It has been four years since the Unite the Right rally brought violence to the city of Charlottesville, Virginia, and elected officials are reflecting on the somber anniversary.
“Four years ago, white nationalist violence erupted in Charlottesville and resulted in the deaths of Heather Heyer, Lt. Jay Cullen and Trooper-Pilot Berke Bates,” Gov. Ralph Northam said in a statement. “Today, we pause to honor them and all of the lives forever changed that day.”
Heyer was killed when a driver intentionally drove his car into a crowd of counter-protesters at the rally, injuring 35 other people in the process.
Cullen and Bates were conducting aerial surveillance on the rally when their helicopter crashed.
Northam said while white nationalist violence has continued in the intervening years, he has seen signs of progress in Virginia.
“Across the Commonwealth, monuments to white supremacy have come down — including in Charlottesville just last month. Protests for racial justice continue to lead to real and lasting change,” Northam said.
Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) said the work to honor those who died on Aug. 12 continues.
“No one should live in fear of facing discrimination, hate or violence,” Kaine said. “We must honor Heather’s legacy by continuing the work to stamp out hate. Our communities are stronger when we join together to stand up for justice.”
And President Joe Biden said in a statement that in the events of Charlottesville, “the battle for the soul of America was laid bare for all to see.”
Biden called the rally-goers “Neo-Nazis, Klansmen and white supremacists,” adding, “What they didn’t account for was the extraordinary force of American goodness and decency.”
He said Heyer “was murdered while representing the best of us.”