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Black Man Speaks On Being Attacked, Threatened With A Noose In Bloomington, Ind.

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

The FBI is now investigating the reported assault of a Black man in Indiana on the Fourth of July. The man is Vauhxx Booker, a community organizer and activist in Bloomington, Ind. He described the incident in a Facebook post that has since been shared hundreds of thousands of times. Booker wrote that he and some friends were in a state park to watch the lunar eclipse when he says he was attacked by a group of white men and threatened with a noose. And there are videos of part of the encounter. They show Booker on the ground, surrounded by a group of white people shouting as others behind the camera call out, let him go. I spoke with Vauhxx Booker earlier today and asked him what was going through his mind.

VAUHXX BOOKER: There's a point when I'm on the ground, and I can feel them kicking me. And I'm struggling to breathe. Then I hear a woman in the crowd yell out, don't kill him. In that second, I realize that she's talking about me. Don't kill me. And I couldn't help but think about all the times before that we had witness videos of Black people being killed and yelling out for help and that they couldn't breathe. I saw the face of George Floyd in my mind.

And so many people have ended their lives this way, with having their own executions narrated in front of them, and I didn't want to be a hashtag. And if folks were going to hashtag me, you know, I want it to be that I'm alive. I'm here to tell this story. I want folks to know that we still have this issue of hate in the nation.

The reason why I'm here today is simply because these folks - they didn't just stop and watch and film my execution. They became involved. They became active participants, putting themselves in danger for someone they didn't know, someone that didn't look like them. And I want this to be the moment that changes how America engages.

KELLY: Let me turn you to what happened right after you say you were attacked because you were also disturbed by how authorities responded to this incident. You wrote, they declined to make any arrests. They said they would file a report. You would like to see charges filed.

BOOKER: I would like to see charges filed. There's no reason that in the year 2020 - that a group of white men should be able to accost anyone, let alone hold down a Black man, beat him and call for a noose - not a rope, a noose. And it's - that's disturbing because, to me, that was the first thing that came to their mind in the heat of the moment. And that language is so charged. So really looking back tells me where their mindset was.

KELLY: Has this changed the way you think about your community? I mean, you're so involved. We mentioned you as an activist and an organizer, and you're on the human rights commission for your county.

BOOKER: So I think we - I've had the opportunity to see the worst and the best of our community. In that second that I'm being held down and beaten by these men and these strangers are fighting off my attackers, my attackers told them that they could just leave. In fact, they said, leave the boy with us. I wasn't a man. I wasn't even human, I think. And there was a second of fear that these folks might actually just leave me and save themselves. They didn't know if these gentlemen had weapons. They didn't know what they were getting themselves into. They chose to stay and to stand with me and stand for me. And I think that in every way, my community has affirmed that they believe that Black lives matter.

KELLY: Mr. Booker, thank you very much for your time. I appreciate it.

BOOKER: I appreciate you. Thank you.

KELLY: That is Vauhxx Booker, community organizer. He is a human rights commissioner for Monroe County, Ind., talking about the events of July 4 and what he hopes will happen next. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.