Student Charged After Wearing Gorilla Mask To Black Lives Matter Protest

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September 29, 2016 7:58 a.m.
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A white student at East Tennessee State University was arrested and charged with civil rights intimidation on Wednesday after showing up to a campus Black Lives Matter protest wearing a gorilla mask and handing out bananas to African American students.

Tristan Rettke, a freshman at the university, also carried a rope and a burlap sack painted with the Confederate flag and a marijuana leaf, according to WCYB.

Rettke was first detained by campus police, then arrested and taken to Washington County Detention Center after discussion with public safety supervisors, campus administration and the District Attorney General’s office, WCYB reported.

According to a Johnson City Police Department report obtained by WJHL, Rettke told officers he purchased the rope, bananas and gorilla mask on Tuesday after learning about the Black Lives Matter event on social media app Yik Yak. He then went to Wednesday’s protest “in an attempt to provoke the protesters,” the report noted.


Tristan Rettke/Washington County Detention Center

School officials confirmed to the WCYB that Rettke was also placed on interim suspension.

“The actions of this one individual go against the values of our university where people come first and all are treated with dignity and respect,” East Tennessee State officials wrote in a statement published on their Facebook page. “We are exceptionally proud of the students who were peacefully participating in the event and the manner in which they exercised restraint, thoughtfulness and strength in the face of inappropriate and offensive behavior.”

Video taken by rally attendees and the East Tennessean, the campus newspaper, shows Rettke walking up to a small group of students peacefully protesting and holding out bananas and a long length of rope.

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