast Curious project provides you the opportunity to ask the KCBX News team questions about the Central Coast. We posted a Central Coast Curious voting round this summer that included some listener questions related to nationwide issues. The winning question from the voting round was: “Are there any active, known and 'out' members of white nationalist or violent racist organizations in San Luis Obispo County?”

The official response from public officials is: no. San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Department Spokesman Tony Cipolla said the department's Gang Task Force unit was not aware of any "active" hate groups. KCBX News asked the unit to speak on the record about hate groups, but Cipolla said, “No one was interested in being interviewed, especially since this isn't an issue in our county. We don't have any identified active hate groups in the county. And we haven't had charges filed against a person or group for a hate crime in recent memory.”

Since KCBX News covers more counties than San Luis Obispo, we also spoke with the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department. Their public information officer, Kelly Hoover, said, "There aren’t any significant organized hate groups based in the county, but within our modern society people move around quite a bit, so it is possible that persons associated with hate groups could occasionally come through our county. We have a detective assigned to collaborate with the FBI and other organizations that keep track of and investigate hate crimes.”

But according to the Southern Poverty Law Center's national map of hate groups, the SPLC classified Californians for Population Stabilization or CAPS as an anti-immigrant hate group in 2016. According to the CAPS website, the organization “works to formulate and advance policies and programs designed to stabilize the population of California, the U.S. and the world at levels which will preserve the environment and a good quality of life for all.” CAPS did not return requests for comment, but the San Luis Obispo Tribune recently reported that a candidate running for Paso Robles City Council, Michael Rivera, is a secretary with the organization.

The SPLC national map shows hate groups in areas surrounding the Central Coast, with many scattered across the Central Valley and Southern California, and a hub of 17 centered in Visalia.

Although authorities and experts on the matter say there are no hate groups in San Luis Obispo County, there were white supremacist racial slurs and propaganda that appeared on the Cal Poly campus in April, as well as swastika graffiti around San Luis Obispo. Therefore, we want to further examine this issue. KCBX has partnered with independent, non-profit investigative newsroom ProPublica to examine the reporting of hate crimes across the Central Coast. We’ll be looking at local law enforcement reporting of hate crimes to see if they match up with FBI databases.

On their website, the SPLC defines a hate group as "an organization that – based on its official statements or principles, the statements of its leaders, or its activities – has beliefs or practices that attack or malign an entire class of people, typically for their immutable characteristics."

KCBX News wants to hear from you. If you have evidence of a hate group anywhere in Monterey, San Luis Obispo, or Santa Barbara counties, send us an email and let us know. You can always reach us at news@kcbx.org. We’ll keep searching and we’ll report back to you.