Man who went to Black Lives Matter protest in gorilla mask charged with civil rights intimidation

A student protest near East Tennessee State University took a turn for the disgusting on Tuesday afternoon, when a ETSU freshman identified as Tristan Rettke showed up to the Black Lives Matter protest wearing a gorilla mask. Rettke also wore a Confederate flag emblazoned on his backpack, just to really make sure everyone was aware he’s a racist (you know, because his gorilla mask hadn’t made that entirely clear).

According to WYCB, Rettke, who, ironically, enough, is apparently studying public safety, told police his intent was to “intimidate” protesters. In concealing his identity behind a mask and attacking the legal rights of African-Americans to freedom of speech and expression, his actions remind us of one particular white supremacist hate group and certainly weren’t ignored by law enforcement, who have charged Rettke with one count of civil rights intimidation. In the state of Tennessee, a civil rights intimidation conviction amounts to either a low-grade felony or a misdemeanor.

Additionally, Rettke has reportedly been suspended from ETSU, and will also face an internal student-conduct investigation.

The protest at ETSU follows the recent police shootings of two unarmed black men, Keith Scott in North Carolina and, more recently, Alfred Olango in California, and amidst an ongoing national dialogue around racially charged police brutality.

It’s worth noting that according to Jezebel, it’s illegal to wear masks or disguises with the purpose of attacking individuals’ civil rights in a subtle but not-so-subtle jab at the Ku Klux Klan, which routinely assaulted and even murdered African-Americans trying to vote or protest. Rettke’s choice in donning a gorilla mask was an obvious nod to racist, alt-right trolls regarding black people as gorillas. Rettke’s attempt to intimidate protesters calling out a serious national issue was not simply a light-hearted “prank,” so good on law enforcement for levying criminal charges.

Watch the video of Rettke, garbed in overalls, a Confederate flag backpack, a gorilla mask, and noticeably lacking shoes, attempting to “intimidate” protesters, in the video above.