Posted on August 4, 2021

A Black Activist Says Two White Men Jumped Him Last Summer. Now, He’s Charged with Assaulting His Attackers.

Jaclyn Peiser, Washington Post, August 3, 2021

More than a year has passed since Vauhxx Booker said a group of White men pinned him to a tree and threatened to “get a noose.” On Monday, he stood outside an Indiana courthouse to address what his lawyers called a startling development — Booker, who is Black, is now facing his own charges in connection to the incident.

“There’s nothing more American than charging a Black man in his own attempted lynching,” Booker said at the news conference.

The incident, which occurred on July 4, 2020, near Bloomington, Ind., resulted in two of the men receiving felony charges. On Friday, Sonia Leerkamp, the special prosecutor for Monroe County, filed charges of felony assault and misdemeanor trespassing against Booker for the same incident.


Booker said he and his attorneys believe Leerkamp is retaliating over his refusal to engage in a mediated resolution with the two men arrested in his assault. Booker said Monday he declined to do so because he would have to sign a confidentiality agreement and publicly forgive the men, whose charges would be dropped.

“For the entire year, the special prosecutor has pressured and bullied me at every turn that if I didn’t engage with the restorative justice, if I didn’t let charges be dismissed, that she would charge me,” Booker said. “It wasn’t out of any new evidence or any shocking revelations. It was simply that, once again, a Black person telling a White person no — and they were going to punish me.”


Booker, a local activist and a member of the Monroe County Human Rights Commission, which advocates for residents’ civil rights, made national headlines last summer after his Facebook post and videos recounting the July 4 incident went viral.

Booker said he and a friend were making their way to Lake Monroe, a reservoir about 10 miles southeast of Bloomington, to meet up with a group to watch the lunar eclipse in a park. Along the way, they encountered a White man wearing an oversized Confederate hat, who Booker said began following them in an ATV. The man then stopped Booker and his friend and said they were walking on private property.

Booker and his friend apologized and explained that the event organizer said they had permission from the landowners to walk through the property. {snip}

{snip} As he walked away, some of the men started following them, he said, yelling obscene remarks. Then, “two of them jumped me from behind and knocked me to the ground,” Booker wrote in the post.

He claims they dragged him, pinned his body against a tree, pounded on his head and ripped out some of his hair. {snip}


During the news conference on Monday, Guy Loftman of the NAACP’s Monroe County Branch said one of the alleged attackers, Sean Purdy, later told the Indiana Department of Natural Resources that he pushed Booker, who then punched him. Although Booker disputes those claims, Loftman said Purdy’s statement proves that if Booker had punched him, he was acting in self-defense.