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What Happened Before The Incident At Lake Monroe? Here's What Vauhxx Booker Says

Vauhxx Booker

Vauhxx Booker speaks to the media on Friday, July 10th, 2020 (Adam Pinsker, WFIU/WTIU News)

The Fourth of July assault on Bloomington civil rights activist Vauhxx Booker has made national news, with Booker’s account of the incident being viewed over 7 million times on Facebook over the past week.

Cell phone video caught part of the attack. Prosecutors and the Department of Natural Resources are investigating the reported assault, and part of their investigation will likely include what happened before the cameras started rolling.

Booker has sat down for three separate interviews with WTIU/WFIU News over the course of the week. Here’s what he’s said:

Booker and some friends had planned to watch the lunar eclipse on the Fourth of July at nearby Lake Monroe.

Booker and a White friend were making their way through the Hoosier National Forest near the Zoom Floom property Saturday evening when, according to Booker’s lawyer Kitty Liell, they passed a group of people with multiple individuals wearing Confederate hats.

“As soon as we encountered the first gentleman in the Confederate flag hat, I felt off-put from that moment forward,” Booker said. “But it's my nature to push forward in uncomfortable situations.”

As Booker and his friend pushed forward to the beach, Booker said a seemingly intoxicated White man wearing an oversized cowboy hat with a Confederate flag logo approached them on an ATV. The man, who has not been identified by authorities, claimed they were trespassing on private property.

Booker said his time on the Monroe County Affordable Housing Commission made him familiar with the area and he knew he was on public property.

“It was easier for me to just simply apologize and to move forward, then have any type of argument about it,” he said. “We apologized. I told him that we didn't know and just kept moving.”

“Ian honestly did most of the talking with him because I felt uncomfortable,” said Booker. “There was a moment [the man in the hat] when on his ATV, he said, ‘Well, let me give you right to site,’ and was very forceful about it.”

Booker says he accepted the lift, which only took them 30 to 60 feet. Once at the beach, they informed the group organizer of what happened and told the rest of the group to take the public accessway to the beach, so as to avoid another run-in with the individuals.

“As we had people arriving, they informed us that these individuals had blocked off the beach with a boat and ATVs,” Booker said. “And as they tried to cross, this individual started yelling, ‘White power.’ I was the only Black individual there – there wasn’t one other person of color. It was an intimidating, shaking thing. But perhaps in my naivety, we thought that we could just have a heart-to-heart with some of our neighbors out there.”

So Booker and a friend decided to engage the other group again. Booker says he didn’t provoke them; he calls himself a mediator and says he’d been in situations like the one at the lake before.

“We tried to engage some of the party that seemed a little bit more levelheaded, or perhaps sober,” he said. “And that was going well, until the individual that we had the initial interaction with came around. He became aggressive, the situation started to quickly de-escalate.”

During a Wednesday interview, Booker said some people have accused him of race baiting.

“That term ‘race baiter’ itself is a conundrum to me,” Booker said. “If you’re not racist, you don’t ever have to worry about taking that bait." 

"You know, as people, as adults, we're responsible for our own actions. People don't get to provoke us into things. It doesn't matter what they said to me. I would have never attacked them. If they would have called me names, I would exercise my power to walk away."

Booker says he and the friend offered to leave.

“They pointed toward the trail that was adjacent and we started going that way as they had insisted,” Booker said. “As we were walking, they ran and caught up with us. Two individuals ambushed me. From that moment, I was in a tussle with two individuals. I got up, a third individual got me to the ground, and then two more individuals joined him.”

Booker says the five men had seized control of him and began dragging him to a tree, pinning him there with his knees against it, and called multiple times for a noose.

“There was a moment where this individual, while his friends held me down, he jumped up and came down on my neck with both of his feet,” Booker said. “I could feel his body weight against me.”

Booker says the commotion alerted people nearby, who began filming the incident and intervened. He credits them for not being bystanders and saving his life.

This is a developing story. For more background on the incident, read more here: 

DNR Investigating After Black Man Reports Racist Assault At Lake Monroe

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