TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — The Southern Poverty Law Center, a non-profit that tracks extremist and hate group activity nationwide, tells 8 On Your Side it has detected alt-right participation in Tampa Bay area protests over the death of George Floyd.
This comes after public officials in other states, including Minnesota, have reported white supremacist activity infiltrating local demonstrations.
The FBI already warned local law enforcement to be on the lookout for “instigators” looking to exploit protests and break federal law, as seen in an email to select staff at the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office obtained by 8 On Your Side.
During a Wednesday press conference about recent arrests, Tampa Mayor Jane Castor said she did not believe there was evidence of white supremacist disruption in local protests. However, Chief of Police Brian Dugan did refer to “outside agitators” intent on generating violence during that same conference.
SPLC spokesperson Lecia Brooks explained her organization tracks a number of individuals associated with various alt-right and designated hate groups. Their intel, in fact, found individuals associated with far-right and neo-Confederate groups present at Tampa and other Florida protests.
“It’s important to understand this is what they do,” Brooks said. “They capitalize on political chaos and seek to sow further chaos.”
Many of those protests devolved into violence and arrests. However, at this point, Brooks said the SPLC has no reason to believe hate groups are steering protests or organizations under the guise of the Black Lives Matter movement.
“You never know what they might do, they might try to blend in,” Brooks said.
8 On Your Side is also monitoring all protest arrests. While some of those individuals had violent intentions, police said, no arrest affidavits have shown a suspect linked to a hate group.
In addition to warning local law enforcement, the FBI is calling on the public to report protest violence they witness or document.
8 On Your Side is also asking for viewers who document something suspicious or out of place at local protests to let us know.
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