Charlottesville Teen Arrested For Plot Targeting Hispanic And Black Students

by Valerie Williams
Originally Published: 
Image via WUSA 9/YouTube

A 17-year-old boy has been arrested in connection with an online threat to perform an “ethnic cleansing” at Charlottesville High School

In August 2017, Charlottesville, Virginia was the site of a white nationalist rally that ended in the tragic death of counter-protester Heather Heyer. The incident was famously spoken of by President Trump who felt “both sides,” including those speaking out against actual Nazis, were to blame for the deadly clash.

Now, a 17-year-old boy has been charged with issuing an online threat toward Charlottesville High School this week in which he claimed an “ethnic cleansing” of non-white students would be taking place. The Washington Post reports that the threat “used racist language to describe black and Latino students and told white students to stay home.”

Reuters reports that the unnamed teenage boy has been arrested and charged with threatening to cause bodily harm on a school property, which is a felony, and harassment by computer, a misdemeanor. The threat was reported to police Wednesday afternoon with schools closing through today. Charlottesville Police issued a statement that read, in part, “Although the city schools were closed for two days as a precautionary measure, and while it may have caused some inconveniences, Chief Brackney stated, ‘The safety of our students and staff was the top priority for the department, the city, and the school district.'”

Ever since a white nationalist drove his car into a crowd during the 2017 “Unite the Right” rally resulting in Heyer’s death the city has struggled to ease racial tensions. According to U.S. Census numbers, 19 percent of Charlottesville’s population is African American. Reuters reports that Charlottesville City Schools sent a letter to parents regarding the online threat. “We would like to acknowledge and condemn the fact that this threat was racially charged,” it read. “The entire staff and School Board stand in solidarity with our students of color.”

According to NPR, school superintendent Dr. Rosa Atkins says the teen boy arrested for making the threat was not a student at Charlottesville High School, the school the threat was directed at.

At a news conference today, Chief RaShall Brackney of the Charlottesville Police Department made clear where she stands on the issue. “Hate…violence…intolerance is not welcomed in Charlottesville,” she said. “And in Charlottesville and around the globe we stand firmly in stating there are not ‘very fine people’ standing on both sides of this issue,” in a nod to Trump’s repulsive 2017 remarks in defense of the white nationalists holding the rally that ended in one death and several injuries.

Charlottesville resident Margaret Thornton, a former teacher at the high school, tells NPR of her concerns for the students and how the threat might affect them. “What really initially occurred to me is how much trauma these children have been through since those rallies a year-and-a-half ago,” she says. “The school district does not take the decision to close schools lightly,” Thornton explains, a decision she feels suggests the threats were very serious. Noting that many district students qualify to receive reduced or free meals during the day, “that’s two extra days that those kids don’t have access to healthy, hot meals.”

At the news conference where Brackney spoke, it was revealed that the arrested teen identifies as Portuguese and it’s believed he acted alone. He was arrested in Albemarle after his IP address led authorities, with the help of an internet service provider, to his location. Atkins stated that schools will reopen next week and that, as always, counselors will be available to students in need of someone to talk to.

It’s utterly tragic that in 2019, there are teenagers threatening an “ethnic cleansing” of their peers. Whether the threat was serious or not is irrelevant. There are now kids afraid to go to school. This is reality in Trump’s America — and change for the better cannot come soon enough.

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