Monday, May 02, 2022

Judge allows Tulsa Race Massacre reparations lawsuit to proceed

An Oklahoma judge ruled Monday that a lawsuit can proceed that seeks reparations for survivors and descendants of victims of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre.

Tulsa County District Court Judge Caroline Wall’s ruling brought new hope for some measure of justice over the racist rampage in which an angry white mob killed hundreds of Black residents and destroyed what had been the nation’s most prosperous Black business district.

Civil rights attorney Damario Solomon-Simmons filed the lawsuit in 2020 under the state’s public nuisance law. The lawsuit seeks unspecified punitive damages and calls for creation of a hospital in north Tulsa, in addition to mental health and education programs and a Tulsa Massacre Victims Compensation Fund.

Solomon-Simmons said a quick decision is critical for living survivors Lessie Benningfield Randle, 107, Viola Fletcher, 107, and Hugh Van Ellis, 101.

“We believe this is the last opportunity for these survivors to have their day in court,” Solomon-Simmons said, citing their ages. “We want to ask (the judge) to move forward and move forward as soon as possible.”

The city and insurance companies never compensated victims for their losses, and the massacre ultimately resulted in racial and economic disparities that still exist today, the lawsuit claims. In the years following the massacre, according to the lawsuit, city and county officials actively thwarted the community’s effort to rebuild and neglected the Greenwood and predominantly Black north Tulsa community in favor of overwhelmingly white parts of Tulsa.

Defendants in the lawsuit include, the Tulsa Chamber of Commerce, the Tulsa County Board of County Commissioners, Tulsa Metropolitan Area Planning Commission, Tulsa County Sheriff and the Oklahoma Military Department.

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