Black activist claims that he was "almost the victim of an attempted lynching” over Fourth of July

Vauhxx Booker claims a group of white men threatened to “get a noose” in what he describes as alleged "hate crime"

By Igor Derysh

Managing Editor

Published July 7, 2020 11:51PM (EDT)

Vauhxx Booker, a prominent civil rights activist in Bloomington, IN, was assaulted, pinned to a tree and threatened with a noose (Twitter/@AttorneyCrump)
Vauhxx Booker, a prominent civil rights activist in Bloomington, IN, was assaulted, pinned to a tree and threatened with a noose (Twitter/@AttorneyCrump)

A prominent Black activist claimed that a group of white men allegedly threatened to "get a noose" after accusing him of trespassing on private property in Indiana on the Fourth of July. Local officials said the reported attack remains under investigation. 

Vauhxx Booker, the civil rights activist and member of the Monroe County Human Rights Commission, posted partial footage of the alleged racist incident on Facebook. He described the encounter as "an attempted lynching."

One video shows Booker being held against a tree by one of the men as bystanders plea for him to be released. A second clip shows a different man appearing to call Booker a "nappy-headed b*tch."

"You happy about this?" the man shouts in spite of the pleas. "You happy with your five white friends?"

Another video shows the same man hurling expletives about "liberals."

"We were having a great time and you invaded us," he says. "You stupid f*cking liberal f*cks."

"I don't want to recount this, but I was almost the victim of an attempted lynching," Booker later 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."

Booker added that he and others were the victims of what he described as an alleged "hate crime" after "five white men (with confederate flags) threatened to lynch me."

He claimed that he suffered a minor concussion, abrasions, bruising, and "ripped out" patches of hair.

Booker reported that he and his friends had planned to view the lunar eclipse at Lake Monroe on July 4 when a group of white men blocked off a public beach they claimed was private property, even though the event organizer said that was not the case.

When he tried to reason with them, Booker alleged that the men "quickly became aggressive" and began to follow him.

"Two of them jumped me from behind and knocked me to the ground. I tussled with the two and another one joined in, then two more. 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. "They held me pinned and continued beating me for several minutes seemingly become more and more enraged as they kept trying to seriously injure me and failing. At one point during the attack one of the men jumped on my neck. I could feel both his feet and his full bodyweight land hard against my neck."

The sound of what was described as one of the men's teenage daughters screaming for him to stop drew a crowd of bystanders, according to Booker. 

"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."

Max Xam, one of Booker's friends who witnessed the incident, told The Bloomingtonian that he feared for everyone's life.

"They wanted to lynch him,"he said. "I thought if we didn't leave, they would kill us, too."

The bystanders were apparently able to save Booker and stop the men from allegedly following him.

Booker reported that none of the individuals were arrested when authorities, who allegedly did not check how he and other victims were doing, arrived on the scene.

"To reiterate, this attack occurred on public land and was recorded by numerous individuals who made statements against the attackers for assaulting them and me," he said. "I'm gravely concerned that if any other people of color who were to cross their path they could be killed."

The Indiana Department of Natural Resources (DNR) confirmed to The Bloomingtonian that it had received a call about the incident.

"The incident is under investigation and the final report will be forwarded to the Monroe County Prosecutor's Officer upon completion," the agency told the outlet.

The outlet posted audio of the agency's radio communication regarding the attack.

Xam also posted audio on Facebook of the DNR officers' response.

"They might kill someone tonight — and you are OK with just letting them be out there?" Xam asks in the audio.

"There's nothing to indicate that from what we saw," an official replies. "We've done the investigation and talked to both sides. We talked to the prosecutor about it."

Booker later told The Bloomingtonian that the DNR officers should be disciplined for refusing to make any arrests at the time of the alleged assault.

"I'm looking forward to the prosecutor issuing arrest warrants for these assailants today, and I want the DNR to act and discipline the officers involved," he said. "They refused to make an arrest."

Bloomington Mayor John Hamilton and City Clerk Nicole Bolden wrote in a joint statement on Monday that Booker was "physically assaulted and denounced and threatened with racial epithets" on "Indiana state park land at Lake Monroe."

The incident exemplifies "the persistence of racism and bias in our country and our own community," the statement said, adding that it deserves "nothing less than our collective condemnation."

But Booker argued that the state's response was also racist.

"They left a clear and present danger loose in our community," he told The Indianapolis Star. "I don't have a doubt that if it would have been five black men who had attacked a white man, they would have been in jail that night."

By Igor Derysh

Igor Derysh is Salon's managing editor. His work has also appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Boston Herald and Baltimore Sun.

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Aggregate Black Lives Matter Politics Racism Vauhxx Booker