Who are the members of white supremacist groups in America?

Last Updated Aug 15, 2017 7:59 PM EDT

There are hundreds of hate groups in this country -- their members living largely in the shadows.

So who makes up America's hate groups? Ask Christian Picciolini who nearly 25 years ago was a leader in the skinhead movement, CBS News' Jim Axelrod reports.

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Christian Picciolini

CBS News

Axelrod asked him who are the people who make up the rank and file of white supremacist movement?

"It's the average American," Picciolini said. "It is our mechanics, it's our dentists, it's our teachers, lawyers, doctors, nurses and unfortunately that's the way it's turned into the last 30 years."

Born and raised in working class Chicago, Picciolini joined his first white power gang at age 14. This was before quitting after eight years and starting a non-profit to combat to hate.

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Christian Picciolini

CBS News

Picciolini addressed the thought that white supremacy in America is a scary picture.

"It is … unfortunately … it's a reality," Picciolini said.

The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) counts more than 900 active hate groups in the U.S. -- a number that's growing.

But Heidi Beirich, who tracks hate groups for SPLC -- agrees with the former skinhead.

"This is a movement that is really fueled -- at this moment -- by a lot of young, angry white men," Beirich said.

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Heidi Beirich

CBS News

"It is absolutely false to think that the people in the white supremacist movement are really poor people living in trailer parks with no education," she added.

Axelrod asked if there is a distinct number of the members of this movement who are educated.

"Absolutely. There are a whole lot of people with PhD's … law degrees ... you know bachelor degrees," Picciolini said.

Picciolini takes it further. He says no one should be surprised that support for Mr. Trump from white supremacists this weekend should be a surprise.

When asked if white supremacists look at Mr. Trump and feel affirmed, Picciolini said, "absolutely … 100 percent."

"The anti-immigrant, the anti-refugee talk and the idea to put America first … those are all things that we talked about 30 years ago," Picciolini said. "And it resonates just as deeply for the people who are in this movement."

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A view of white supremacists at a rally.

CBS News

In January, the Obama administration gave Picciolini's group $400,000 to continue its work battling hate groups. Then in June -- the Trump administration told them the grant was canceled.

The tensions at the center of the violence in Charlottesville are an issue in cities across the country.

Protesters toppled the statue of a Confederate soldier in Durham, North Carolina, on Monday, CBS News' DeMarco Morgan reports. 

Following the violence in Charlottesville, officials across the country are taking a hard look at rallies being planned in their cities by white supremacists. 

Mayor Marty Walsh is speaking out against an upcoming "free speech" rally that white nationalists say they plan to attend. 

"We are a city that believes in free speech, but we will not tolerate sentiments to violence, we will not tolerate threatening behavior, we will not have it," Walsh said.