The white supremacist rally in 2017 prefigured the rise of right-wing violence in President Trump’s name. Now, as President Biden calls for national unity, residents say it requires accountability first.
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — Susan Bro recognized the palpable anger and open bigotry on display in the mob that attacked the United States Capitol this month. It reminded her of the outpouring of hate that killed her daughter, Heather Heyer.
That was in 2017, when white supremacists, self-avowed neo-Nazis and right-wing militias marched on Charlottesville in the name of intolerance — and former President Donald J. Trump — and one of them drove a car into a crowd, fatally injuring Ms. Heyer. More than three years later, Ms. Bro and other Charlottesville residents say they have a message for the nation after the latest episode of white violence in Washington, and for President Biden, who is emphasizing themes of healing and unity in the face of right-wing extremism.
Healing requires holding perpetrators accountable, Ms. Bro said. Unity follows justice.
“Look at the lessons learned from Charlottesville,” she said. “The rush to hug each other and sing ‘Kumbaya’ is not an effective strategy.”
The Capitol attack and Mr. Trump’s handling of it felt eerily familiar to many residents of Charlottesville, where the 2017 Unite the Right rally not only forever tied the former president to violence committed by white extremists, but also inspired Mr. Biden to run for president and undertake “a battle for the soul of this nation.”