By Mary Claire Molloy – Special to The Bloomingtonian
A prominent Black activist was attacked at Lake Monroe on July 4th by white men who tried to lynch him.
Vauhxx Booker, 36 and a Bloomington human rights commissioner, is seen pinned to a tree by several men in a series of videos posted by him and witnesses on Facebook. Booker and at least one witness said that a man talked about getting a noose during the incident.
No one was arrested. The Law Enforcement Division of The Indiana Department of Natural Resources confirmed to The Bloomingtonian that their officers responded to the scene.
“The incident is under investigation and the final report will be forwarded to the Monroe County Prosecutor’s Officer upon completion,” Capt. Jet Quillen said in an email. The Bloomingtonian must file a public records request for more information, he said.
“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,” Booker told The Bloomingtonian. “They refused to make an arrest.”
Booker is being represented by attorney Katharine Liell. In a statement today, Liell said the case is under active review by the Monroe County Prosecutor’s Office and that she believes arrest warrants will be issued.
Videos of the incident from Booker’s Facebook have been viewed over 2 million times. One shows him pinned to a tree by several white men, one of which begins hitting the camera and yelling at witnesses to stop filming.
“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,” Booker wrote on Facebook.
“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.”
Booker said he sustained a minor concussion, bruises and abrasions from the incident.
Max Xam, a witness and friend, said the men tried to break Booker’s arms and told bystanders to leave.
“They wanted to lynch him,” Xam told The Bloomingtonian. “I thought if we didn’t leave, they would kill us, too.”
Booker writes that white allies helped get the attackers off of him. He said these men, including one wearing a Confederate flag hat, accused him and his friends of trespassing on private property before the incident occurred.
Xam posted audio he recorded from the DNR officers’ response on Facebook. In the clip, the officers can be heard identifying themselves as Kurt Kinser and Tim Beaver.
An officer says the stories from both sides are “conflicting,” and that they can’t arrest people for trying to protect their private property.
Xam insists that the incident occurred on public property. He and Booker can be heard arguing with the officers.
“They might kill someone tonight and you are okay with just letting them be out there?” Xam asks.
“There’s nothing to indicate that from what we saw,” an officer says. “We’ve done the investigation and talked to both sides. We talked to the prosecutor about it.”
Xam demands the officers explain the law and if people have a right to attack someone walking through their private property onto public land. Neither officer could answer the question.
Before Vauhxx was attacked, Xam said, they had a conversation about racism.
“Vauhxx said that Black people don’t go into the forest and camping because they fear for their lives,” he said. “He told his sisters he was going and they didn’t believe him.”
Mayor John Hamilton and City Clerk Nicole Bolden issued a statement expressing their outrage and grief about the situation. They also referenced other recent racist incidents in the Bloomington community.
“Each of us must do our part to assure justice for those harmed in this weekend’s incidents, and do everything we can to forge inclusion and equity in Bloomington, and beyond,” it reads.