A Black Lives Matter protest at East Tennessee State University was disrupted by a student in a gorilla mask handing out rope-tied bananas, reported campus newspaper The East Tennessean. The student has since been arrested and charged with civil rights intimidation, according to the Chicago Tribune. Students were protesting the recent police shootings of Terence Crutcher and Keith Lamont Scott.
East Tennessee State University police identified the protest crasher as 18-year-old freshman Tristan Rettke. While walking around barefoot in overalls and the gorilla mask, Rettke is said to have approached protesters, offering them bananas out of a burlap sack with a marijuana leaf and a Confederate flag printed on it. Rettke, who appears to be recording at on a cell phone at one point, also held up a sign reading “Lives Matter.” A video of Rettke shows him dangling the rope-tied bananas as an observer is heard asking, “You think that’s OK?” Someone else answers, “I think he thinks it’s OK because he got a mask on.”
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— Julie (@home_skilletb) September 28, 2016
Rettke was removed from the scene by ETSU’s Public Safety, the university said in a Facebook post about the incident, which you can read below. ETSU said in the 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."
Rettke told police he was trying to provoke protesters, and that he had heard talk of the protest days earlier.