By Eric M. Johnson
SEATTLE (Reuters) - A university student in Washington state was charged on Thursday under the state's hate crime statute with posting a racist threat on the anonymous social media platform Yik Yak, authorities said.
The arrest came during a period of heightened tensions at U.S. colleges over allegations of racism on campus and violent threats against black students.
Tysen Campbell, a 19-year-old student at Western Washington University in Bellingham, was charged with one count of malicious harassment for writing: "Let's lynch her," on Yik Yak, referring to another student, the Whatcom County Prosecuting Attorney's Office said.
He will be arraigned on Friday.
Authorities have not identified the other student, but the Seattle Times reported on Thursday that university officials believe the message referred to Belina Seare, the student president, who is black.
Seare has said she was the focus of racist and sexist messages posted on Yik Yak.
Campbell, who is white, was arrested on Nov. 30 by campus police in Bellingham, about 90 miles north of Seattle, and suspended from the university pending the outcome of the case and an investigation by the school.
If convicted, he faces up to five years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
University spokesman Paul Cocke said authorities were investigating other online messages targeting the school community. Classes were canceled for a day last month at the school after officials found numerous racially threatening online messages.
Campbell's attorney could not immediately be reached for comment.
The Seattle Times quoted Campbell's mother, Lisa Concidine, as saying her son told her he made a post that was sarcastic and that he immediately deleted it.
Demonstrations against racism at college campuses across the United States, many linked with the Black Lives Matter civil rights movement, have gained momentum since student rallies led to the ouster of the president of the University of Missouri last month.
(Writing and additional reporting by Sharon Bernstein; Editing by Peter Cooney)