Barely a week after the horrifying massacre of over fifty people at mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, another community has been plunged into terror at the prospect of mass ethnic violence.
For the past two days, all city schools in Charlottesville, Virginia have been shuttered and the students kept at home in response to threats of “ethnic cleansing” made on the website 4chan, a notoriously toxic spawning pool of forums where disaffected young white men are radicalized by anonymous posters promoting white supremacy, repulsive misogyny, and far-right wing extremism.
Today, the Charlottesville police arrested a seventeen-year-old boy in connection to the threats. Little information about him is available due to his status as a juvenile, but Charlottesville community organizer and professional Nazi hunter Molly Conger reports that the suspect identifies as “Portuguese.”
The police have charged the teen with a felony for threatening to commit serious bodily harm to people on school property and a misdemeanor for harassment by computer.
Charlottesville is no stranger to racial violence, its name now forever associated with the iconic images of torch-wielding white men screaming “Jews will not replace us” at the “Unite the Right” hate rally and the murder of antifascist activist Heather Heyer by white supremacist James Fields on August 12, 2017.
But the town is determined to move past that horrible day and rebuild their reputation, as the unequivocal statements from city officials made very clear at this morning’s press conference:
While we can all breathe a sigh of relief that for once, no harm was done and the nation was spared the images of bloody schoolbags, grieving parents and empty expressions of thoughts and prayers that are all too painfully familiar these days, we cannot downplay the way in which posts on an anonymous imageboard were able to strike terror into an entire community.
Eradicating the threat of right-wing terrorism, deradicalizing those already in its throes, and punishing the sources is a society-wide endeavor that can’t be accomplished overnight — but we can start by taking substantial steps to heavily restrict the American public’s recklessly irresponsible ability to purchase firearms, deplatforming the promoters of white supremacy in the mainstream media, and taking steps to ferret out the online echo chambers in which the right-wing’s murderous ideology corrupts the minds of socially ostracized nerds who just wanted to shitpost about videogames.
Original reporting by Molly Conger, follow her on Twitter.