On Monday, the mother of a counter-protester who was killed at a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, last year shared a victim impact statement that detailed how her daughter's death has affected her life. Heather Heyer's mother, Susan Bro, testified in court about the sadness left behind in her daughter's absence.
Heyer died when when a man named James Fields Jr. drove his 2010 Dodge Challenger into a group of people counter-protesting a white nationalist "Unite the Right" rally in August of 2017. Several people who were injured as a result of his action also addressed the court on Monday.
"Heather was full of love, justice, and fairness," Bro said, according to BuzzFeed News. "Mr. Fields tried to silence her. I refuse to allow that. I'm the type of mom where if you mess with my kid on the playground, it's on."
Last week, Fields was convicted of first-degree murder, five counts of aggravated malicious wounding, three counts of malicious wounding, and one count of hit-and-run, according to USA Today. He could face 20 years to life in prison, according to multiple reports.
"My family has gone to therapy as the darkness has tried to swallow us whole," Bro told the court. "We are survivors, but we're much sadder survivors."
Other survivors from that day shared how their own trauma overlapped with Heyer's death.
“I will never forget the look in her eye,” said Jeanne Peterson, whose legs were crushed in the attack, and who was a friend of Heyer's, according to The Washington Post. She told the jury she suffers from PTSD “from witnessing a murder and surviving a terrorist attack.”
“I would go through this a million times over if I could take away the pain this has caused the people I love,” Peterson said. She added that her 7-year-old son “wrestles with questions I can’t answer.”
Bro's powerful statement on Monday was not entirely out of the ordinary for her. She has been outspoken in the wake of her daughter's death, especially about race-related social issues, as well as with regard to what she thinks Heyer's death signifies for the United States. In a conversation with The Atlantic this August, one year after the deadly Unite the Right rally, Bro reflected on what her daughter was protesting against, and how she thought the country might move forward.
"We need to acknowledge that black lives have never seemed to matter in this country, starting with slavery and continuing on through," she told the magazine. "As a country in general, obviously there’s more than one situation where that’s not true, there have been a few gains. As Americans, there’s no place for hate in our society. We need to find ways to work things out where everyone is treated fairly."
As testimonies wore on Monday afternoon, it was not entirely clear what punishment Fields would ultimately receive. What was clear, however, according to reports from the courtroom, was that Heyer's mother, Bro, would continue fighting to make sure that her daughter's legacy lived on.