By Kristina Rex


BOSTON (CBS) – For 20 years, the Anti-Defamation League has been updating and maintaining a list of more than 200 gestures and symbols that represent hate or hate groups.

According to the website, the list is “an overview of many of the symbols most frequently used by a variety of white supremacist groups and movements, as well as some other types of hate groups.”

On Thursday, the group added 36 new terms to its list, including the “OK” gesture and the “bowlcut” haircut.

The “OK” gesture, in which three fingers are upright and the pointer and thumb are connected like an “o,” has come to be a symbol for “white power” in some hate groups, according to the ADL. The most notable occurrence of the symbol being used in this manner, the group said, was after a mass shooting in Christchurch, New Zealand. “Australian white supremacist Brenton Tarrant flashed the symbol during a March 2019 courtroom appearance soon after his arrest for allegedly murdering 50 people in a shooting spree at mosques in Christchurch,” the website reads.

A far-right demonstrator makes the OK hand gesture believed to have white supremacist connotations during “The End Domestic Terrorism” rally on August 17, 2019 in Portland, Oregon. (Photo credit JOHN RUDOFF/AFP/Getty Images)

The “bowlcut,” the organization says, has become a symbol because of Charleston, South Carolina convicted mass shooter Dylann Roof. “Roof venerators often use Roof’s distinctive bowl-shaped haircut to refer to themselves and like-minded fans,” the website reads.

The 20-year-old database is constantly adapting, according to New England ADL Executive Director Robert Trestan. “Hate is always adapting to the current environment,” he said. “That’s why we adapt it regularly.”

The ADL tells WBZ it’s received reports of 60 incidents of white supremacist propaganda in Massachusetts to date, compared to just 35 last year.

WBZ polled people on the streets of Boston and Cambridge. Several, though not all, had heard about the “OK” symbol occasionally being used by white supremacists. However, the “bowlcut” being considered a hate symbol was shocking to many. “I’ll think about it [when I see people] now that I know…because what if it’s just something I was ignorant about?” one man said.

Kristina Rex

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