CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — With a police escort, Heather Heyer's mother, Susan Bro, broke the perimeter of the downtown walking mall where mourners gathered to visit the place where her daughter lost her life last year.
She wasn't sure whether she was in the exact spot or the exact time when her daughter drew her last breath after a white supremacist drove a car into crowd there Aug. 12, 2017. But she was there to remember the suffering not only her daughter endured but the two Virginia State Police officers who lost their lives — Virginia State Police Troopers Lieutenant H. Jay Cullen III and Trooper-Pilot Berke M.M. Bates.
"We're still suffering, we have so much healing to do," she said. "We have a huge racial problem in our city and in our country. We have got to fix this or we will be right back here in no time.
"There are mothers who lose their children all the time and we don't seem to give a damn," she added.
Bro explained her daughter's activism, telling those the gathering is not just to honor the attack’s victims but to stand against white supremacy. The fight in Charlottesvile, she explained, is just part of the fight for racial justice.
“It never was all about Heather,” Bro said.
A string of community and clergy members locked arms around Bro and other mourners to give them privacy as they reflected at the memorial. Lining the sidewalks were flowers and messages in support of the Charlottesville community.
Bro placed her own flowers at the memorial, and she and other community members sang “See You Again,” a song by Wiz Khalifa and Charlie Puth that Bro said always reminds her of her daughter.
When asked about what she missed most about Heyer, she responded, “Her laugh."
It was in stark contrast to the scene that happened earlier.
A group of protesters from Sunday morning's rally entered the downtown mall through the security checkpoint, perhaps to be part of a memorial service for Heather Heyer, while a large section of protesters broke away from that group and were centered at the bottom of 4th Street outside the perimeter.
They were yelling, chanting and attempting to block media cameras and recorders.
"Whose streets? Our streets!" they yelled.
Police started pushing them back down 4th Street toward IX Art Park. A Virginia State Police armored vehicle and police on bicycles and in cruisers followed at a safe distance and stopped traffic ahead of the protesters to allow for safe passage across the roads.
As protesters reached the park, tensions seemed to fizzle out, although protesters took issue with members of the media taking pictures. Later, one group came back and walked toward the downtown mall and hung out near the checkpoint but did not go in.
Contributing: Ryan Miller, USA TODAY
Follow Laura Peters on Twitter: @peterslaura.