‘Heather had no idea how much her small act of walking with her friends that day would make on the world.’
Heather Heyer’s tragic death inspired a wave of unity and love that spread beyond Charlottesville.
The Unite the Right rally occurred in the Virginia town on August 11 and 12 in 2017. It included members of alt-right groups who said they were protesting in opposition to the removal of a Robert E. Lee statue from Charlottesville’s Emancipation Park.
On the second day, a man drove his car into a crowd of counter-protesters, killing Heather Heyer and injuring more than a dozen others. We visited Charlottesville to talk to Heather’s mother and friends on the riot’s one-year anniversary.
August 11, 2018 marks 365 days since the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. The following day, while peaceful protesters came to counter the demonstration, a a driver rammed his car into the crowd, killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer. Though President Trump condemned the rally, he also stated that there was an “egregious display of hatred, bigotry, and violence on many sides.”
21-year-old James Fields, the man accused of driving the car that killed Heather and injured dozens more, has been indicted on 30 charges, including a count of a hate crime resulting in death. Though Heather’s life was cut short, her mother Susan Bro stated that the attack “just magnified her.”
“I do want to point out though, very strongly, she was not a leader at this event,” Bro stated. “This was not about her, this was about Black Lives Matter and the racial divide in Charlottesville that she was there to support and I want to redirect the energy and the focus in that direction. I want to acknowledge my daughter’s sacrifice but also want to acknowledge why she was there and what she was there to support.”
The legacy of the rally and the aftermath has divided local activists as well as the wider community, and has created an even stronger need for critical discussions about hate groups in the U.S. Even still, Heather’s friends and family can feel the unity and love that her tragic death inspired.