Oklahoma Judge Dismisses 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre Reparations Case Filed By Survivors

Judge Caroline Wall said the lawsuit “should and shall be dismissed with prejudice" in her ruling.

A reparations lawsuit filed by the last three known survivors of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre was dismissed by an Oklahoma judge on Friday (July 7).

According to CNN, the suit was thrown out after years of litigation against the City of Tulsa after the Greenwood neighborhood also known as “Black Wall Street” was burned to the ground by a racist mob in 1921. Historians estimate that more than 300 people died in the violence.

The plaintiffs, Viola Fletcher, 109, the oldest living survivor, her brother, Hughes Van Ellis, 102, and Lessie Benningfield Randle, 108, claimed in the suit that the massacre was a “public nuisance” from the beginning and that they were in search of relief from that nuisance as well as to “recover for unjust enrichment” others have gained from the “exploitation of the massacre.

In response, the City of Tulsa requested the suit be dismissed with prejudice against refiling, arguing that a “historical event does not provide a person with unlimited rights to seek compensation from any project in any way related to that historical event.”

“If that were the case, every person connected to any historical event could make similar unjust enrichment claims against every museum or point of remembrance,” the city claimed.

The Tulsa Race Massacre 100 Years Later: Why Descendants Are Demanding Reparations For The Racial Terrorism Their Ancestors Faced

In her brief ruling, Oklahoma District Court Judge Caroline Wall said that “upon hearing the arguments of counsel and considering the briefs filed by counsel for plaintiffs and counsel for defendants” the plaintiffs’ and the plaintiff’s Second Amendment petition “should and shall be dismissed with prejudice.”

The survivor's legal team shared their disappointment with the dismissal of the lawsuit.

“Judge Wall effectively condemned the three living Tulsa Race Massacre Survivors to languish — genuinely to death — on Oklahoma’s appellate docket,” the group, Justice for Greenwood,” their statement read. “There is no semblance of justice or access to justice here.”

Although the did not say the attorneys did not say if they plan to appeal, a community group in favor of the lawsuit suggested they will most likely challenge Wall’s decision.

After the ruling, Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum issued a statement about the city’s commitment to telling the truth about the horrific acts of violence that Black people endured over a century ago.

"The city remains committed to finding the graves of 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre victims, fostering economic investment in the Greenwood District, educating future generations about the worst event in our community’s history, and building a city where every person has an equal opportunity for a great life,” Bynum said.

Ike Howard,  Viola Fletcher’s grandson, expressed his anger about the judge’s decision.

“They were blighted and once again not made whole,” Howard said.”We still remain blighted. We wish the D.O.J would investigate. … How can we get justice in the same city that created the nuisance? Is justice only for the rich?”

“The Oklahoma State government should be ashamed of itself for not doing right by these three wonderful people, one of whom fought for this country in World War II,” added Ed Mitzen who gifted the three survivors with a $1 Million donation.

Next month, Fletcher is set to release a memoir about her her eye-witness accounts of the massacre and living in the aftermath of the atrocity.

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