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A year after James Alex Fields Jr. intentionally slammed a vehicle into a crowd protesting the racist “Unite the Right” demonstrations in Charlottesville, Virginia, killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer, many people turned to the streets and social media this weekend to remember Heyer and denounce racism ahead of a white supremacist anniversary rally near the White House.
A group that included Heyer’s mother, Susan Bro, gathered at a memorial in Charlottesville on Sunday:
Journalist and activist Shaun King—a leading force behind an effort to track down and hold accountable the group of “Unite the Right” participants who brutally beat a black counter-protester last year—tweeted:
We live in the age of martyrs.
Like the 1960s, we live in a time where men and women standing up for racial justice are being murdered by white supremacists.
Heather Heyer was a white ally against racism & was murdered on this day one year ago. pic.twitter.com/yRl6tJBP3z
— Shaun King (@shaunking) August 12, 2018
Progressive politicians and candidates such as Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and New York gubernatorial hopeful Cynthia Nixon also turned to Twitter to honor Heyer and celebrate the fight against racism:
A year ago, countless people were injured protesting white supremacy and Neo-Naziism in Charlottesville and and one person, Heather Heyer, was killed. Today, we honor Heather, and all who stood up to hate, by recommitting ourselves to fighting all forms of racism and bigotry.
— Bernie Sanders (@SenSanders) August 12, 2018
Exactly one year ago, Heather Heyer was murdered for daring to stand up to a group of white supremacists that came together in Charlottesville to protest America’s greatest asset: our diversity. I am thinking of her and her loved ones today.
— Cynthia Nixon (@CynthiaNixon) August 12, 2018
Several other progressive and political groups shared similar messages:
Tributes to Heyer on Sunday came as anti-racist protesters gathered in Washington, D.C. to counter an event spearheaded by Jason Kessler, the man behind last year’s violent white supremacist demonstrations. After Charlottesville blocked Kessler and fellow organizers from hosting an anniversary event in the city, they secured approval from federal officials to hold a rally near the White House.
The Washington Post reports that Kessler “received final approval Thursday from the National Park Service for up to 400 participants at Lafayette Square for an event dubbed ‘Unite the Right 2.'” The newspaper noted that “in addition to Kessler, also planning to attend the white supremacist rally, according to documents obtained by Washington City Paper from the National Park Service, are David Duke, a former Ku Klux Klan grand wizard, and several neo-Nazis and Holocaust deniers.”
Meanwhile, in Charlottesville on Saturday, anti-racist protesters and students hosted demonstrations that were met with a massive police presence. That contrast to last year, when local law enforcement failed to prevent violence by the white supremacists who invaded the city, was a source of frustration among this year’s peaceful protesters, as Reuters reports:
With chants like, “Cops and Klan go hand in hand,” the protesters’ criticisms of both police and the University of Virginia underscored the resentment that still exists a year after torch-bearing neo-Nazis marched through campus, shouting anti-Semitic messages, and beating counterprotesters.
Several students said they were angry that the police response was far larger this year compared with last year, when people carrying tiki torches the white nationalist rally went mostly unchecked.
At one point on Saturday, dozens of officers in riot gear formed a line near where the rally was taking place, prompting many protesters to rush over yelling, “Why are you in riot gear? We don’t see no riot here.”
Participants and reporters shared photos on social media from Saturday’s Charlottesville events and a local memorial honoring Heyer: