WASHINGTON (FOX 5 DC) - Heather Heyer was killed in 2017 by white supremacist James Fields when he drove his car into a crowd of counterprotesters during the deadly clashes in Charlottesville, Virginia. On Wednesday, her mother warned if lawmakers don’t take action against hate crimes, more people could die.
The hearing was titled “Confronting the Consequences of Inaction,” and for Susan Bro, whose daughter Heather Heyer was killed back in August 2017 while counter-protesting a “Unite the Right” rally, that consequence is something she still lives with every day and does not want another mother to ever have to endure.
“I’m not happy about giving my daughter up, but I’m going to give her up. I’m going to make her death count. So, I’m using the platform that has been given me because of my daughter’s death to carry forward in her work,” said Bro.
Bro says that carrying on her daughter’s work means intercepting people before they become radicalized.
FBI data shows 7,175 incidents of hate crimes in 2017. That was a 17 percent jump from the year before, and 31 percent more than 2014. The year Heyer died, 4,131 hate crimes were specifically based on race or ethnicity.
Maryland Democratic Congressman Jamie Raskin says FBI data can’t show the magnitude of the problem due to confusing rules on what is called a “hate crime” or what is called “domestic terrorism."
Texas Republican Congressman Chip Roy – a University of Virginia alumni – says violent hate groups can’t be allowed to remain unchecked, but free speech has to be protected.
“This isn’t a matter of semantics, it’s important to call things what they are. The innocent civilians murdered in these attacks were definitely the victims of terrorism,” said Raskin.
“To be clear, a relatively conservative American, of any race, who partially or fully supports the president for example — perhaps even wearing a MAGA hat — should not be labeled a racist for doing so,” said Roy.
The debate over how law enforcement classifies these crimes matters because it affects how much funding is allocated for the fight against hate crimes.
Another hearing has been called for June 4 where both the FBI director and the acting Homeland Security secretary will testify.