Heather Heyer

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Memorial for Heather Heyer on 4th Street in Charlottesville, 2017. Reproduced from WikiMedia Commons.

Heather Danielle Heyer (May 29, 1985-August 12, 2017), a legal assistant and civil rights activist, was killed when a car plowed into counter-protesters during the 2017 Unite the Right Rally.[1]


Early life

Heyer was born in Charlottesville on May 29, 1985 to Susan Diane Bro of Ruckersville and Mark Heyer of Florida. Heyer's parents separated when she was five months old, with her mother remarrying to Kim Bro. Heyer grew up in Ruckersville and graduated from William Monroe High School in Stanardsville.

After high school, Heyer worked at a local restaurant, later acquiring additional waitressing shifts at a different restaurant. She also worked in the bankruptcy department of the Miller Law Group in Charlottesville, attending school at night in order to improve her knowledge of law.

Unite the Right rally and death

On August 11, 2017 one of Heyer's friends began livestreaming videos of the prelude to the Unite the Right rally as hundreds of white nationalists led by Richard B. Spencer marched on the University of Virginia campus. Depicting white supremacists and neo-Nazis marching with torches and giving Nazi salutes, these videos reportedly frightened Heyer, who decided along with her friends not to go to the following day's much larger rally as they believed it would be even more dangerous. However, later that night, Heyer texted her friend that she felt compelled to go in order to show solidarity with protesters against the rally.

The following day on August 12, Heyer arrived in downtown Charlottesville around 1 pm with two colleagues from her law firm. She was wearing a black t-shirt and pants in preparation for her shift as a waitress later that night. As the three friends began walking down Water Street, a video showed Heyer stopping to speak with a woman wearing a helmet, apparently inquiring as to why she was working alongside a hate group of violent white men. Receiving no answer, Heyer and her friends continued on to the 4th Street Downtown Mall Crossing after encountering right-wing demonstrators armed with weapons. There at around 1:45 pm, Heyer, her friends, and a group of other protestors were run down by James Alex Fields, Jr., who was driving his car at around 23-28 miles per hour (37-45 km/h) through the crowd. 19 people were seriously hurt during this incident, with Heyer (the only fatality among them) dying of her injuries at the University of Virginia Medical Center later that day.


Memorial service, vigils, and burial

A memorial service was held for Heyer on August 16 at the Paramount Theater, with Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe, Lieutenant Governor Ralph Northam, and US Senator Tim Kaine attending the event. Susan Bro spoke to the crowd inside the theater, "They tried to kill my child to shut her up. Well, guess what? You just magnified her." She also pointed to Heyer's last Facebook message from around November, "If you're not outraged, you're not paying attention," urging the audience members to seek opportunities to make a positive difference in the world in order to honor the memory of her daughter. Bro also received hundreds of messages from individuals inspired by Heyer asking for advice. A woman played "Amazing Grace" and "America the Beautiful" on a saxophone, while several people stood outside the theater to halt any "fascist groups" from disrupting the event.

A vigil in remembrance of Heyer was planned on the night of August 13 but was cancelled due to fears of physical assaults from white supremacists in the area. Despite the official event being called off, people still gathered at the site to pray, while hundreds more gathered at the University of Virginia and other cities across the country such as Philadelphia and Akron, Ohio.

Heyer's body was buried in a secret grave to protect it from neo-Nazis, with some of Heyer's family deciding not to attend the funeral due to receiving death threats from white supremacists.

The Heather Heyer Foundation

One of Heyer's friends started a GoFundMe page to aid her family following her death, with the page raising $109,000 in less than 24 hours. Not knowing what to do with the money, Heyer's mother started an organization with Alfred Wilson, the lawyer who had originally hired Heyer at Miller Law Group. The newly-formed Heather Heyer Foundation was announced at the 2017 MTV Video Music Awards in Inglewood, California, with the organization's stated goals being to provide scholarships to fight against hatred and promote social change in the areas of law, social work, and education. The organization has worked with the AIDS Healthcare Foundation and has given at least eight scholarships worth at least $1,000.

Heather Heyer Way

In December 2017, Fourth Street in Charlottesville (where Heyer was killed) was given the name "Heather Heyer Way" in memory of the woman. Heyer's mother and the mayor of the city spoke at the inaugural ceremony.

In popular culture

The famous rapper Eminem named Heyer in his song "Like Home" from the album Revival, "If we start from scratch like a scab for scars to heal/And band together for Charlottesville/And for Heather, fallen heroes."

The 2018 film BlacKkKlansman, which ends in a montage of the Charlottesville rally, is in memoriam of Heyer.


  • In 2017, Heyer received a posthumous Muhammad Ali Humanitarian Award for Social Justice, with her mother accepting the award on her behalf.
  • The Southern Poverty Law Center added Heyer's name and image to the Wall of Tolerance inside the Civil Rights Memorial Center in Montgomery, Alabama.


External Links