CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — Civil rights activists in this Virginia city say they hope the first-degree-murder conviction of a man who drove into a group of counterprotesters at a white nationalist rally in 2017 will help with healing their violence-scarred community.

In convicting James Alex Fields Jr. of first-degree murder, a state jury on Friday rejected defense arguments that the 21-year-old defendant had acted in self-defense during a “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville on Aug. 12, 2017. Jurors also convicted Fields of eight other charges, including aggravated malicious wounding and hit and run.

The jury will reconvene Monday to recommend a sentence. Under Virginia law, jurors can recommend from 20 years to life.

Fields is eligible for the death penalty if convicted of separate federal hate crime charges. No trial has been scheduled yet.

During trial, jurors heard that Fields drove to Virginia from his home in Maumee, Ohio, to support the white nationalists. As counterprotesters marched, he stopped his car, backed up, then sped into the crowd, according to testimony from witnesses and video surveillance.

Prosecutors said Fields was angry after witnessing violent clashes between the two sides earlier in the day. The violence prompted police to shut down the rally before it even officially began.

Heather Heyer, a 32-year-old paralegal, was killed, and nearly three dozen others were injured. The trial featured emotional testimony from survivors.

White nationalist Richard Spencer, who had been scheduled to speak at the Unite the Right rally, described the verdict as a “miscarriage of justice.”

“I am sadly not shocked, but I am appalled by this,” he said. “He (Fields) was treated as a terrorist from the get-go.”

Spencer popularized the term “alt-right” to describe a fringe movement loosely mixing white nationalism, anti-Semitism and other extremist views. He said he doesn’t feel personal responsibility for the violence.

“Absolutely not,” he said. “As a citizen, I have a right to protest. I have a right to speak. That is what I came to Charlottesville to do.”

The rally had been organized in part to protest the planned removal of a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee.

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