A 20-year-old Houston native was among the 19 injured in Charlottesville, Virginia, after a car sped down a narrow street Saturday and rammed into a crowd of people protesting white supremacy.
Natalie Romero, a graduate of Bellaire High School and now student on scholarship at the University of Virginia, sustained skull fractures in the attack, her mother, Ericka Chaves, said on a GoFundMe page she created to cover the medical costs.
On Saturday, Romero had texted her mother to tell her she was on her way to the counter-protest against the white supremacists, neo-Nazis and Ku Klux Klan members, who began marching on the University of Virginia Friday in response to Charlottesville's city council's decision to sell a statue of Robert E. Lee in the university's Emancipation Park. "Going to the protest. Love you," Romero told her mother around 6 a.m., according to text messages posted by KHOU. "Love you too baby bear, be careful please," Chaves responded.
Around 1 p.m., a gray Dodge Charger sped down a side street in a pedestrian mall and plowed into another car, killing one 32-year-old woman before slamming the car into reverse while protesters screamed and scattered out of the way.
"Ms Chaves," one fellow Charlottesville protester wrote to Chaves on the GoFundMe page, "I was with your daughter in this march; right behind her. I am so sorry this has happened to you and your family. What she was doing was brave and good and you can be very proud of her."
So far, more than $88,000 has been raised for Romero.
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One man has been charged so far in connection to the car attack, which many lawmakers, including U.S. Senator Ted Cruz, have called on the Justice Department to investigate as an act of domestic terrorism. Virginia police arrested the man they suspect was the driver. James Alex Fields, a 20-year-old from Ohio, has been charged with second-degree murder, three counts of malicious wounding and failure to stop after a fatal crash.
Dozens of people gathered over the weekend at Houston City Hall to hold a vigil for Heather Heyer, the 32-year-old who died in the attack, and offer support for the injured victims including Romero. On the same day of the violence in Charlottesville, a "White Lives Matter" rally was planned for September 11 at Texas A&M University. Richard Spencer, the outspoken white nationalist who was punched in the face during a protest in New York City, will attend as a speaker. It will be hosted by Preston Wiginton, a Texan white nationalist who Texas A&M Board of Regents member Tony Buzbee, a prominent Houston lawyer, called "trash" and a "lowlife" who should be ignored.
Chaves is expected to speak to reporters Monday about how her daughter is recovering.
"This should not happen anymore, not to her, not to any of us. This should not happen anymore," Chaves told KPRC. "I've been watching it over and over, and it hurts to see what happened and I thank God she wasn't the one who died. I pray for the person who died and I pray for the other people there."