Heather Heyer, killed in Charlottesville, remembered for passion, fighting injustice
Legal assistant was struck by a car on Saturday amid violent protests
The mother of the woman killed in Virginia when a car rammed into a crowd of people protesting a white nationalist rally urged those gathered at her memorial service Wednesday to build on the victim's legacy of speaking out against injustice.
The service for Heather Heyer was held at a downtown Charlottesville theatre. Attendees wore purple, Heyer's favourite colour, in her memory.
"This is just the beginning of Heather's legacy, this is not the end of Heather's legacy," Susan Bro said at the memorial, saying her daughter strove to make a difference in the world and others can follow her lead.
"You poke that finger at yourself like Heather would have done and you make it happen," she said. "Let's have the uncomfortable dialogue."
Bro told The Associated Press earlier she would have preferred to grieve in private but felt compelled to try to follow her daughter's example.
Earlier, Heyer's father and grandfather spoke, as did friends and coworkers.
Heyer's father, Mark Heyer, said, "Heather's passion extended to her ideas and her thoughts. She could tell if someone wasn't being straight with her and she'd call them on it.
"On this issue of the day of her passing, she wanted to put down hate," he said.
Elwood Shrader, her grandfather, said Heyer showed her passion for equality at an early age and swiftly called out something that wasn't right. He told about 1,000 mourners gathered inside that she wanted respect for everyone and believed all lives matter.
The 32-year-old was a Charlottesville resident among the hundreds of protesters who had gathered Saturday in Charlottesville to decry what was believed to be the largest gathering of white supremacists in a decade — including neo-Nazis, skinheads and Ku Klux Klan members. They descended on the city for a rally prompted by the city's decision to remove a Confederate monument.
Chaos and violence erupted before the event even began, with counter-demonstrators and rally-goers clashing in the streets.
Authorities forced the crowd to disperse, and groups then began roaming through town. Counter-protesters had converged for a march along a downtown street when suddenly a Dodge Challenger barrelled into them, hurling people into the air. Video shows the car reversing and hitting more people.
The Ohio man who police say was driving, 20-year-old James Alex Fields Jr., was described by a former high school teacher as an admirer of Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany. He was quickly taken into custody and has been charged with second-degree murder and other counts.
Remembered for her compassion
There were no signs of protesters outside the theatre. White supremacists had threatened to attend, but none appeared to be at the site.
The Paramount said in a statement that it had made arrangements for overflow attendees to view the service through a live stream.
Heyer grew up in nearby Greene County and worked as a legal assistant at a law firm. Her boss, Larry Miller, said ahead of the memorial the young woman was active in the firm's bankruptcy practice and was like a family member to him.
"She's very compassionate, she's very precise, got a big heart, she wants to make sure that things are right. She cares about the people that we take care of. She's just a great person," Miller said.
U.S. President Donald Trump tweeted for the first time about Heyer just before the ceremony began.
Trump says the 32-year-old Heyer was "beautiful and incredible" and a "truly special young woman." He says "she will be long remembered by all."
Trump told reporters Tuesday that he planned to reach out to Heyer's family. The White House did not respond to questions Wednesday about whether Trump has contacted the family.
Also killed Saturday were two Virginia State Police troopers who were aboard a helicopter that was providing video of the event before it broke off to lend support to a motorcade for Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe. The helicopter crashed outside of Charlottesville. An investigation into the crash is ongoing.
A funeral for trooper-pilot Berke M.M. Bates has been set for Friday and a funeral for Lt. H. Jay Cullen, the helicopter's pilot, is scheduled for Saturday.
With files from CBC News