Tenn. student arrested after wearing gorilla mask to BLM protest
NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
Wednesday, September 28, 2016, 7:56 PM
A Tennessee man wore a gorilla mask, carried a rope and tried to hand out bananas at a college Black Lives Matter protest Wednesday, police said.
East Tennessee State University campus police arrested freshman student Tristan Rettke, who is white, on a charge of civil rights intimidation following the disruption, the Johnson City Press reported. University officials condemned his act and scheduled a community discussion.
Police said Tristan Rettke wore a gorilla mask and tried to hand out bananas during a peaceful Black Lives Matter protest at Eastern Tennessee State University on Wednesday.
(WJHL/Timia Easley Junior)
A video published by the newspaper showed the man later identified as Rettke wearing overalls and also holding a burlap sack with a marijuana leaf and Confederate flag on it. He dangled a banana with the rope toward the dozen or so demonstrators in the video.
“I think he thinks it’s OK because he got a mask on his face,” one of the protesters said.
“I’m just the gorilla,” Rettke said. “I identify as the gorilla. I’m just supporting my people.”
A police officer later escorted Rettke to a bench where he took off the mask at the 14,500-student public university’s Borchuck Plaza.
Rettke, a freshman at ETSU, was placed on interim suspension after the incident Wednesday, university officials said.
(Washington County Detention Cent)
He found out about the event on the social media app Yik Yak and came out Wednesday to try “to provoke the protesters,” Rettke told the police, according to an arrest report obtained by WCYB-TV.
His classmates had organized three days of protests on campus this week in response to the recent police shootings in Tulsa, Okla., and Charlotte, N.C., ETSU sophomore Jaelyn Grimes told the student newspaper, the East Tennessean.
Officials at the 14,500-student public university, whose Johnson City, Tenn., campus is shown above, praised the protesters for not reacting to Rettke.
“He was just trying to get a reaction out of us,” Grimes said. “If we would have lashed out violently, that would have been another problem, and we would’ve all got in trouble.”
ETSU administrators told WJHL-TVthey placed Rettke on interim suspension. The university held a community dialogue between students and top administrators at an auditorium on campus Wednesday night.
“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,” ETSU officials said in a statement.
“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.”
With News Wire Services