Over the weekend, Heather Heyer was killed in Charlottesville, Virginia. The 32-year-old paralegal, who lived and worked in the town, was protesting the white supremacist rally taking place on Saturday.
Heyer was standing with a group of other anti-racist protesters when a man – later identified as white nationalist James Alex Fields Jnr – drove his car into the crowd. Fields sped off, reportedly leaving Heyer and another victim lying on the pavement and 19 people injured. Authorities said that she died at the scene.
On Wednesday, some 1,200 people congregated at a cinema in Charlottesville to celebrate Heyer’s life and remember her death. At the memorial service, Heyer’s mother, Susan Bro, took to the stage to give a courageous and powerful speech in which she appealed to the world to ensure her daughter didn’t die in vain.
“They tried to kill my child to shut her up,” said Bro, to thunderous applause, whistles and cheers. “Well, guess what? You just magnified her.”
Heyer’s last Facebook post before she was killed was the status: “If you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention.” The Cut reports that her mother echoed this statement in her memorial speech, telling the assembled mourners: “I want you to pay attention, find what’s wrong… and say to yourself, what can I do to make a difference?”
Bro added: “That’s how you’re going to make my child’s death worthwhile.”
“I’d rather have my child,” she continued, “but by golly, if I’ve got to give her up, we’re going to make it count.”
In a video posted by ABC News, Bro is seen explaining why she decided to have a public memorial service for her daughter.
“I could’ve said let’s [not] do this publicly, let’s have a small private funeral, but you know, that’s not who Heather was,” she said. “Anybody who knew Heather said, ‘Yep, this is the way she had to go.’”
Bro described Heyer’s character as “big and large. Had to have the world involved, because that’s my child. She’s just that way. Always has been, and she will continue to be.”
Heyer’s father held back tears as he addressed the service.
“[I am] overwhelmed by the rainbow of colours in this room,” said Mark Heyer, per the Guardian. “That’s how Heather was. It didn’t matter who you were or where you were from, if she loved you, you were stuck.”
The memorial ended with the service singing an acapella version of Amazing Grace.
The man who allegedly drove his car into the crowd of anti-fascism protesters on Saturday has since been arrested and charged with second degree murder.
BBC News reports that James Alex Fields, who is 20 years old and originally from Kentucky, faces charges for killing one and injuring 19. His mother told reporters that she thought he was attending a Donald Trump rally.
Republican Senator Ted Cruz has called on the Department of Justice to prosecute Fields for domestic terrorism. However, President Trump has faced fierce criticism for failing to mention Heather Heyer’s death or condemn white supremacists in his initial response to Charlottesville.
Trump has also repeatedly blamed the violence “on many sides” and described the anti-racism protesters as “the alt-left”.
Images: Getty / Rex Features