Heather Heyer died when a driver slammed into a crowd of counter protesters during a rally in Charlottesville. She was only 32 and was killed while crossing the street during the protests, taking a stand against racism and hate. The counter protesters, carrying LGBTQ flags and Black Lives Matter signs, were demonstrating against a group of alt-right who had rallied together to protest the removal of a Robert E. Lee statue. The night before, the alt-right group had carried torches in protest, ramping up the tensions in the area.
Heyer was tragically caught in the middle of one driver’s unexpected turn toward violence. Now, her supporters are asking everyone to light a candle and stand outside their home in her honor, showing they are standing against hate on Sunday night at 10 p.m. Eastern.
Here’s what you need to know.
1. Heather Heyer Died After a Driver Ran Into a Group Protesting the Alt-Right Rally
Heather Heyer was part of the counter protest group that was hit by the Ohio driver, while taking a stand against hate. She is a native of Greene County and graduated from William Monroe High School. She was a paralegal, International Business Times reported. According to her LinkedIn, she worked for Miller Law Group PC in Virginia as a legal assistant. She died doing what she believed in: speaking out against injustice, racism, and hate.
She was a Bernie supporter in 2016 and was open about those political views on her Facebook wall.
According to witnesses, the counter protesters were hit as they turned a corner during their protest march. They were chanting things like “our streets” in response to the words “Unite the Right.” This happened after police had dispersed a group of white nationalists, CBS reported.
Witnesses referred to the crash as a “deliberate act of terrorism,” which the Charlottesville Police Chief echoed in his press conference that you can watch below:
Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe had declared a state of emergency in the city because of violence that was breaking out. In fact, a group of white nationalists had just been dispersed shortly before the car rammed into the counter protesters, many of whom were carrying LBTQ flags and Black Lives Matters signs.
Later, many public officials spoke out against any white supremacists who were involved in the rally.
Alt-right demonstrators were protesting the city’s decision to remove a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee from Emancipation Park.
2. A GoFundMe to Help Heather’s Family Has Raised More than $150,000
Friends of Heyer’s family have set up a GoFundMe to help them during this terrible time. You can donate here. As of the time of publication, $159,786 had been raised of a $200,000 goal.
On the GoFundMe, a friend shared:
I have spoken with Heather’s mother as well as other family members. We are setting up the funds to be released to whomever they choose to be in charge of her estate. I thank you all for helping to decrease their stress level and for helping us honor Heather.”
As of 7:45 p.m. Eastern, $61,972 had already been contributed toward a $75,000 goal. You can contribute to the GoFundMe here.
Heyer’s mother, Susan Bro, told Huffington Post that her daughter was trying to bring an end to injustice and her goal was to stop hatred in the world.
I don’t want her death to be a focus for more hatred, I want her death to be a rallying cry for justice and equality and fairness and compassion.”
Her mother went on to say that she was very proud of Heyer, and her daughter had wanted to help people since she was a young child. She would often let friends who were having a tough time stay over for months and had helped a friend file for bankruptcy at no cost.
Read more about Heather’s family in Heavy’s story below:
3. Heyer Believed in Taking a Stand Against Racism and Injustice
Heather Heyer didn’t hide who she was or her desire to take a stand against injustice. Even the quote on her Facebook cover photo read: “If you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention.”
She often posted on Facebook, standing up for others. She shared a video before the election about how if a person was scared of a Muslim, they should meet a Muslim to end those fears.
She was very outspoken about her beliefs, including posting a review of a police department on Facebook in 2016, upset about a woman that she said had been assaulted.
Many have flocked to Heather’s Facebook page to share their grief in her loss and their solidarity to continue taking a stand for her beliefs.
One person, Michael Bullard, wrote:
We can’t let this be for nothing people. We have to take her spirit of resistance with us wherever we go. Let this be the catalyst in our lives for real change. Rest in peace. We’ll take it from here.”
Heather’s mother told The Huffington Post that even as a child, she wanted to right the wrongs of the world.
“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.”
Heyer had always been compassionate since she was a young child, a childhood friend Lauren Moon told USA Today.
4. Nineteen People Were Injured in the Same Crash that Killed Heather and the Suspect is in Custody
In addition to Heather’s tragic death, 19 were injured from the crash, with an additional 15 people injured in the rally itself. Later, two more people died in a helicopter crash. As of early Saturday evening, UVA Health System shared that five patients were in critical condition, four in serious condition, six in fair condition, and four more in good condition.
The suspect, James Alex Fields Jr., is in custody. He was booked and charged with one count of second-degree murder, three counts of malicious wounding, failure to stop for an accident involving a death, and hit-and-run, Albemarle-Charlottesville Regional Jail Superintendent Martin Kumer told The Washington Post. Fields is 20 years old.
5. Friends and Supporters of Heather Heyer Want Everyone to Take a Stand Against Racism at 10 p.m. Eastern on Sunday
Friends and admirers of Heather are urging everyone to stand outside their homes at 10 p.m. Eastern on Sunday night Aug. 13 (tonight) with lit candles, to show everyone across the world that they oppose racism and they oppose fascism.
A candlelight vigil had been planned in Charlottesville’s for August 13, but that was canceled due to safety concerns. However, they still plan to host the vigil soon. If you’re in Charlottesville, visit this page for updates.