Candles light the darkness in Charlottesville at memorial for Heather Heyer
Attendees light candles at a memorial for Heather Heyer, the woman murdered by a neo-Nazi in Charlottesville on Aug. 12. | Curtis Compton / Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP

The darkness that descended on Charlottesville, Virginia, and the entire nation last weekend when hundreds of torch-bearing neo-Nazis and Ku Klux Klansmen marched through that city was penetrated yesterday when the people at a memorial service for the slain Heather Heyer lit hundreds of candles.

“I miss her so, so much, but I’m going to make her death worth something,” Susan Bro, Heyer’s mother, told the people of Charlottesville yesterday. “I’d rather have my child,” she continued, “but by golly, If I’ve got to give her up, we’re going to make it count.”

Heyer’s grandfather told those gathered that “she always wanted fairness, even from a young age.” Elwood Shrader said at the memorial meeting, “She showed her passion for equality at an early age and swiftly called out something that wasn’t right.” He told the more than 1,000 attendees that she wanted respect for everyone and believed all lives matter. Mark Heyer, her father, said, “No father should have to bury his child. My daughter only wanted to put down hate.”

The service for 32-year-old Heyer was held at the only theater in Charlottesville, outside of which occurred the deadly gathering of neo-Nazis and KKK backers last Saturday. Two policemen were also killed when the helicopter they were flying in to observe the event crashed.

Many at the memorial gathering wore purple because it was Heather’s favorite color. White supremacists who said they would come to disrupt the service never showed up. Instead, the streets outside the theater were overflowing with those hoping to get inside to show support for the family. Heyer’s mother, Susan, urged the crowd to honor her daughter’s legacy by channeling their “anger into righteous action.”

From left, Marcus Martin, hugs his fiancée Marissa Blair as Susan Bro becomes emotional during a memorial for Heather Heyer. Heyer was killed when a car rammed into a crowd of people protesting a white nationalist rally. Martin pushed his fiancée out of the way of the vehicle that killed Heyer. | Andrew Shurtleff/AP

Heyer worked as a legal assistant. She was among hundreds who had turned out Saturday to protest what was billed as the largest gathering of white supremacists in the U.S. in more than a decade. They used as the excuse for their murderous gathering the city’s decision to remove a Confederate monument to the traitorous general, Robert E. Lee.

Even as the memorial was happening, however, it became clear that the Trump administration is doubling down on its defense of the Lee statue in Charlottesville and all Confederate monuments nationally—the same monuments championed by the Klan and the Nazis. The New York Times reported that Donald Trump’s personal lawyer on Wednesday forwarded an email to government officials and conservative journalists that reiterated standard secessionist propaganda.

“There is no difference between Robert E. Lee and George Washington. You cannot be against Gen. Lee and for George Washington,” the email read. “There is literally no difference between them.”

Trump and his lawyer got the email from Jerome Almon, a conspiracy theorist who says the FBI and Black Lives Matter have been infiltrated by Islamic terrorists.

Comparing Lee and Washington, the email pushed out by Trump’s lawyer said, “Both rebelled against the ruling government, both saved America.”

And while Trump’s lawyer was busy pushing Confederate propaganda, Steve Bannon, the president’s top policy advisor, was extolling the rationale for the administration’s defense of Confederate monuments. In an interview with The New York Times, Bannon revealed in some of the more extreme responses to Trump’s position on the monuments. “Just give me more. Tear down more statues, say the revolution is coming… I can’t get enough of it,” Bannon said.

The president himself was hard at work on Twitter Thursday morning keeping the Confederate statue debate burning. “Sad to see the history and culture of our great country being ripped apart with the removal of our beautiful statues and monuments,” he tweeted. “So foolish! Also the beauty that is being taken out of our cities, towns and parks will be greatly missed and never able to be comparably replaced!”

While Trump was criticizing the fall of “beautiful” Confederate statues and lamenting the loss of the racist culture of the Old South, Bannon was further elaborating on the cynical rationale for Trumpian divide-and-conquer politics.

In a conversation with Robert Kuttner of The American Prospect, Bannon seemed giddy at the prospect of continued racial turmoil: “The Democrats, the longer they talk about identity politics, I got ‘em. I want them to talk about racism every day. If the left is focused on race and identity and we go with economic nationalism, we can crush the Democrats.”

Nevertheless, the resistance to the administration continued to grow yesterday.

So many corporate CEOs were quitting Trump’s economic advisory boards that Trump had to dissolve them altogether.

Then, lacking any moral leadership from their commander-in-chief, all the armed services yesterday issued statements calling out the president for his support for neo-Nazis.

The mayor of Phoenix, Arizona, asked the president NOT to come to a planned Trump campaign rally in his city, saying the president’s lack of leadership on Charlottesville made his appearance there unwanted.


John Wojcik
John Wojcik

John Wojcik is Editor-in-Chief of People's World. He joined the staff as Labor Editor in May 2007 after working as a union meat cutter in northern New Jersey. There, he served as a shop steward, as a member of a UFCW contract negotiating committee, and as an activist in the union's campaign to win public support for Wal-Mart workers. In the 1970s and '80s, he was a political action reporter for the Daily World, this newspaper's predecessor, and was active in electoral politics in Brooklyn, New York.