CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA — The mother of Heather Heyer visited the site in Charlottesville, Virginia, where her daughter was killed last year and urged supporters to keep up her daughter’s fight against racial inequities.
Heyer, 32, was killed on August 12, 2017, when a suspected neo-Nazi drove his car into a crowd of people protesting a white nationalist rally in downtown Charlottesville. Nineteen others were injured in the attack.
Heyer’s mother, Susan Bro, said her daughter wouldn’t want to be the center of attention on the one-year anniversary of the deadly protests.
“Focus on the issues — that’s exactly what Heather would say. ‘Quit looking at me, look at the issues,'” Bro said. “We have a huge racial problem in our city and in our country. We have got to fix this, or we’ll be right back here in no time.”
Numerous events took place this weekend in and around Charlottesville to mark the anniversary against the backdrop of an increased police presence. A makeshift memorial adorned with flowers was created on a sidewalk close to where Heyer was struck. Messages of remembrance were written in chalk in the street and on the walls of nearby buildings.
Volunteers and supporters linked arms to form a barrier around Bro as she walked to the memorial Sunday afternoon a few minutes before the time her daughter was hit one year ago. She placed a bouquet of flowers at the site before she and others broke into song:
It’s been a long day without you my friend and I’ll tell you all about it when I see you again.
Bro said the song, Wiz Khalifa’s “See You Again,” helps her get through tough times. It tends to come on the radio when she needs to hear it, she said, as if her daughter were sending it to her.
What happened at the 2017 “Unite the Right” rally was bigger than Heyer’s death, just as this year’s events should be, Bro said.
“It’s not all about Heather … it never was,” Bro told the crowd.
“The world went crazy when Heather lost her life, and that’s not fair, because so many mothers lose their children every day, and we have to fix that. I don’t want other mothers to be in my spot,” she said, her voice breaking with emotion.
Last year’s “Unite the Right” rally was launched to voice opposition to the renaming of two parks honoring Confederate generals. The event drew white nationalists, neo-Nazis and members of the Ku Klux Klan as well as counterprotesters, including Heyer. Both sides clashed before police dispersed the crowds.
Anniversary events this year in Charlottesville have been largely peaceful. City officials denied requests for event permits in downtown Charlottesville, including one from Jason Kessler, who wanted to hold a “Unite the Right 2” rally in the same place as last year. Instead, the rally is planned for Sunday evening in Washington, where counterprotesters have already massed to counter the presence of white nationalists and other far-right groups.