A Black man in Indiana says he was pinned to a tree in the woods by a group of white people who he says held him down, shouted racial slurs and repeatedly called out “get a noose” after accusing him of trespassing on private property on his way to a Fourth of July gathering in a state park.
“I don’t want to recount this, but I was almost the victim of an attempted lynching,” the victim, Vauhxx Booker, who sits on the Monroe County Human Rights Commission, wrote on Facebook. “I don’t want this to have happened to me or anyone. It hurts my soul, and my pride, but there are multiple witnesses and it can’t be hidden or avoided.”
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On Monday, following a protest outside of the Monroe County Courthouse attended by Booker and others who called for the arrests of those involved, a car that raced through the gathering injured at least two people before driving away, reports WTTV.
Neither the driver nor those involved in the alleged attack on Booker were immediately identified or charged, and the injuries and names of those struck by the vehicle were not immediately released.
The assault reported by Booker drew condemnation from Bloomington Mayor John Hamilton and City Clerk Nicole Bolden, who linked the incident with another that they said occurred over the holiday weekend.
“A group of individuals physically assaulted and denounced and threatened with racial epithets one Black resident of Bloomington on nearby Indiana state park land at Lake Monroe,” they said in a statement, repeating Booker’s account. “And a sheriff’s deputy from a neighboring county questioned and detained another Black Bloomington resident walking down the Bloomington street where they live in an apparent example of racial profiling.”
“These separate incidents exemplify the persistence of racism and bias in our country and our own community,” they said. “They deserve nothing less than our collective condemnation.”
The Indiana Department of Natural Resources (DNR), which oversees the Lake Monroe state park property and was alerted after Booker placed a 911 call to report the incident. The DNR said the incident “is under investigation and the final report will be forwarded to the Monroe County Prosecutor’s office upon completion,” reports Indianapolis TV station WTHR.
Booker, who was with several white friends at the time, wrote that he was “diagnosed with a minor concussion, some abrasions, bruising, and some ripped out hair patches.”
He wrote that he and his friends had planned to watch the lunar eclipse at the lake, and on their way into the park, he and another friend “encountered a large white male (seemingly drunk) wearing an oversized hat with a confederate flag print on it” who told them they were on private property. “We relayed to him that we believed the organizers had received permission from the property owners to cross, but apologized and went on to our beautiful site just off the water without any further incident.”
After learning that other arriving friends had been blocked by the man’s group, Booker says he returned hoping to “see if we could smooth things over a bit.” Instead, he alleges, the man and members of his group “jumped me from behind.”
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“The five were able to easily overwhelm me and got me to the ground and dragged me pinning my body against a tree as they began pounding on my head and ripped off some of my hair, with several of them still on top of my body holding me down,” he wrote.
“The attackers told the growing group, ‘we’re going to break his arms’ (while literally attempting to bend my arms behind me) and then stated to the members of their party several times to, ‘get a noose,’ amongst some other choice slurs,” he wrote. “With me still pinned underneath them they kept telling onlookers to leave the ‘boy’ and that everyone else (all white) could go. Folks then started filming the confrontation, and shouting that they wouldn’t leave me to be killed.”
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In a video clip posted by Booker, a member of the group surrounding him says repeatedly to the others, “Let him go.”
In another of three video clips posted by Booker, a different man screams, “You nappy-headed b—-, you happy about this? You happy with your five white friends?”
When DNR responded to the 911 call to investigate, “multiple individuals who didn’t know each other shared videos and relayed that the individuals had yelled ‘white power’ and a litany of other derogatory remarks, and threatened my life multiple times,” Booker wrote.
At the protest Monday, Booker thanked those who intervened, affirming that “Black lives matter,” he said.
“I’m here alive today because folks stopped being bystanders,” he said. “They didn’t just film me.”
To help combat systemic racism, consider learning from or donating to these organizations:
Campaign Zero (joincampaignzero.org) which works to end police brutality in America through research-proven strategies.
ColorofChange.org works to make the government more responsive to racial disparities.
National Cares Mentoring Movement (caresmentoring.org) provides social and academic support to help Black youth succeed in college and beyond.