When several hundred white supremacists gathered in Charlottesville five years ago to protest the removal of the Robert E. Lee statue from Market Street Park — then Emancipation Park — they left death and destruction in their wake. On Aug. 12, as “Unite the Right” rally participants were met with counter-protestors on the Downtown Mall, white nationalist James Alex Fields Jr. drove his Dodge Charger towards pedestrians on Fourth Street, injuring dozens and killing Charlottesville resident Heather Heyer.
Heyer, a 32-year-old Greene County native, was active in the Charlottesville community and went to the Downtown Mall Aug. 12 to act as a peaceful counter-protestor. Heyer worked both as a paralegal at the Miller Law Group and at Cafe Caturra, a restaurant previously on the Corner.
Fields, a 20-year-old Ohio resident who fled the scene after killing Heyer, was charged with second-degree murder, three counts of malicious wounting and one count of hit-and-run for the attack. After a Department of Justice civil rights investigation, Fields additionally pleaded guilty to 29 violations of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act and is currently serving multiple life sentences in the Western District of Virginia.
After initial safety concerns caused an Aiug. 14 organized vigil for Heyer to be moved to Facebook Live, an impromptu vigil occurred as hundreds of community members gathered at the site of Heyer’s death to pay their respects.
Third-year College student Ben Moore, a co-worker with Heyer at Café Caturra, spoke to The Cavalier Daily about Heyer at the vigil in 2017.
“I only worked with her for the second semester and even in that short of time she made it impossible not to like her,” Moore said. “She was so outgoing and genuinely interested in everyone’s future and well-being. It was no surprise to me that she was right down in the thick of things fighting for what she believed in.”
Since her daughter’s death, Heyer’s mother Susan Bro co-founded the Heather Heyer Foundation with Alfred Wilson, Heyer’s mentor at the Miller Law Center where she worked. The foundation provides scholarships to students interested in social justice work. The University also received $100,00 from one alumna and two non-alumna in Oct. 2017 to create a Bicentennial Scholarship for students with demonstrated need in honor of Heyer.
For the past five years, community members have time and time again honored Heyer’s memory by placing flowers and chalking positive messages on Fourth Street, now honorarily titled Heather Heyer Memorial Way.
On the days leading up to the fifth anniversary of Aug. 11 and Aug. 12, The Cavalier Daily Managing Editor Ava MacBlane took photos of Heather Heyer Memorial Way, documenting how community members interact with the site of Heyer’s death and use the space to honor her memory. Below are MacBlane’s photos.