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Charlottesville May Rename Street in Honor of Heather Heyer

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Picture of Heather Heyer among flowers at a make-shift memorial in downtown Charlottesville (FILE IMAGE) Picture of Heather Heyer among flowers at a make-shift memorial in downtown Charlottesville (FILE IMAGE)
Proposed location of Hether Heyer Way in Charlottesville Proposed location of Hether Heyer Way in Charlottesville
James Alex Fields Jr. (center) with a shield from the Vanguard America group  (Photo courtesy GO NAKAMURA/NEW YORK DAILY NEWS) James Alex Fields Jr. (center) with a shield from the Vanguard America group (Photo courtesy GO NAKAMURA/NEW YORK DAILY NEWS)
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) -

A street in downtown Charlottesville may be renamed in honor of a woman who lost her life while protesting the "alt-right" in the city.

According to its online agenda, City Council will consider an honorary street naming resolution for 32-year-old Heather Danielle Heyer.

Heyer was killed, and dozens were injured, when a car slammed into a crowd of protesters marching in the area of 4th Street and Water Street on Saturday, August 12.

Police have charged James Alex Fields with second-degree murder, hit-and-run, and multiple counts of malicious wounding in that incident.

Fields was seen earlier the day of the car attack participating in Jason Kessler’s Unite the Right rally at Emancipation Park with Vanguard America, a known racist, right-wing group. Kessler, a self-described white activist, had stated that the event was in support of keeping the statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee in the park.

Heyer was a paralegal at Miller Law Group in Albemarle County. Her mother, Susan Bro has said Heather's participation in the protests against white nationalists was not the end of her legacy, "it was just the beginning of Heather's legacy."

According to city documents, “This honorary designation would pay tribute to Ms. Heyer’s dedication to justice, fairness and positive social change. Ms. Heyer was a young woman that believed in equal rights for all.”

The Charlottesville City Council is expected to take up the resolution at its meeting on Monday, October 2. If passed, the portion of 4th Street that runs between Market and Water streets would receive the honorary name Heather Heyer Way.

A control date for Fields is currently scheduled for December 14.

From the City of Charlottesville:

Background:
On August 12, 2017, Ms. Heather D. Heyer was struck down by a vehicle near the corner of 4th Street and Water Street in Downtown Charlottesville, while exercising her peaceful First Amendment right to speech. The terror attack that resulted in Ms. Heyer’s death, and serious injuries to dozens more, shocked our community and touched the heart and soul of not only Charlottesville, but the entire country.

Discussion:
On August 21, 2017, the City Council expressed an interest in memorializing Ms. Heyer by designating a portion of 4th Street, SE and NE, from East Water Street to East Market Street as Heather Heyer Way. This honorary designation would pay tribute to Ms. Heyer’s dedication to justice, fairness and positive social change.

Ms. Heyer was a young woman that believed in equal rights for all. At the time of her death, Ms. Heyer was a paralegal in a local law firm. Her family has established the Heather D. Heyer Foundation to honor her memory. According to the foundation, donations received by the foundation will be used to provide scholarships to individuals that are interested in positive social change. For more information on the foundation, please visit www.heatherheyerfoundation.com.

Alignment with City Council’s Vision and Priority Areas:
According to the City’s honorary Street name policy, “honorary street name designations should be limited to individuals, or events that have made an important and lasting contribution to the City of Charlottesville or represent a key part of its history. The street to be designated should have a connection to the individual/event and his/her contribution.” Heather D. Heyer epitomized this provision, as her life was taken prematurely on this street on August 12, for standing up for social justice and racial equality.

Approval of this agenda item is consistent with the City’s commitment to create “a community of mutual respect” by recognizing the important contributions of community members both past and present. This request also aligns with Goal 1.5 of the City’s 2018 – 2020 Strategic Plan of “intentionally address issues of race and equity;” a goal that Heather D. Heyer lived and died for.

Location Map:
Attached

Citizen Engagement:
No public engagement was held; however, Ms. Heyer’s mother has given her support and approval for the honorary designation. The community has also expressed a desire to honor Ms. Heyer in several ways, and this designation would be in keeping with community spirit.

Budgetary Impact:
There is a cost of $500 per designation to cover the cost of sign material and fabrication. The installation and on-going maintenance will be completed by City staff. Recommendation: Staff recommends approval of the resolution to give this street an honorary designation.