CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. ― “Gone but not forgotten,” read a sign above Charlottesville’s Paramount Theater Wednesday, as hundreds gathered to pay homage to Heather Heyer, the 32-year-old killed over the weekend during a violent rally in the city.
Many mourners wore purple, Heyer’s favorite color. Photos of Heyer flashed on the screen ― posing with friends, on the beach, out to dinner, holding a baby.
“She loved people. She wanted equality. And this issue of the day of her passing she wanted to put down hate,” her father, Mark Heyer, said while holding back tears. “We just need to stop all this stuff and forgive each other.”
Kathy Brinkley, a close friend of Heyer’s mother, said the young woman “lost her life defending the lives of people.” Heyer’s grandfather, Elwood Shrader, recalled that Heyer had a passion for justice at an early age, calling out inequalities wherever she saw them.
President Donald Trump spoke out again about Heyer, whom he called an “incredible young woman” during a Tuesday news conference, in a tweet Wednesday:
“She always had a very strong sense of right and wrong. She always, even as a child, was very caught up in what she believed to be fair,” her mother, Susan Bro, told HuffPost in an exclusive interview on Sunday. “Somehow I almost feel that this is what she was born to be, is a focal point for change. I’m proud that what she was doing was peaceful. She wasn’t there fighting with people.”
White supremacists and members of the alt-right had planned a “Unite The Right” rally Saturday to protest the removal of a Robert E. Lee statue in downtown Charlottesville. They clashed with counter-protesters throughout the weekend, culminating in an attack by James Alex Fields Jr., a 20-year-old Nazi sympathizer. Fields drove a car through the crowds, killing Heyer and injuring 19 others. He has been charged with second-degree murder.
Two state troopers also died after their helicopter ― which was patrolling during the violence ― crashed nearby.
Solidarity protests spread across the country like wildfire following Saturday’s events. People in Durham, North Carolina, toppled a Confederate statue on Monday evening. The Baltimore City Council also voted to take down four Confederate statues.
Leaders of white nationalist and neo-Nazi movements have failed to decry Heyer’s death, instead hailing Saturday’s demonstration as a success and blaming law enforcement for not respecting their right to free speech.
“They tried to kill my child to shut her up. Well guess what? You just magnified her.”
Bro reminisced during the memorial about the close relationship she had with her daughter. “She paid attention. She made a lot of us pay attention,” she said. “She and I would talk, and I would listen and we would negotiate.”
“Although Heather was a caring and compassionate person, so are a lot of you,” Bro said. “And I think the reason that what happened to Heather has struck a chord is because we know that what she did is achievable. They tried to kill my child to shut her up. Well guess what? You just magnified her.”
“By golly, if I’ve got to give her up, we’re going to make it count,” Bro said.
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