Community Members Attend Heather Heyer Memorial at Paramount Theater
People gathered at the Paramount Theater Wednesday, paying respects and remembering Heather Danielle Heyer, the woman who died Saturday after a car smashed into a group protesting white nationalists.
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - People gathered at the Paramount Theater Wednesday to pay respects and remember Heather Danielle Heyer, the woman who died Saturday at the University of Virginia Medical Center after a car smashed into a group protesting white nationalists around the area of 4th Street. More than a dozen people were injured in that attack, as well, some severely.
Authorities say 20-year-old James Alex Fields Jr. hit that crowd. He is currently facing one count of second-degree murder, three counts of malicious wounding, and one count of hit-and-run.
The theater hosted a memorial to honor the 32-year-old paralegal Wednesday, August 16. The family asked attendees wear something purple to remember Heather. Purple was Heather’s favorite color.
Folks who attended the memorial wore purple stickers with a heart and Heather's name in it. While many of the people who packed into the theater never met Heather, they showed up to send a message to the world about their community's strength and love.
Heather's grandfather, Elwood Shrader, said that she showed her passion for equality at an early age and swiftly called out something that wasn't right. He says she wanted respect for everyone and believed "all lives matter."
Heather's mother, Susan Bro, urged about 1,000 mourners gathered to find a small spark of accountability. "You poke that finger at yourself like Heather would have done and you make it happen." she said. "You take that extra step and you find a way to make a difference in the world!"
Bro 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."
Mark Heyer, Heather's father, said that Heather wanted to "put down hate."
People who didn't make it inside the packed event Wednesday gathered on the Downtown Mall to pay tribute to Heather. While the world watched the memorial service from inside the theater, clergy prayed with hands over hearts outside.
“I hope that this changes everything as of today in Charlottesville. I hope all of us will change,” said Barbara Page.
“I think the country has to understand that we're a part of something much bigger and we're feeling all the love from around the country,” Margie Swanson said.
Anna Quillon passed out purple ribbons to a crowd that stretched a block from the Paramount Theater's doors to mourn the murder of a woman marching against hate.
“The fact that there’s so many people here is evidence of the fact that we don't want this in Charlottesville,” she said. “This is a place of love and this is a place where good people come.”
Daniela Pretzer attended the memorial, and said she wants to make sure the history in her home country of Germany, doesn't repeat here in the U.S. “We killed people because they have different beliefs, they looked differently, and now we're seeing this again,” Pretzer said.
Jeanette Johnson and Kasey Landrum said they were with Heather and the other marchers when a car slammed into the group.
“The love and compassion the community had toward me to make sure I was safe when we were down there in the front is kind of the same thing we're seeing today,” said Johnson.
“We just went and aided Heather and another fellow that was sitting next to her,” Landrum said. She believes Heather's memory has the power to lead to a higher purpose. “Now is the time where we have to make sure we're continuing the conversation, and that includes celebrating people who sacrificed themselves for a movement and who stood up against the face of hate."
Virginia Senator Tim Kaine and Governor Terry McAuliffe were among those at the Paramount for the memorial. Speaking to the crowd and reporters outside the service, McAuliffe said, "We got to move forward together. We've got to stop the rhetoric. We've got to stop the language. We’ve got to work together.”
Kaine stated, "and no matter who tries to take us back, or no matter who emboldens those who would try to take us back, we are not going backwards. This community of Charlottesville and this commonwealth of Virginia, we are facing forward to be loving, to be open, to be welcoming, to be tolerant.”
There was a strong police presence surrounding the theater, and people in attendance had to go through security to make sure the memorial was safe. There was some fear of protests by different hate groups during the event, but that did not happen.
Earlier in the day, artist Sam Welty created a mural on the Freedom of Speech Wall to pay tribute to Heather. Welty began by chalking the wall with purple. The mural reads, “Heather Danielle Heyer, our hearts are broken, but we are forever proud of her.”
A second mural has also been added to the left of the drawing of Heather Heyer. It's a picture of the Virginia state flag reading, "sic semper tyrannis" meaning "thus always to tyrants." Lady Liberty is seen stepping on a Nazi soldier. On the left side are initials of those who died Saturday, including Heyer, as well as 19 black stars for those injured in Saturday’s chaos.
The Associated Press contributed to this article.