Rumors of white supremacist counter-protesters plagued plans for a memorial service for Heather Heyer, the young woman killed when one among their number plowed a car through a crowd of peaceful demonstrators in Charlottesville, Virginia this weekend. So it was understandable that the organizers wanted to keep the gathering to mourn Heyer under the radar to avoid further violence and disruption. Counter-protests have sprung up in cities across the country as demonstrators have gathered in opposition to both the white supremacist march in Charlottesville and Donald Trump's apparent endorsement of the march.
But according to The Daily Beast, the guests who gathered at the Paramount Theater in Charlottesville quickly overflowed the venue and filled another nearby theater that was also broadcasting the vigil; even more observers filled the pedestrian walkways of the Downtown Mall in Charlottesville. They wore purple, Heyer’s favorite color. Virginia governor Terry McAuliffe delivered remarks, as did Senator Tim Kaine, emphasizing the state’s solidarity and resilience in the face of racially motivated violence. A saxophonist played “Amazing Grace.”
Heyer’s mother, Susan Bro, took the podium during the ceremony: “They tried to kill my child to shut her up. Well, guess what? You just magnified her,” she said, according to Rolling Stone. “Say to yourself, 'What can I do to make a difference?' And that's how you're going to make my child's death worthwhile. I'd rather have my child, but by golly, if I gotta give her up, we're going to make it count.”
After the service, texts circulated among some Charlottesville residents: They planned to gather at the same spot where the white supremacist and nationalist demonstration had gathered over the weekend, the University of Virginia’s No-Name Field. In lieu of the tiki torches wielded by the white nationalist march Friday night, attendees at the vigil for Heyer lit candles. “No organizer was identified,” The Daily Beast wrote in the same story. “Invitees were asked to reach out to other sympathetic people without posting anything about it on social media”—all to “prevent it from becoming a media circus” and to “keep white supremacists from finding out about it and potentially disrupting the event.”
The demonstrators, many of them university students, clustered in thousands on the UVA campus, illuminated by flickering candlelight. With the procession in place, they began to sing: “We Shall Overcome”; “This Little Light of Mine”; “Lean On Me”; “This Land Is Your Land”; and a reprise of “Amazing Grace.” One student read the poem “Still I Rise” by Maya Angelou, according to the New York Times.
Among the chants shouted by white supremacist demonstrators over the weekend, one stood out: “You will not replace us,” a reference to the proposal to remove symbols of the Confederacy. But, as the Times also pointed out, one vigil attendee posted an image of the procession with a simple caption: “We replaced you.”
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