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Protest continued Friday despite circulating threats, ended peacefully



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Vauhxx Booker speaks July 10 in Peoples Park. ”They targeted me, they attacked me, because they thought they could get away with it,” he said as he spoke on the attack that occurred July 4 near Monroe Lake. Sam House

Protests continued Friday to demand justice for Vauhxx Booker, a Monroe County human rights commissioner who was assaulted by men with confederate flags a week ago at Lake Monroe. Protesters gathered at 6 p.m. at Peoples Park, following a press conference with Katharine Liell, Booker’s attorney.  

Liell said she and Booker want the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Indiana to convene a grand jury to examine Booker’s assault. This will allow citizens to indict and take part in the legal process, she said.

Booker said the weekend attack has been prolonged by the legal system, which is why he and Liell are calling for a grand jury.

“Justice can be delayed, but it can’t be denied,” Booker said. 

The protesters mostly filled the park and left around 8 p.m. when the protest ended peacefully. Enough is Enough, a local Black activist group, Black Lives Matter Bloomington and city and state officials attended, including Indiana State Senate candidate Shelli Yoder and Bloomington city clerk Nicole Bolden. The Bloomington chapter of the Young Democratic Socialists of America said on Facebook that the protest was put together by a coalition of many organizations, who intentionally chose to avoid a single, formal leadership presence.

Screenshots of a Facebook post show a user threatening to impersonate police and “snatch up” people at Friday’s protest written in the days before the protest. Another Facebook user posted the screenshots to his page, warning that members of a militia planned on disguising themselves as police to kidnap and kill in Bloomington. About 500 people shared the post.

Sgt. Dana Cole said the Bloomington Police Department is still investigating the people who made threats as of 5 p.m. Friday. 

Ross Broad, one of the people making threats, claimed to be part of the Yellow Jacket Militia of Harrison County, Indiana, but the militia did not claim him or his brother, Caleb Broad, as members in a July 1 Facebook post.

Militias have been threatening to harm protesters in online posts since protests began earlier this summer over the killing of George Floyd, as reported by the Washington Post. The threats are especially fierce in small, rural towns such as Omak, Washington, where a protest in early June drew 400 protesters at a local park and also an armed militia, watching at ground level and from nearby rooftops in early June. While some armed residents have threatened to attack, some say their goal is to protect protesters

The protest organizers did not invite anyone to bring guns and did not invite the police at all in a stand against all forms of policing and systemic racism in a Facebook post. They were also aware of online threats and said they believed it to be an intimidation tactic.

Amrita Chakrabarti Myers, IU associate professor of history and gender studies, said the U.S. has a legal system and has never had a justice system.

“What happened to Mr. Booker is part of a larger systemic issue that has been plaguing our entire nation for centuries,” she said. 

Other speakers included Yoder, Bolden and Enough is Enough organizers Selena Drake and Patrick Ford. Some read statements they had written before the protest, and one speaker read a poem. 

Despite threats circulating social media, the protest ended peacefully. Booker called out Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb for not reaching out to him this past week. 

“The governor hasn’t said anything to me,” Booker said. “It’s clear who folks care about and who folks don’t care about. If I had donated to his campaign, I would’ve heard from him three days ago.”

Sam House contributed to this report.

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