- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Heather Heyer, the woman killed in the aftermath of clashes between white nationalists and counterprotesters, was celebrated Wednesday as a martyr in a renewed campaign to fight bigotry in the U.S.

Family, friends and top elected officials from Virginia gathered in Charlottesville — scene of this weekend’s confrontation — for a memorial service for the 32-year-old woman, who was killed when a car thought to be driven by a white nationalist demonstrator plowed into a crowd of counterprotesters.

Susan Bro, Ms. Heyer’s mother, pleaded for her daughter’s legacy to mean something at a time when the country’s racial fissures are showing.

“I think the reason that what happened to Heather has struck a chord is because we know what she did is achievable. We don’t all have to die. We don’t all have to sacrifice our lives. They tried to kill my child to shut her up. Well, guess what, you just magnified her,” Ms. Bro said.

“So remember, in your heart, if you are not outraged, you’re not paying attention, and I want you to pay attention, find what is wrong. Don’t ignore it, don’t look the other way,” she said. “You make a point to look at it and say to yourself, ‘What can I do to make a difference?’ And that is how you are going to make my child’s death worthwhile.

“I’d rather have my child, but, by golly, if I got to give her up, we are going to make it count.”

Parts of Ms. Heyer’s service were carried live on cable news networks as the nation joined in grief and outrage at her death.

Ms. Heyer was part of a group of counterprotesters who confronted neo-Nazis, white supremacists and “alt-right” groups staging a “United the Right” rally in Charlottesville. The stated goal was to protest the city government’s decision to remove a statue of Robert E. Lee from a park, but the groups also said it was a chance to display what they say is their growing strength in numbers and brazenness — complete with offensive and anti-Semitic chants.

After police tried to disband the neo-Nazis and counterprotests, a car smashed into a group of counterprotesters. Police charged James Fields, a 20-year-old Ohio man, with the attack, which killed Ms. Heyer and injured 19 others.

Two Virginia state troopers also died in a helicopter crash during the protests.

During Ms. Heyer’s service, at a historic theater in Charlottesville, Mark Heyer said his daughter wanted equality and on the day of her death was pushing to “put down hate.”

“And, for my part, we just need to stop all this stuff and just forgive each other,” he said. “I think that is what the Lord would want us to do — is just love one another.”

Looking out at the crowd, he said he was “overwhelmed at the rainbow of colors in this room.”

“That is how Heather was,” he said. “It didn’t matter who you were or where you were from, if she loved you, that was it — you were stuck.

“So for that, I am truly proud of my daughter,” he said.

In Charlottesville, the spot of Ms. Heyer’s death has become a shrine. And in the park where the Lee statue stands, someone erected a poster declaring it “Heyer Mem Park.” A Go Fund Me campaign for Ms. Heyer’s family raised nearly $225,000.

President Trump paid tribute to Ms. Heyer via Twitter.

“Memorial service today for beautiful and incredible Heather Heyer, a truly special young woman,” Mr. Trump said. “She will be long remembered by all!”

The president has been blamed for stoking an atmosphere that emboldened the neo-Nazi and white nationalists to rally in the first place and for equating them with the counterprotesters in terms of blame for the clashes.

Republicans and Democrats have distanced themselves from the president’s handling, saying Ms. Heyer and her fellow counterprotesters had the moral high ground in confronting bigots.

Charlottesville violence was fueled by one side: white supremacists spreading racism, intolerance & intimidation. Those are the facts,” Sen. Tim Kaine, Virginia Democrat, said on Twitter. “Virginia won’t let anyone take us backwards — whether it’s white supremacists or a President who emboldens them.”

Mr. Kaine, Gov. Terry McAuliffe and Charlottesville Mayor Mike Signer were among the 1,000 to attend the ceremony, where Barbara Edwards sang the hymn “Amazing Grace.”

Reading from a letter at the service, Diana Ratcliff said Ms. Heyer, her cousin, did not let other people tell her how to think or behave. She said Ms. Heyer taught her that she didn’t have to be a “world leader, Nobel Prize winner or CEO to change the world.”

“Did I ever tell you how much I loved you?” said Ms. Ratcliff, trembling with emotion. “Heather, when my children ask me who I admire most, I will tell them you, my baby cousin who was larger than life and too good for this world. You are in a better place now, where there is no pain, no sadness, no hunger and no hate.

“You might not be with us anymore, but you will always be in our hearts.”

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