Students at East Tennessee State University were protesting on campus Wednesday when they were disrupted by a man wearing a gorilla mask and handing out bananas from a canvass bag sporting the Confederate flag.
ETSU Department of Public Safety officers responded to calls of the disturbance where the event was held, WATE-TV reports. The man was later identified as Tristan Rettke, a freshman at the university, who was charged with civil rights intimidation.
The students were protesting the latest fatal police shootings of black men across the country, most recently in El Cajon, California, and Charlotte, North Carolina.
Grant Madison, a junior at ETSU, told USA Today that the man’s racially offensive message was quite obvious. “He passed by me and handed me a banana,” he said. “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.”
The university’s president Dr Brian Noland said that the freshman was not a member of any formal or athletic teams affiliated with the school. He also called Mr Rettke’s actions incomprehensible and intolerable, and do not represent the values of the institution.
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