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Oklahoma Judge Dismisses Lawsuit Demanding Reparations for Tulsa Race Massacre Survivors

— July 13, 2023

An attorney for the three survivors–all over 100 years old–has said that he plans to file an appeal to the Oklahoma Supreme Court.

An Oklahoma judge has dismissed a lawsuit filed by three survivors of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre, who had been seeking reparations for physical injuries and property damage.

According to The Associated Press, Judge Carolina Wall dismissed the claim with prejudice on Friday.

Each of the three plaintiffs—all over 100 years old—had filed the lawsuit with the hope of seeing “justice in their lifetime[s].”

Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum has since released a statement, saying that the city has yet to receive the full court order but is committed to finding the graves of victims.

“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.

An attorney for the plaintiffs did not say whether they plan to appeal the ruling.

However, an organization supporting the lawsuit said that they intend to challenge Wall’s decision.

A gavel. Image via Wikimedia Commons via Flickr/user: Brian Turner. (CCA-BY-2.0).

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

Wall, adds The Associated Press, wrote in her order that she was dismissed the case based on argument provided by the City of Tulsa, the local chamber of commerce, and several government agencies.

However, Wall had ruled against the defendants’ motions to dismiss in the past, and let the case continue unhindered for more than a year before issuing her final decision.

Damario Solomon-Simmons, lead attorney for the Tulsa Race Massacre plaintiffs, said that he is planning to escalate the case to the state Supreme Court.

“We know we have a conservative Supreme Court, but we believe the law and the facts are so clear, that any lawyer [and] any judge that’s actually looking into the documents will say, ‘Hey, you can let these people into court,’” Solomon-Simmons said.

Solomon-Simmons said that the three original plaintiffs will be included in any future appeal.

The original lawsuit, notes ABC News, claimed that Tulsa neglected victimized Black communities by redirecting resources to predominately White neighborhoods.

“From the period immediately after the Massacre until the present day, Defendants actively and unreasonably, unwarrantedly, and/or unlawfully thwarted the community’s efforts to rebuild, neglecting Greenwood and predominately Black, North Tulsa communities,” the amended lawsuit alleges. “Instead, Defendants redirected public resources, which should have been used to abate the nuisance surrounding Greenwood, to benefit the overwhelmingly white parts of Tulsa.”

Attorneys for the plaintiffs also say that survivors, and their descendants, were denied insurance benefits for loss of property and life.

“Plaintiffs and thousands of Black Greenwood and North Tulsa residents and their descendants have experienced, and continue to experience, insecurity in their lives and property, and their sense of comfort, health, and safety has been destroyed,” the lawsuit says.

Solomon-Simmons has since suggested that Wall and others have held the Tulsa Race Massacre plaintiffs to a far higher standard than would be required of other claimants.

“After taking our case under advisement for the better part of two years and originally permitting the case to proceed just a year ago, Judge Wall strikingly backpedaled on her prior order, permitting us, the three living survivors of the massacre, to proceed with our public nuisance litigation, seeking justice for the continuing harms of a massacre,” Solomon-Simmons said in a statement. “Without a doubt, Judge Wall failed to review this case within the scope of well-established Black letter Oklahoma law. We were forced to plead this case beyond what is required by under Oklahoma standards, which is sadly a familiar circumstance when Black Americans ask the American legal system to work for them.”


Judge dismisses lawsuit seeking reparations for the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre

Lawsuit seeking reparations for Tulsa Race Massacre is dismissed

Tulsa Race Massacre survivors and attorneys respond to dismissal of lawsuit

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