Punish Student Accused of Wearing Gorilla Mask to Black Lives Matter Rally

Target: Mr. Tony Clark, District Attorney of Tennessee’s First Judicial District

Goal: Demand the conviction of white student who allegedly disrupted a Black Lives Matter by wearing a gorilla mask and shouting racial slurs.

A white student allegedly showed up in an on-campus Black Lives Matter rally wearing a gorilla mask and carrying a rope and bananas, in a likely attempt to upset and intimate peaceful protesters. Former East Tennessee State University student Tristan Rettke was recently indicted by a grand jury on two counts of civil rights intimidation, two counts of disorderly conduct and disrupting a meeting. The case provides a good example of the difference between free speech and hate speech and illustrates the importance of fiercely upholding the first while actively opposing and condemning the latter.

Students in the East Tennessee State University wanted to raise awareness to the state violence overwhelming African Americans, and extensive footage confirms that the majority black crowd supportive of the Black Lives Matter movement organized a highly peaceful event at the university’s Borchuck Plaza. Footage seems to show that Mr. Rettke infiltrated the group and dangled bananas tied with rope in people’s faces. He only left after the police arrived and removed him from the site. Witnesses stated that Mr. Rettke said he decided to participate in the protest because he identified “as a gorilla.” Witnesses also confirmed feeling intimidated and threatened as Mr. Rettke was just a few inches from them while making these racist comments.

Mr. Rettke’s lawyer argued that his client was just exercising his right to free speech. The right to freedom of expression is indeed guaranteed to every citizen, but it does not encompass physical threat or diminishing someone’s humanity. Mr. Rettke himself admitted to the officers who first got to the scene that he was trying to provoke Black Lives Matter protesters. He engaged in a disrespectful, hatred-motivated initiative that limited other people’s expression. With the recent surge of hate crimes, it is important that attitudes such as those pushed forward by Mr. Rettke are fought back at every occasion. Sign the petition to demand that indictment leads to a conviction.


Dear Mr. Clark,

I demand that your office dedicates high attention to the case of Mr. Tristan Rettke, a former student at East Tennessee State University who allegedly disrupted an on-campus Black Lives Matter rally by showing up in a gorilla mask and dangling bananas tied with rope in black people’s faces. It seems evident by footage that Mr. Rettke posed a physical threat to peaceful protesters, intensified by the racial slurs he directed to them.

As the country witnesses a surge in hate crimes and the spread of hate speech, it is crucial that every case is brought to justice. I urge you to set a positive example for the whole nation, expressing that there is no place for intolerance in your county.


[Your Name Here]

Photo credit: Washington County Detention Center/YouTube

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  1. Kathryn Irby says:


  2. he certainly should learn that what he did was very unkind.. but to call Black Lives Matter peaceful is just as ridiculous as what the kid did.

  3. and no, I didn’t sign and I won’t find this petition again so don’t bother to rant at me. this is just my peaceful opinion. I didn’t call anybody any names.

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