Believe it or not, Arkansas is one of only four states in the U.S. to not have any legal protection against hate crimes. An anti-hate crimes measure passed the state Senate in 2001 but failed before a House panel, and a similar bill failed in 2017. The forests of Arkansas and the Ozark mountain region have provided cover for clandestine hate groups. White nationalist groups such as The Covenant, The Sword, and the Arm of the Lord (abbreviated CSA. In the 1980s this group had a compound in the Ozarks, later raided by the authorities) found cover in the Ozarks, as the overwhelmingly white towns are small and spread far and wide throughout the mountains. The Knights of the KKK and the Kingdom Identity Ministries (a Christian identity organization) made their headquarters in the state at this time. In the early 1990s, a series of race riots occurred in Harrison (the largest town in Arkansas and home to the (K)KKK and KIM) led to most of that town's African-American population to flee.
In February 2018, prosecutors in Little Rock unsealed indictments against 54 members of the New Aryan Empire (a white supremacist group that began as a prison gang). Most of the NEE members indicted in 2019 are from Russellville. Its leader briefly escaped from a Pine Bluff jail in August of that year. In May, another group of white supremacists protesters carrying the flag of Nazi Germany also disrupted a Holocaust remembrance event in Russellville. Billboards have appeared in the state displaying white supremacist slogans (e.g. "anti-racist is a code word for anti-white") or promoting white pride websites. In 2018, the Southern Poverty Law Center (an organization which tracks hate groups) identified 14 distinct hate groups in the state.
In 2019, Republican Governor Asa Hutchinson (who as federal prosecutor in the 1980s was involved in negotiations with the CSA) and Democratic Senator Joyce Elliott have called on lawmakers in the state to approve harsher penalties for hate crimes.