Sentencing of Heather Heyer’s killer shows ‘we will not tolerate hate,’ mother says

Heather Heyer was killed in Charlottesville just as she and her mother had navigated some growing pains and learned to enjoy each other’s company, her mother said Wednesday

Speaking the day after Heyer’s killer was sentenced to life in prison plus 419 years, Susan Bro told CNN that while they weren’t best friends, they had become friends, making her killing at an August 2017 white nationalist rally “a punch in the jaw.”

“I’d finally gotten through the adolescent years, which were tough. I had gotten through her 20s, which were interesting, to say the least, as she established herself in her own apartment and working,” she said. “We were finally at a point where I felt like we had an actual friendship beyond just mother-daughter friendship.

“We enjoyed each other’s company a couple of times a month. We would meet for dinner and have long talks. We would text each other once in a while,” Bro said.

Asked her thoughts on the trial, she said it was “emotionally exhausting.” She felt like she was on stage, as reporters gauged her reaction to every witness and piece of evidence.

“It was particularly difficult the day that they played videos of the actual crime as it was committed and the day that they talked about Heather’s autopsy report. Those were extremely difficult days. I will tell I sat and cried a lot in court during those,” she said.

Killer called victim’s mother ‘the enemy’

She was relieved to see her daughter’s killer put away — but from a public safety perspective rather than out of any desire for retribution, she said.

“I also felt that it was not only important that Heather and the survivors have their day of justice, but also that we send a very strong message that we will not tolerate hate,” she said.

She continued, “I felt secure in handing him over to prosecution and to judgment. … I had plenty else to do with the Heather Heyer Foundation, and I just didn’t feel like I needed to consume my own self with hate because hate just consumes the one that hates. It doesn’t do anything to the person that you hate. In my life, I prefer not to hate people.”

Bro lamented that she and those who rallied in Heyer’s memory haven’t been able to do more for marginalized people since her death, and she said she hopes people don’t think the fight is over because one man was put behind bars.

“Heather stood that day with her friends just simply as a supporter and ally to say black lives do matter,” Bro said. “I feel that a lot of people will think that this trial is the end of the story. This was not the beginning of the story, nor is it the end of the story. The civil rights movement has gone on for decades, particularly here in Charlottesville, and it will continue.”

Repeating a sentiment she delivered to reporters in the post-sentencing news conference, Bro said the work that remains to be done requires action, not words.

“It’s one thing to give lip service,” she said. “It’s another thing to see some actual work done.”