A Black man says a group of White men assaulted him and threatened to "get a noose" after claiming he and his friends had trespassed on private property as they gathered at an Indiana lake over the Fourth of July weekend to watch the lunar eclipse. The incident prompted dozens of people to protest in front of the Bloomington, Indiana courthouse Monday.
CBS Indianapolis affiliate WTTV reports a red car hit two demonstrators at the peaceful protest. The protesters were demanding that charges be filed in the lake incident.
Organizers told the station the two wound up on the car's hood, then went flying off when the driver hit the accelerator and turned. The organizers said a female was taken to the hospital. Her condition was unknown.
Vauhxx Booker, a local civil rights activist and member of the Monroe County Human Rights Commission, posted cellphone video on Facebook he says shows part of the altercation at the lake.
He said he called 911 Saturday after the men assaulted him and pinned him to a tree at Lake Monroe, south of Booker's hometown of Bloomington.
Law enforcement officers with the Indiana Department of Natural Resources responded and are investigating, said Capt. Jet Quillen. A final report will be forwarded to the Monroe County Prosecutor's Office, Quillen continued, providing no other details about what happened or whether any arrests have been made.
Booker began his Facebook post by writing, "I don't want to recount this, but I was almost the victim of an attempted lynching. 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 said he apologized after the men told him they were trespassing, but that five white men then attacked him. Booker wrote that the men threatened to break his arms and said, "get a noose," while telling his friends to leave the area. He also said one of the men had a hat with a Confederate flag on it and that the men made statements about "white power."
One video clip that he posted shows a white man holding Booker up against a tree. Another depicts a different man calling someone off-camera a "nappy headed (expletive)." In another, the same man yells, "You invaded us!" and calls someone in Booker's group a "stupid (expletive) liberal (expletive)."
"We were calm and polite, but looking back now, it's apparent that these individuals began targeting our group the moment they saw myself, a Black man and were looking to provoke a conflict," Booker wrote.
Booker said he suffered a minor concussion, cuts, bruises and had patches of his hair pulled out.
Bloomington Mayor John Hamilton and Bloomington City Clerk Nicole Bolden issued a statement Monday expressing their "outrage and grief" over what they said was a racially motivated attack.
State Senator Mark Stoops, a Bloomington Democrat, said he was "horrified by the racist attack" and called on Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb to suspend and investigate the Department of Natural Resources officers who responded to the scene for failing to make any arrests.
"This is not just an issue of violence," Stoops said in a statement Monday, "this is clearly a hate crime and must be treated as such."
Booker's lawyer, Katharine Liell, told WTTV she believes arrests will be made.
The Bloomington Black Lives Matter chapter is also demanding that the tree incident be investigated as a hate crime, as is prominent civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump, who called the tree incident "absolutely sickening" and an "attempted lynching."
On Tuesday morning former South Bend mayor and Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg weighed in on Twitter, writing. "This violent show of racism is absolutely sickening. Something is deeply wrong in Indiana."
In 2018, Booker spoke out after a Bloomington Transit employee accused Booker of stealing a bus pass shortly after he bought a ticket. Booker said the employee sold him the pass, then could not find proof of the transaction and called the police. The unnamed Bloomington Transit employee was fired.
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