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Posted: August 16, 2017

Heather Heyer's parents preach love, action after daughter’s death: 'You just magnified her'

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
Heather Heyer's Parents At Memorial Service

By Theresa Seiger, Cox Media Group National Content Desk

The parents of Heather Heyer, the woman killed Saturday in a protest against white supremacy in Charlottesville, Virginia, remembered the 32-year-old as a big-hearted, outspoken woman who wanted equality for all.

>> Read more trending news

About 1,000 mourners gathered Wednesday for Heyer’s memorial in downtown Charlottesville, the same city where police said Heyer was killed while protesting what was believed to be the largest gathering of white supremacists in a decade.

Heyer’s death sparked outrage across the nation and reinvigorated the debate over race relations in America.

>> Related: Trump again blames ‘both sides’ for violence in Charlottesville

“I think the reason that what happened to Heather has struck a chord is because we know that what she did is achievable,” Heyer’s mother, Susan Bro, said at Wednesday’s memorial service. “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.”

Since her daughter’s death, Bro said she’s received an outpouring of support from people wondering how to help the grieving family. She suggested that anyone wishing to help should follow Heyer’s example.

“I want this to spread. I don’t want this to die,” Bro said. “This is not the end of Heather’s legacy. You need to find in your heart that small spark of accountability. What is there that I can do to make the world a better place? What injustice do I see?”

Heather Heyer’s father, Mark Heyer, remembered his daughter in an emotional speech to mourners as a passionate woman who always spoke her mind.

>> Related: Who is James Alex Fields Jr., suspect in deadly Charlottesville car attack?

“She wanted equality. And in this issue, on the day of her passing, she wanted to put down hate,” he said. “And for my part – we just need to stop all this stuff and just forgive each other. I think that’s what the Lord would want us to do. Just to stop -- just love one another.”

He said he was particularly struck by the diversity of the group gathered to mourn his daughter.

“I was overwhelmed at the rainbow of colors in this room. That’s how Heather was. It didn’t matter who you were or where you were from, if she loved you that was it – you were stuck,” he said with a shaky laugh.

Police said Heyer was killed Saturday when 20-year-old James Alex Fields Jr., of Ohio, slammed a car into two vehicles and protesters in Charlottesville.

>> Related: Father of Charlottesville victim Heather Heyer says he forgives James Fields

Fields was described by his former high school teacher as a Nazi sympathizer. He traveled to Charlottesville to participate in the Unite the Right rally, a demonstration organized by white supremacists to oppose the removal of a Confederate memorial from Charlottesville’s Emancipation Park.

Mark Heyer said shortly after his daughter’s death that he forgave Fields, because “as far as I’m concerned, he was deceived by the devil.”

“My daughter was fighting for equal rights, demonstrating against hatred and doing what she thought was right,” Mark Heyer told the New York Post on Sunday. “I can’t hate the man who did this to her because that would make me as bad as the people who did this.”


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Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Heather Heyer

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Heather Heyer

A poster announcing the memorial service for Heather Heyer, who was killed when a car slammed into a crowd of people protesting against a white supremacist rally, stands in the window of the Paramount Theater August 16, 2017 in Charlottesville, Virginia. Charlottesville will hold a memorial service for Heyer Wednesday, four days after she was killed when a participant in a white nationalist, neo-Nazi rally allegedly drove his car into the crowd of people demonstrating against the 'alt-right' gathering. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
George H.W., George W. Bush condemn ‘racial bigotry’ in Charlottesville statement

Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

George H.W., George W. Bush condemn ‘racial bigotry’ in Charlottesville statement

Two former presidents have joined the growing chorus of political voices directly condemning racial bigotry in the wake of a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville.

>> Read more trending news 

Former Presidents George H.W. and George W. Bush released a statement on Wednesday morning, addressing the past weekend’s violence. Their joint statement comes less than a day after a news conference by President Donald Trump exacerbated mounting outrage over his response to the incident, which critics said bolstered white supremacist groups.

"America must always reject racial bigotry, anti-Semitism, and hatred in all forms,” the presidents said in the statement. “As we pray for Charlottesville, we are reminded of the fundamental truths recorded by that city’s most prominent citizen in the Declaration of Independence: we are all created equal and endowed by our Creator with unalienable rights. We know these truths to be everlasting because we have seen the decency and greatness of our country.”

The statement was tweeted by Jim McGrath, spokesman for the elder Bush and his wife, Barbara.

On Tuesday, Trump doubled down on blaming “both sides” for the violence on Saturday, effectively equating the anti-racism protesters who showed up in Charlottesville with the neo-Nazis, Ku Klux Klan members and white nationalists who had gathered to rally in the city. 

MORE: Theories abound over meaning of Trump’s ‘many sides’ remark 

Saturday’s violence left an anti-racism protester, Heather Heyer, dead after James Alex Fields Jr., an Ohio man, ran his car into a crowd of protesters. Fields has been charged with second-degree murder.

Baltimore removes Confederate statues

Baltimore has removed statues that honored the Confederacy in the city overnight.

Crews worked in Wyman Park starting around midnight Wednesday to remove the Lee and Jackson monument. 

>> Read more trending news 

They took down the statues of Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson early Wednesday after the city council passed a resolution Monday that ordered the immediate destruction of the monuments, WBAL reported.

The board cited the recent violence in Charlottesville, Virginia for the quick removal.

