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WASHINGTON — The Southern Poverty Law Center’s President and CEO Margaret Huang issued the following statement on the fifth anniversary of the deadly white supremacist riots in Charlottesville, Va. 

“Five years ago, the jarring images of white supremacists marching through our nation’s streets with torches chanting ‘Jews will not replace us’ and the car plowing into peaceful protestors, killing Heather Heyer, were seared into our memories forever. Despite the collective horror of those events that terrorized the Charlottesville community, the dangers posed by the mainstreaming of extremist beliefs and the threat of political violence has grown substantially.

“The organizers of the Unite the Right rally sought to normalize white nationalist ideals, and, in many ways, they have been successful. The anti-democracy and extremist ideas they promoted have proliferated over the past several years increasingly infecting the mainstream. We were again reminded of the devastating impacts of these ideas, including the ‘great replacement’ conspiracy theory, when it was recently cited by the alleged white supremacist terrorist in the Buffalo mass shooting. 

“Great strides have been made by local activists, investigative journalists as well as the brave plaintiffs and our colleagues at Integrity First for America (IFA) to counter white supremacy and hold the Unite the Right rally organizers accountable. And, while this collective effort led to the landmark ruling in the case holding the organizers liable last November, much work lies ahead.

"We must do everything we can to reject hate and extremism and to combat racism and white supremacy as individuals, elected officials and as a nation to ensure that fateful day never happens again.”