A woman died on Saturday when a car slammed into a group of counterprotesters at Charlottesville’s increasingly violent white nationalist march, CNN reports. 32-year-old paralegal Heather Heyer was among the crowds speaking out against Ku Klux Klan members and neo-Nazis who initially promoted their march as a “Unite the Right” rally.
According to Heyer’s childhood friend who spoke to The Washington Post, Heyer would defend students being teased on the school bus while growing up. “People will remember her name and remember what she died for,” said friend Felicia Correa. “She, in a sense, died for her country. She was there standing up for what was right. I just want to make sure that it wasn’t in vain.”
NEW: City of Charlottesville releases statement on 3 residents who died yesterday pic.twitter.com/20EskGnbXz
— NBC News (@NBCNews) August 13, 2017
Heyer’s mother Susan Bro echoed Correa’s sentiments. “She always had a very strong sense of right and wrong,” she told Huffington Post. “Somehow I almost feel that this is what she was born to be, is a focal point for change. I’m proud that what she was doing was peaceful, she wasn’t there fighting with people.”
The man responsible for driving the car into the crowd of counterdemonstrators has also been identified. The New York Times reports that 20-year-old James Alex Fields Jr. has been arrested and charged with “second-degree murder, three counts of malicious wounding and failing to stop at the scene of a crash that resulted in a death.” He drove his gray sports car into a throng of counterprotestors celebrating when white nationalists had left the area they were in. The force of the car sent at least two people flying into the air and, in addition to Heyer’s death, at least 19 were injured as a result of the crash. The Department of Justice has also announced that it will open a civil rights investigation regarding “the circumstances of the deadly vehicular incident.”
The city also faces the deaths of two Virginia State troopers who were killed in a helicopter crash near Charlottesville, CBS News says. Lt. H. Jay Cullen and Trooper-pilot Berke M.M. Bates crashed seven miles southwest of the city, which had an increased police presence after Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe declared a state of emergency.
President Donald Trump responded to the violence on Saturday, but faced criticism for not addressing the white nationalists’ acts directly.
We will continue to follow developments in Charlottesville, and will provide whatever assistance is needed. We are ready, willing and able. pic.twitter.com/mCTYBgUePi
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 12, 2017
However, on Sunday, the White House finally condemned “white supremacists” for starting the violence. The statement was credited to an unnamed spokesperson and not President Trump.
Heyer’s last Facebook post has garnered attention for its relevance to these events.