On Tuesday, East Tennessee State University student Tristan Rettke was arrested after going to a Black Lives Matter protest on campus while wearing a gorilla mask and carrying a rope. According to WCYB-TV, he was charged with civil rights intimidation following the incident, as stated by a Johnson City Police Department report.
While students were protesting the recent police shootings, the East Tennessean, the newspaper for the university, reported Rettke walking in the crowd wearing a gorilla mask and even offering the protesters bananas attached to a rope.
University junior Grant Madison told USA TODAY he was talking with a friend when Rettke walked up behind him.
“He passed by me and handed me a banana. I snatched it out of his hand. I knew what he was trying to say, but I wasn’t going to try to retaliate against him.”
Madison put the video of the incident on Facebook, where Retake attempted to provoke protestors for almost 20 minutes.
“For me, it was the first time I’ve experienced something so blatantly disrespectful and racist.”
Rettke was eventually led away from the protesters, where Madison's video also shows that he was carrying a burlap bag with a Confederate flag on it.
According to wave3 news, Rettke stated it was an attempt to provoke the protestors , as he showed up with no shoes and a pair of overalls on.
Brian Noland, the University President, releases the statement the next day, expressing his sadness at the incident but pride for the students for not retaliating:
“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,” the statement reads.
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