UPDATED 7/21, 11:05 a.m. ET: Yo Gotti and Skylar Diggins-Smith are getting involved with Vauhxx Booker’s case in Indiana. In addition to a letter pushing U.S. Attorney General William Barr to investigate the attack as a federal hate crime, the two worked with Roc Nation’s social justice arm Team Roc to get renowned attorneys Joe Tacopina and Jordan Siev on Booker’s team along with his local attorney.
A portion of Gotti and Diggins-Smith's letter reads: "Authorities all too often think of hate crimes as purely local events. The impact of hate falls most heavily on the local community, true, but especially with a notorious case such as this one, hate crime has much broader consequences. A violent, racist attack such as this, additionally, is a federal crime. Because of this, the attempted lynching of Mr. Booker is not beneath your office’s notice. The opposite is true: the nationally-reported attempted lynching of a civil rights activist demands your attention and your full efforts to guarantee that justice is done, by prosecuting the people who attacked Vauhxx Booker for their violent hate crime, and all other charges that apply. This crime fits the language of the statute precisely, as prosecution for it is “in the public interest and necessary to secure substantial justice.”
A press release notes that “Booker’s story resonated deeply with Diggins-Smith, who is a native of South Bend, Indiana. Meanwhile, Gotti wanted to continue use his voice and platform to combat the hate/discrimination that Booker faced and to advocate for social justice efforts.”
See original story below.
A video of a group of white men holding a Black man against his will has gone viral. Now, two of the white men have been charged after the alleged assault, which happened on the Fourth of July near an Indiana lake.
Yahoo News reports that Sean Purdy and Jerry Cox have been charged with several crimes in the incident that involved 36-year-old Bloomington, Indiana native Vauhxx Booker. Monroe County Prosecutor Erika Oliphant has issued warrants for both men; no charges have been filed against Booker.
Purdy has been charged with criminal confinement, battery resulting in injury, and intimidation, which are all felonies. Cox has been charged with aiding or causing criminal confinement, felony battery resulting in injury, intimidation, and two misdemeanor counts of battery.
Booker shared his record of the incident on Facebook, writing, “I don’t want to recount this, but I was almost the victim of an attempted lynching.” He continued: “On July 4th evening others and me were victims of what I would describe as a hate crime. I was attacked by five white men [with Confederate flags] who literally threatened to lynch me in front of numerous witnesses.” Booker is a member of the Monroe County Human Rights Commission.
Booker said that he was visiting the public beach on Lake Monroe with some friends when the group of white men approached them and said they were on private property, and then started following them.
Some of the men became angry, and the encounter intensified. In the video, the white men pin Booker against a tree while his friends beg them to let him go. In the footage, one man yells, “You happy about this, you nappy-headed bitch? You and your five white friends?” When Booker and his friends leave, one man shouts, “Those Black boys want to start it all.”
Purdy’s attorneys claimed that Booker started the confrontation, writing in a statement, “Mr. Booker needs to tell the truth about punching people and apologize to the people he has harmed and to all real victims of racism because he has diminished them.”
In the Facebook post, Booker says that people shouted “white power” and to “get a noose,” though that can’t be heard in the clip. The Indiana Department of Natural Resources responded to the incident but didn’t make any arrests at the time. Booker told the Indianapolis Star that a DNR law enforcement supervisor was “clearly elevating property rights above my life,” Booker said. “That’s something we’re seeing on a macro level throughout society where Black lives aren’t as important as property.”
Booker wrote he owes his life to the strangers who stopped to help him and captured the confrontation, adding that he “saw the face of George Floyd in my mind. … I didn’t want to be a hashtag.”
The FBI has launched an investigation into the incident as a possible hate crime, with Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb saying it was “beyond disturbing.”
Bloomington Mayor Greg Hamilton, who has a personal relationship with Booker, said that it’s time for the city to take action. “It’s incredibly important that we as a country, and then me and my community, that we make clear that [hate] has no place in our community, and we want to root it out,” he told Yahoo News.