An Oklahoma judge said six descendants of victims of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre cannot sue for reparations but the three known survivors of the attack can proceed with their lawsuit, reports ABC News.
On Tuesday, District Judge Caroline signed the order that allows Wall Lessie Benningfield “Mother” Randle, 106, Viola “Mother” Fletcher, 107, and Hughes Van Ellis, Sr., 101, “to continue seeking reparations under state nuisance laws.”
“The court finds Plaintiffs Randle, Fletcher and Van Ellis Sr. meet this statutory criterion,” Wall wrote. ”A pleading must not be dismissed for failure to state a legally cognizable claim unless the allegations indicate beyond any doubt that the litigant can prove no set of facts which would entitle him to relief.”
“The court cannot find beyond any doubt that Plaintiffs Randle, Fletcher, and Van Ellis Sr. can prove no set of facts which would entitle Plaintiffs to relief on their public nuisance claims” she added.
The plaintiffs had argued that the damage inflicted during the massacre was a “public nuisance” from the start and “one of the worst acts of domestic terrorism in United States history since slavery.”
Part of the rejected plaintiffs’ argument was that the damage in 1921 caused ongoing damages and economic disparities that are still present in Tulsa.
Along with the six descendants, Wall dismissed as plaintiffs the Historic Vernon AME Church Inc., which did not exist in 1921, and The Tulsa African Ancestral Society, which represents other descendants. She also dismissed as defendants the Tulsa Development Authority and the Tulsa Metropolitan Area Planning Commission because they did not exist in 1921 as well.
The defendants that remain in the suit are the city of Tulsa, Tulsa Regional Chamber, Tulsa County commissioners, the Tulsa County sheriff, and the Oklahoma Military Department remain as defendants.
“Bottom line is that survivors are in, we have the opportunity to prove the massacre itself ... constitutes a nuisance,” said Damario Solomon-Simmons, an attorney for the survivors who filed the lawsuit in 2020.
Solomon-Simmons said the massacre “deprived Black people in Tulsa of security, economic power, and vibrant community.”
“We look forward to proving our case around the massacre’s ongoing catastrophic effects and demonstrating the actions that defendants must take to repair and rebuild the Greenwood community during our clients’ lifetimes,” he added.
Michael Swartz, another lawyer for the survivors, said the lawsuit will help to give a truthful historical perspective on the massacre.
“For the first time in over 100 years, the last three living survivors of the Tulsa Race Massacre will finally have an opportunity to hold accountable the institutions that instigated and facilitated one of the worst acts of domestic terrorism in this country’s history,” Swartz said.