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17-year-old accused of making racist threats that closed schools in Charlottesville, Virginia

A 17-year-old boy was charged Friday with making online threats of "ethnic cleansing" against black and Hispanic students at the public high school in Charlottesville, Virginia, a city that was the site of a deadly white nationalist rally in 2017. The threats had shut down the city's public schools on Thursday and Friday, drawing the community closer together but also sparking fear in a city that witnessed racial violence first-hand.

Charlottesville police released few details about the teen because he was a juvenile. But they said he lives outside the city in Albemarle County and does not attend Charlottesville's schools.

A 17-year-old was arrested on March 22, 2019 for making threats that forced Charlottesville schools to close. WCAV

When asked about his race, police Chief RaShall Brackney said at a press conference the suspect identifies as Portuguese. When asked if he was an American citizen, Brackney said that the department doesn't ask about people's immigration status.

Aware that this college town has become synonymous with racial strife, city leaders used the press conference to speak out against racism and even rebuke past comments by President Trump. "We want the community and the world to know that hate is not welcomed in Charlottesville," Brackney said. "Violence is not welcomed in Charlottesville. Intolerance is not welcomed in Charlottesville."

She added: "And in Charlottesville and around the globe, we stand firmly in stating: there are not very fine people on both sides of this issue." Brackney's comment appeared to reference statements Mr. Trump made in the days after violence broke out in the city during the summer of 2017.

A loosely connected mix of white nationalists, neo-Nazis and other far-right extremists had assembled to protest the city's decision to remove a towering statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee. Heather Heyer, 32, was killed when a man plowed his car into a crowd of counter-protesters.

In the days afterward, Mr. Trump acknowledged there were "some very bad people" looking for trouble in the group protesting plans to remove the statue. "But you also had people that were very fine people, on both sides," he said.

The teen who was arrested Friday faces a felony charge of threatening to commit serious bodily harm on school property. He's also charged with a misdemeanor count of harassment by computer.

Brackney wouldn't say whether any weapons were confiscated from the boy. The chief said the student used "vile and racially charged language" on 4chan, a shadowy site known for, among other things, cruel hoaxes and political extremism.

She said detective work helped find the teen and that internet providers and law enforcement professionals "nationally, internationally" helped the department investigate. She said the threats made against students in Charlottesville were unrelated to a similar incident and arrest that was made recently in Albemarle County.

Mayor Nikuyah Walker thanked police for their hard work and parents for their patience. "This will not be welcomed in Charlottesville," she said of the threat.

Rosa Atkins, the superintendent of Charlottesville schools, said the threat provoked real fear and anxiety. School counselors and others are preparing for the students to return Monday.

"Since August 2017, our community has made a good faith effort to have these difficult conversations about race and equity, and build trust and relationships in our school system and in our community," she said. "And this comment attempted, although it failed, to undermine our efforts, and our community."

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