Student charged after wearing gorilla mask, handing out bananas at BLM protest


JOHNSON CITY, TN (WJHL) – An East Tennessee State University spokesperson confirmed to News Channel 11 Friday afternoon that the student charged with civil rights intimidation after he wore a gorilla mask and handed out bananas during a Black Lives Matter demonstration on Wednesday is no longer enrolled at the university.

Tristan Rettke was in court Thursday for an arraignment hearing following the incident, where a judge scheduled him to appear in court again on Nov. 9 at 1:30 p.m.

The following is a video submitted by Timia Easley Junior:

Rettke’s attorney, Patrick Denton, said in a statement Friday that Rettke was exercising his freedom of speech and did not intimidate anyone.

Mr. Rettke deeply regrets the unfortunate events leading up to his arrest yesterday and understands the negative perception of his speech and actions. He respects the rights of those in the ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement to peacefully demonstrate in furtherance of their message in the spirit of the First Amendment. That being said, despite what many may feel was objectionable behavior, Mr. Rettke has the same Free Speech protections as those in the ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement. Above all, he did not intimidate or attempt to intimidate anyone during this incident. Accordingly, we look forward to defending his rights in a court of law. He asks for privacy and space for his family during this difficult and emotionally-trying time.”

Dozens of people were gathered Thursday on the campus of East Tennessee State University for a peaceful protest – just one day after police charged a student for trying to provoke demonstrators at a Black Lives Matter event.

Unversity officials told News Channel 11, on Wednesday Tristan Rettke was wearing a gorilla mask and began handing out bananas to students holding Black Lives Matter signs at Borchuck Plaza.

Rettke appeared in Sessions Court Thursday afternoon for an arraignment hearing on charge of civil rights intimidation. His next court date has been set for Nov. 9 at 1:30 p.m.

During his arraignment Rettke listened as the judge read the report of what happened Wednesday. The judge said Rettke told campus police he wanted to provoke protesters at the Black Lives Matter rally.

We talked with District Attorney General Tony Clark about what has to be proven for Rettke to get convicted of the charge against him .

“Did that in and of itself, was that an intrusion of their rights to the point they could not exercise or protest freely as guaranteed by the constitution so that’s the question of intimidation did it cross that line,” Clark said.

On Wednesday, students and faculty gathered inside the Culp Center on ETSU’s campus. The auditorium was packed as students, faculty and staff spoke about their concerns and how they can move forward from Wednesday’s events.