SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Civil rights groups are tracking a surge in white nationalist activity and some of the new breed of leaders come from California.
Thirty-four years ago ABC7's Investigative Reporter Dan Noyes reported for CNN on a Nazi rally that turned into a violent confrontation in Virginia. In some ways, not much has changed except the leadership and some of the tools they have for recruiting and getting their message across.
The Anti-Defamation League's regional office in San Francisco works with other organizations to track hate groups.
ADL Central Pacific Director Seth Brysk was shocked and disturbed by what he saw in Charlottesville over the weekend.
"This is the largest gathering of white supremacists that we've seen in this country for at least a decade, possibly in several decades," Brysk told the I-Team.
Brysk says different hate groups that have not been able to work together in the past are now finding ways to cooperate.
"Skinheads, white nationalists, white supremacists and now, of course, the so-called alt-right movement that sought to sort of give her an air of respectability to some of these extreme views, all coming together all coalescing around their racist points of view," Brysk said.
Right in the thick of it-a Northern California man seems to have emerged as a leader.
Nathan Damigo founded "Identity Evropa" out of Oakdale in Stanislaus County. His notoriety soared in April after the protest that's become known as the "Battle of Berkeley" when he was caught on camera punching a female counter-protester in the face.
Damigo was one of the white supremacists who helped plan the march this past weekend in Charlottesville, Virginia.
At a news conference Damigo held yesterday with White Nationalist Richard Spencer, both men blamed police for what happened. They criticized police for blocking off all the streets downtown to vehicle traffic and for not keeping the two sides apart.
"There was not much instruction from police. They were not manning the exits, making sure people could enter safely and many people were assaulted," Damigo said.
Damigo didn't respond to our requests for an interview today but he touted his group's future at a conference for white nationalists last month.
"We started with about 15 people and now we have about 700 members nationwide. We've made some major strides in the last year and the projections are looking promising," Damigo told attendees.
Organizations, like the one Damigo started about a year ago, seem to have more tools to recruit and get their message out in the age of Facebook, YouTube and Twitter.
Seth Brysk says the hate groups have plans to return to progressive areas including Berkeley and San Francisco later this month because they know the probable result-violence that leads to exposure.
The ADL is calling on the Trump administration to restore funding for a homeland security program to counter violent extremism, to train local law enforcement to track hate groups and to promote anti-bias education in our schools.
"Seeking ways, places, where they can provoke where they can get a response where they'll draw attention to the ranks. It's another way that they're trying to recruit others to their cause," Brysk said.
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I-Team: New breed of white nationalist leadership based in California
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