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After clashes with white nationalists, U-Va. library employee suffers a stroke

White nationalists carry torches on the grounds of the University of Virginia on Aug. 11, 2017. (Alejandro Alvarez/News2Share/REUTERS)
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A University of Virginia employee suffered a stroke Tuesday that some of his friends said was linked to an injury he suffered during the violent demonstrations by white nationalists in Charlottesville last week.

Tyler Magill, 46, a well-known musician and DJ for a local radio station who works for the U-Va. library, was with a small group of people who gathered at a statue of Thomas Jefferson on campus Friday night to resist white nationalists who were marching with torches. The marchers, shouting “Jews will not replace us!” surrounded the students and Magill, who had locked arms at the statue. Fights broke out, with punches and torches thrown, and chemical irritants sprayed.

Magill was struck in the neck by a torch, according to several friends.

A professor, and U-Va.’s dean of students, began pulling students out of the chaos. Allen Groves, the dean, was struck on the left arm by a torch someone had thrown. That caused cuts on his arm, he said in an email. Groves also was hit with a small amount of mace in his face. His injuries weren’t serious, he added.

How white supremacists’ protests escalated into violence

The professor, Walt Heinecke, said he had lost sight of Magill amid the chaos, but was told afterward that he “was assaulted and hit pretty hard.”

Nathan Moore, general manager of WTJU radio station, who said he was speaking for Magill’s family, said that a nurse told them that Magill’s carotid artery suffered trauma, and that two clots developed over time, which precipitated the stroke.

Whether the neck injury he suffered Friday night directly caused the stroke was not immediately clear. But Magill’s hospitalization this week became a potent symbol of the toll that the influx of white nationalists took on the U-Va. community.

Magill was active in counterprotests through the weekend, helping with events at public parks opposed to the “Unite the Right” rally. On Saturday, a woman was killed and more than a dozen were injured when a rallygoer, James Alex Fields Jr., allegedly revved his car and drove into a crowd of counterprotesters.

On Sunday, Magill was among a crowd that drowned out “Unite the Right” organizer Jason Kessler as he was trying to hold a news conference. The protesters said they were sickened by the death of Heather Heyer and the presence of so many white nationalists in their town.

“Tyler put his arms up to indicate he had no weapon,” Moore said, “and then followed Kessler, saying ‘Her name was Heather. You have blood on your hands, Jason.’ ”

Charlottesville counterprotesters shut down a white nationalist news conference

In an interview with the Chronicle of Higher Education Monday, before he was hospitalized, Magill described seeing white nationalists gathering Friday night, and joining the students hoping to help protect them. He described the throng as “on us, frothing,” and said, “Liquid splashed on to us and then torches.” He said he was still traumatized.

On Tuesday, Magill sought help for a loss of vision, Moore said. He was at the hospital when he suffered the stroke, so fortunately it was caught early, Moore said.

On Tuesday night when he was in intensive care, friends asked for help online to pay his medical bills and ensure he had time to heal. By Wednesday afternoon, more than $75,000 had been donated.

“It’s a sign of how much Tyler is loved throughout the community that people rose up so quickly,” said Siva Vaidhyanathan, a professor of media studies.

“Tyler has worked in the library at U-Va. many years. He’s one of our more visible characters on campus. He’s a big personality and a big guy. He’s known throughout the community as being hilarious and jovial and passionate.”

Moore said Magill is a well-liked, colorful character “and smart. … He very much is a presence, and one that fundamentally is for making this a better place to live.

“He hosts a free-form show that is both an amazing and, at times, challenging experience,” Moore said of the radio program, which ranges from rock into many musical genres and sometimes, simply, sounds. “I’ve heard a recording of woodpeckers on the show,” he said, laughing, and remembers a time when he played two hours of frog sounds.

Vaidhyanathan said he believes the turmoil and strain of the weekend contributed to Magill’s medical problems. “We’ve all felt it. Most of us have felt it less than Tyler has. That’s because most of us did less than Tyler did.” On Friday night Magill “was bravely putting himself in the middle there to protect students and the university.”

Magill was in fair condition at the U-Va. Medical Center, a university spokesman said Wednesday.

Anthony de Bruyn, a spokesman for U-Va., said in an email Thursday, “The University of Virginia Police Department is aware of the incident you have mentioned and has opened a criminal investigation into it.  Since it is an active investigation, we are not able to make any further comment.”

Moore said Magill’s wife told him she wants people to realize that he is hurting, “that this is a real problem affecting real people in Charlottesville,” and that she wants their town to be safe for her children.

“The community is trying to deal with and recover from fascist invasion and terrorist incidents on the streets of our downtown,” Moore said. “Tyler was everywhere that mattered last weekend and he was everywhere he needed to be. We just want to do all we can to aid his recovery.”

Staff writer Sarah Larimer contributed to this report.