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Indiana officials investigate ‘attempted lynching’

Authorities in the US state of Indiana are investigating allegations that a group of white men attacked and attempted to “lynch” a black man at a 4 July weekend gathering.

Viral video of the incident shared by Vauhxx Booker shows a man on all fours, held down by a white man as onlookers shout for him to be released.

In an accompanying post, Mr Booker wrote that he was pinned to a tree and beaten near Lake Monroe.

He called 911 but no arrests were made.

On Monday, hundreds gathered outside Monroe County Courthouse in Bloomington to demand arrests be made in Mr Booker’s case. As the peaceful protest was drawing to a close, a speeding vehicle struck at least one person. Organisers of the protest told the BBC’s US partner CBS News that a woman was taken to hospital, and her condition is unknown.

According to Mr Booker, a local civil rights activist and member of the Monroe County Human Rights Commission, he and his friends had gathered to watch the lunar eclipse at Lake Monroe when they encountered a man donning a hat with a Confederate flag print who told them they were on private property.

Later on, when Mr Booker and his friends approached the man and his group to “smooth things over,” the interaction “quickly became aggressive”, he wrote. “I was almost the victim of an attempted lynching”, he said, adding that the men threatened to “get a noose”.

Two of the men allegedly jumped Mr Booker from behind and knocked him to the ground before three others joined.

“The five were able to easily overwhelm me and got me to the ground and dragged me pinning my body against a tree as they began pounding on my head and ripped off some of my hair,” he wrote.

While bystanders shouted for the assailants to release him, Mr Booker said the men said they would “break his arms” before saying “get a noose”. These alleged comments were not captured in the posted video footage.

According to Mr Booker, these bystanders were able to get the attackers off of him, though they continued to shout racial slurs. He suffered a concussion as a result of the attack, he wrote.

Mr Booker said he called 911, but was transferred to the Indiana Department of Natural Resources. Agents eventually reported to the park but made no arrests.

In a statement, the Department of Natural Resources confirmed it received a call regarding a battery “on private property adjacent to Monroe Reservoir property”.

The department’s law enforcement division is now working with the Monroe County Prosecutor’s office “to ensure a lawful resolution,” the statement said. “This matter remains under investigation and no further information will be released at this time.”

The prosecutor’s office did not immediately return a request for comment.

In a statement, Bloomington Mayor John Hamilton condemned the incident, in which he said Mr Booker was “physically assaulted and denounced and threatened with racial epithets”. The mayor said he was “reaching out” to the law enforcement and the Monroe County Prosecutor regarding the encounter, although the city does not have jurisdiction over the investigation.

On Tuesday, former Democratic presidential candidate and Indiana mayor Pete Buttigieg weighed in on Twitter,describing the “violent show of racism” as “sickening”.

“Something is deeply wrong in Indiana,” he wrote.

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