'She wanted to put down hate': Heather Heyer remembered in Charlottesville

Family, friends, supporters and other mourners gathered in Charlottesville Wednesday to honor a 32-year-old legal assistant who was killed when a car plowed into a crowd of people who had turned out to protest a white supremacist rally.

Heather Heyer's shocking death in the narrow streets of Charlottesville on Saturday followed a day and a half of clashes after Ku Klux Klan members, skinheads and neo-Nazis descended on the small Virginia college town to rally against the city's decision to remove a monument to Confederate general Robert E. Lee.

The service began at 11 a.m. ET with Heyer's family and friends sharing stories about the young legal assistant. 

"She wanted respect for everyone. In our family, all lives mattered, and she absorbed that really well," her grandfather Elwood Shrader said.

Many of the speakers touched on diversity.

"She loved people and she wanted equality," father Mark Heyer said. "She wanted to put down hate. We just need to stop all this stuff and love one another."

Her mother Susan Bro brought up the Facebook post that peppered social media throughout the days following Heyer's death.

“My child’s famous Facebook post was, ‘If you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention.’” Bro said. “She paid attention. She made a lot of us pay attention.”

Bro said this was just the beginning of "Heather's legacy," encouraging attendees to make a difference in the world.

"I think the reason that what happened to Heather struck a chord is that we know what she did was achievable," Bro said. "They tried to kill my daughter to shut her up. Well, guess what. You just magnified her."

Police have charged 20-year-old James Alex Fields Jr., from Ohio, with second-degree murder for allegedly slamming his car into the counter protesters leaving the monument area after state police had stepped in to cancel the white supremacist rally.

Fields, who initially fled the scene in his badly damaged car, was described by a former high school teacher as an admirer of Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany. 

The vigil has become a symbol of the community's effort to stand up to the alt-right forces that picked Charlottesville to spread their white supremacist message.

The Paramount Theater, which hosted the memorial service, said it had made arrangements for overflow attendees to view the vigil through a livestream.

More: Live stream: Memorial for Charlottesville victim Heather Heyer

The theater said on its website that signs and firearms were prohibited at the service and that all bags were subject to search.

Attendees were asked to wear purple, Heyer's favorite color, in her memory.

President Trump tweeted Wednesday morning about the service.

"Memorial service today for beautiful and incredible Heather Heyer, a truly special young woman. She will be long remembered by all!" the tweet read.

Heyer, who grew up in nearby Green County and worked at a law firm, was remembered by loved ones as a courageous believer in justice and equality. Family members said they hoped the memorial service would serve to spread the message of her compassion.

Bro said she would prefer to grieve in private but felt compelled to try to follow her daughter’s example.

“I miss her so, so much, but I’m going to make her death worth something,” Bro told the Associated Press. 

Heyer's boss, Larry Miller, said she was active in the firm’s bankruptcy practice and was like a family member to him.

“She’s very compassionate, she’s very precise, got a big heart, she wants to make sure that things are right. She cares about the people that we take care of. She’s just a great person,” Miller said.

Also killed Saturday were two Virginia State Police troopers who were aboard a helicopter that was providing video of the event before it broke off to lend support to a motorcade for Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe. The helicopter crashed outside of Charlottesville. An investigation into the crash is ongoing.

A funeral for Trooper-Pilot Berke M.M. Bates has been set for Friday and a funeral for Lt. H. Jay Cullen, the helicopter’s pilot, is scheduled for Saturday.

Contributing: Associated Press, (Staunton, Va.) News Leader reporters Laura Peters and Mike Tripp