Lawsuit For Tulsa Race Massacre Reparations Can Proceed, Judge Rules

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A lawsuit seeking reparations for the survivors and descendants of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre can move forward, an Oklahoma judge ruled Monday (May 2).

The civil lawsuit was filed in 2020 by civil rights attorney Damario Solomon-Simmons who cited Oklahoma's public nuisance law. Solomon-Simmons says a quick turnaround for the final ruling of the lawsuit is critical for Massacre's three living survivors, Mother Viola Fletcher, 107, Lessie Benningfield Randle, 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. "We want to ask [the judge] to move forward and move forward as soon as possible."

Tulsa County District Court Judge Caroline Wall's ruling this week provided some hope that these survivors and their descendants may see some type of justice after a white mob burned Tulsa's thriving Black business Greenwood District to the ground, killing hundreds and injuring hundreds more and leaving thousands without homes.

The resulting economic destruction stemming from the violent attack is what Solomon-Simmons is arguing constitutes a public nuisance under the law.

Chamber of Commerce Attorney John Tucker disagrees and argued that the state law doesn't apply because the nuisance isn't ongoing.

"What happened in 1921 was a really bad deal and those people did not get a fair shake ... but that was 100 years ago," Tucker said, according to a report by The Hill.

Mother Fletcher, joined by Van Ellis and Benningfield Randle testified before Congress last year as the city of Tulsa marked 100 years since the devastating racially-motivated massacre. They each recalled the multiple days of violence and aftermath in their testimonies.

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