A Tennessee college student has been charged with civil rights intimidation after he allegedly donned a gorilla mask and taunted protesters at a Black Lives Matter event, according to WJHL-TV.
East Tennessee State University officials told WJHL that student Tristan Rettke disrupted a peaceful campus protest Wednesday.
WHBQ-TV reported that Rettke allegedly wore a gorilla mask, held a rope fashioned as a noose and handed out bananas to those at the protest. He also carried a bag bearing an image of the Confederate flag.
A video of the incident went viral on Twitter. The individual in the mask can be heard telling protesters he identifies as a gorilla.
The protester who recorded the video say he was so mad that his hands were shaking as he recorded.
BLM protesters harassed by a white guy in a gorrilla mask w/ bananas, rope, and a confederate flag bag. Y'all mad at dude taking a knee tho pic.twitter.com/Zy5NxpiXv7— Julez (@home_skilletb) September 28, 2016
Jaylen Grimes, one of the demonstrators, told the East Tennessean that the person in the mask “pulled out his burlap sack and then he had the rope and whatnot and then he started offering us bananas.”
“A lot of us didn’t take it, but I just took as a sign of peace offering and just to show him that, just because he’s being disrespectful towards me, I won’t be disrespectful towards him,” Grimes said.
Grimes added that “he was just trying to get a reaction out of us.”
“If we would have lashed out violently, that would have been another problem and we would’ve all got in trouble,” he said. “And like I said, that’s not why we’re here. We were here as peaceful [demonstrators], so we had to remain as such.”
The East Tennessean reported that ETSU President Brian Noland told students at a community meeting that the incident “does not represent our university.”
“I hope that students do not look upon their time at ETSU and think of this moment,” Noland said.
According to WJHL, during his arraignment, the judge said Rettke admitted to campus police that he wanted to provoke protestors at the Black Lives Matter rally.
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