“Destroyed. I want them destroyed, and as soon as possible. I want them destroyed,” city councilman Brandon Scott said Monday.

The statues may be sent to Confederate cemeteries after Mayor Catherine Pugh reached out to the Maryland Historical Trust for permission to remove the monuments, WBAL reported.

The removal didn’t come without cost. WBAL reported Monday that the bill could be between $1 million and $2 million.

The city had four monuments to the Confederacy: a Confederate women’s monument, a soldiers’ and sailors’ monument, the Lee and Jackson monument and a statue of Robert Taney, a former Supreme Court Chief Justice who wrote the Dred Scott ruling in 1857, WRC reported.

Baltimore isn’t the only area that is trying to remove its Confederate history. 

North Carolina’s governor said he is trying to reverse a law that prohibits the removal or relocation of monuments in the state. Dallas’ mayor is looking at the city’s options. Tennessee’s governor called for the removal of Nathan Bedford Forrest’s bust. Forrest was an early leader of the Ku Klux Klan.

The Sons of the Confederate Veterans have spoken out about the removal of the monuments across the country.

“These statues were erected over 100 years ago to honor the history of the United states. They’re just as important to the entire history of the U.S. as the monuments to our other forefathers,” Thomas V. Strain Jr. told WRC.

  There are hundreds of Confederate monuments, not just in the South
  WATCH: Protesters topple Confederate statue in North Carolina
  At least 109 schools named after Confederate figures, study says

Obama's Charlottesville response becomes most-liked tweet of all time

Former President Barack Obama’s response to the deadly, racially charged unrest in Charlottesville, Virginia, over the weekend has become the most popular tweet of all time.

>> Read more trending news

Obama took to Twitter on Saturday after a rally organized by white supremacist groups turned violent, leaving a 32-year-old woman dead and multiple people injured.

>> Related: Trump condemns KKK, white supremacists days after deadly Charlottesville attack

“No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin or his background or his religion," Obama wrote, quoting late South African President Nelson Mandela in a series of tweets. “People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love … for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite."

By Wednesday morning, the tweet had more than 3.1 million likes, rising above Ariana Grade’s response in May to a deadly bombing at one of her shows in Manchester to become the most-liked tweet of all time. Grande’s tweet, which has more than 2.7 million likes, was previously ranked No. 1, according to Favstar, a company that tracks Twitter usage.

Police arrested James Alex Fields Jr., 20, Saturday after authorities identified him as the suspect accused of slamming into a pair of parked vehicles and running down counterprotesters demonstrating against the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville. The rally was organized to protest the removal of a Confederate memorial from the city’s Emancipation Park.

>> Related: Who is James Alex Fields Jr., suspect in deadly Charlottesville car attack?

The crash claimed the life of Heather Heyer, a Charlottesville resident who was attending the counterprotest with friends.

In the aftermath of the attack, President Donald Trump was roundly criticized for his failure to call out white supremacists for the violence. He instead said that there were “many sides” to blame.

He attempted to mollify critics two days later, saying at a news conference that “racism is evil, and those who cause violence in its name are criminals and thugs, including the KKK, neo-Nazis, white supremacists and other hate groups that are repugnant to everything that we hold dear as Americans.”

University of Florida denies request for white nationalist Richard Spencer to speak

The University of Florida on Wednesday announced that it has denied a request for AltRight.com co-editor and outspoken white nationalist Richard Spencer to speak on campus next month.

>> Read more trending news

Kent Fuchs, president of the university, said last week that the National Policy Institute, which is led by Spencer, contacted officials to reserve space for an event on campus. The event was expected to feature Spencer as a guest speaker. 

But following violent, racially-charged unrest over the weekend in Charlottesville, Virginia, Fuchs said the university denied the National Policy Institute’s request, citing public safety concerns.

>> Related: ‘Alt-right’ activist Richard Spencer plans visit to University of Florida 

“This decision was made after assessing potential risks with campus, community, state and federal law enforcement officials following violent clashes in Charlottesville, Virginia, and continued calls online and in social media for similar violence in Gainesville, such as those decreeing: ‘The Next Battlefield is in Florida,’” Fuchs said.

School regulations allow non-university groups, organizations and people to rent space on campus, although the groups are expected to cover rental expenses and security costs.

Fuchs said no student or university-affiliated groups were sponsoring the event.

“I find the racist rhetoric of Richard Spencer and white nationalism repugnant and counter to everything the university and this nation stands for,” Fuchs said. He added that the university is dedicated to free speech, but added that “the First Amendment does not require a public institution to risk imminent violence to students and others.”

>> Related: White nationalist rally at A&M canceled, Texas lawmaker says

“The likelihood of violence and potential injury – not the words or ideas – has caused us to take this action,” Fuchs said.

Protests in Charlottesville took a violent turn over the weekend when crowds gathered for a rally organized by white supremacists and aimed at protesting the removal of a Confederate memorial from the city’s Emancipation Park clashed with counterprotesters demonstrating against white supremacism.

>> Related: Trump again blames ‘both sides’ for violence in Charlottesville

The protests left several injured and a 32-year-old woman dead.

Police said a car driven by James Alex Fields Jr., 20, slammed into two other vehicles and counterprotesters on Saturday, killing Heather Heyer and injuring 19 others. Fields, of Ohio, faces charges including second-degree murder and malicious wounding.

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