News World Victim of US rally ‘terror’ wept for social justice

Victim of US rally ‘terror’ wept for social justice

Heather Heyer
Charlottesville victim Heather Heyer had a strong sense of social justice. Photo: Facebook. Photo: Facebook
Twitter Facebook Reddit Pinterest Email

Heather Heyer, who died when she was struck by a car at a US counter rally to a white supremacist demonstration, was a vocal campaigner for social justice according to a work colleague.

Ms Heyer wanted to send a clear message to the neo-Nazis and Ku Klux Klan sympathisers who planned to stage one of the largest far-right rallies in recent US history in her home town of Charlottesville.

But the 32-year-old paralegal’s decision to join counter-protesters on Saturday resulted in tragedy when a 20-year-old Ohio man drove his car at high speed into a line of marchers, killing Ms Heyer and injuring at least 19 others.

A strong sense of social justice was a constant theme in Ms Heyer’s personal and working life, said Alfred Wilson, bankruptcy division manager at the Miller Law Group.

“There have been times that I’ve walked back to her office and she had tears in her eyes” for various injustices she saw in the world, said Mr Wilson. He said recalls her weeping after reading anti-Muslim comments online.

Ms Heyer was “a very strong, very opinionated young woman” who “made known that she was all about equality,” he told Reuters on Sunday.

The two have worked closely since Ms Heyer joined the firm a little more than five years ago.

Heather Heyer victim rally
A makeshift memorial for Charlottesville rally victim Heather Heyer. Photo: AP

Born in Charlottesville, the home of the University of Virginia’s main campus, Ms Heyer was raised in a nearby town and graduated from William Monroe High School in Stanardsville.

A big part of Ms Heyer’s job was to help people who were trying to avoid being evicted from their homes, or have their cars repossessed, or needed help paying medical bills, he said.

Ms Heyer was a supporter of Bernie Sanders, who ran unsuccessfully for the Democratic presidential nomination won by Hillary Clinton, Mr Wilson said.

Mr Wilson said Ms Heyer was strongly opposed to President Donald Trump and also spoke out against Jason Kessler, the blogger who organised the “Unite the Right” rally that was broken up before it began on Saturday.

Alleged driver pictured with ‘hate group’

The driver accused of crashing his car into the crowd was photographed hours earlier carrying the emblem of one of the hate groups that organised the “take America back” campaign.

Vanguard America denied on Sunday any association with the suspect.

Police charged James Alex Fields Jr with second-degree murder and other counts after a silver Dodge Challenger they say he was driving barrelled through a crowd of counter-protesters.

In a photo taken by the New York Daily News, Mr Fields, a 20-year-old who recently moved to Ohio from Kentucky, stands with a handful of men, all dressed similarly in the Vanguard America uniform of khakis and white polo shirts.

The men hold white shields with a black-and-white logo of two axes.

The Confederate statue of Robert E. Lee is in the background. The Daily News said the photo was taken on Saturday morning.

Charlottesville officials say Mr Fields crashed his car into the crowd later that afternoon.

Mr Field’s former history teacher told The Washington Post it was “obvious that he had this fascination with Nazism and a big idolatry of Adolf Hitler.”

“He had white supremacist views. He really believed in that stuff,” Derek Weimer was quoted as saying.

Mr Weimer said Fields wrote an essay on Nazi military history that appeared to be a “big lovefest for the German military and the Waffen-SS”.

He said he had “failed” to change his student’s extremist views.

“This was something that was growing in him,” Weimer said.

“I admit I failed. I tried my best. But this is definitely a teachable moment and something we need to be vigilant about, because this stuff is tearing up our country.”

The New York Times reported that military records indicated Fields spent four months in the Army in 2015.

– with agencies