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Car drives into protesters at rally for the Black victim of an 'attempted lynching' in Indiana

Vauhxx Booker, of Blooming, Indiana, says he was "attacked by five white men (with confederate flags) who literally threatened to lynch me" on Saturday.
Paramedics, firefighters and law enforcement officers tend to a protester who was struck by a car following a Black Lives Matter protest in downtown Bloomington, Ind., on July 6, 2020.
Paramedics, firefighters and law enforcement officers tend to a protester who was struck by a car following a Black Lives Matter protest in downtown Bloomington, Ind., on July 6, 2020.Sam House / Indiana Daily Student

Demonstrators were hit by a car on Monday at a Black Lives Matter protest in Bloomington, Indiana, after residents had rallied over what has been described as the “attempted lynching” of a Black man in the city.

Vauhxx Booker, a member of the Monroe County Human Rights Commission, wrote a viral Facebook post on Sunday about his experience at Lake Monroe, a reservoir near Bloomington.

“On July 4th evening others and me were victims of what I would describe as a hate crime,” Booker wrote. “I was attacked by five white men (with confederate flags) who literally threatened to lynch me in front of numerous witnesses.”

A lawyer for Booker, Katharine Liell, told reporters Tuesday that the FBI is investigating the alleged attack as a hate crime. The investigation was approved by federal prosecutors, she said.

The U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of Indiana did not immediately respond to a request for comment. An FBI spokeswoman declined to comment.

Video footage of part of the incident shared by Booker shows him on all fours, pinned against a tree and surrounded by white men, as others scream for the men to let Booker go. Booker, who NBC News was unable to reach for comment, said he heard the men scream “get a noose,” as he was being attacked. He called the incident “an attempted lynching.” After beating him up, the men let him go when witnesses intervened, Booker said.

The identities of the men are unknown, and the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, which is investigating the incident, did not respond to NBC News’ request for comment.

In his Facebook post, Booker said the incident began when he and friends were walking to a location at Lake Monroe and a white man approached them on an ATV saying they were on private property. NBC News has not independently verified this account and this portion of the Saturday incident was not recorded on video.

“We relayed to him that we believed the organizers had received permission from the property owners to cross, but apologized and went on to our beautiful site,” Booker said, adding he and his friends instructed other guests to use the public beach to get their site to avoid conflict, but then discovered it had been blocked off.

“When folks tried to crossed they yelled, 'white power' at them,” he said of the group blocking the public beach.That’s when Booker says he decided to speak to the men, which is when the interaction turned violent.

Booker said he suffered a minor concussion, abrasions, and bruising. He also said the men ripped out some of his hair.

A protest held on Monday to show support for Booker after the apparent attack was disrupted by a driver.

Toward the end of the peaceful protest, a red car drove into some demonstrations, speeding through the street as a woman hung onto the hood, video obtained by NBC affiliate WTHR shows.

"The car just speeds right into her," Rodney Root, who took the video, told WTHR. "She goes up on the hood and a guy is close by. You can see it in the video shortly, a guy tries to stop it and he's holding on. I'm not sure how long he stayed on the car but the car went full speed."

Bloomington Police said in a statement both the people on the car sustained injuries.

“The 35 year-old man that had clung to the side of the vehicle suffered abrasions to his arms as a result of falling from the vehicle. The 29 year-old woman that had been on the hood was said to have been knocked unconscious and suffered a laceration to her head,” the department wrote.

Bloomington PD said the driver and the passenger in the car have not been located as investigators work to learn more about them.

But the way the city polices its Black community also came under fire over the weekend.

According to a statement on Facebook from John Hamilton, the Bloomington Mayor, and Nicole Bolden, the Bloomington City Clerk, “a sheriff’s deputy from a neighboring county questioned and detained another Black Bloomington resident walking down the Bloomington street where they live in an apparent example of racial profiling.”

In response to a request for comment on this incident, the BPD referred to the Monroe County Sheriff, who did not immediately respond by email or phone.

The mayor and the city clerk expressed their sympathy for the victims of both those incidents.

"On behalf of the City of Bloomington, we would like to express outrage and grief relating to two apparent racially motivated incidents reported in our community over the July 4 weekend," they wrote on Monday.

Before the car drove into protesters, Booker spoke at the Monday rally, decrying systemic racism in the Bloomington community and saying the incident has “shaken me to the core.”

“We need to stop being bystanders,” Booker added. “I’m here today because folks stopped being bystanders.