The survivors of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre who are suing for restitution and have appealed a judge’s decision to dismiss their case last month have been told by Oklahoma that they would not be allowed to discuss a settlement with them.
The litigation division of the state attorney general’s office responded on Monday. The Oklahoma Supreme Court has agreed to take the survivors’ appeal under consideration.
Only three confirmed survivors of the attack are still alive, and they are all well past their 100th birthday. In their lawsuit against the city, the state, and other parties, Lessie Benningfield Randle, Viola Fletcher, and Hughes Van Ellis demanded compensation for the white mob’s devastation of the once-vibrant Black neighbourhood known as Greenwood. The trial court judge last year dismissed from the case a number of other original plaintiffs who are descendants of survivors.
“It’s no surprise that the state, which took part in a lawless massacre of American citizens, has refused to settle,” their attorney, Damario Solomon-Simmons, said in a statement to The Associated Press.
“The survivors of the Tulsa Race Massacre are heroes, and Oklahoma has had 102 years to do right by them,” their lawyer added. “The state’s efforts to gaslight the living survivors, whitewash history, and move the goalposts for everyone seeking justice in Oklahoma puts all of us in danger, and that is why we need the Oklahoma Supreme Court to apply the rule of law.”
According to the lawsuit, the activities of the white mob that killed hundreds of Black residents and devastated what had once been the nation’s most wealthy Black commercial area continue to have an impact on the Black population in the city. The lawsuit was filed under Oklahoma’s public nuisance legislation. It asserts that the massacre was the cause of the lengthy history of racial hostility and division in Tulsa.
However, the state claims that District Court Judge Caroline Wall correctly rejected that argument. Assistant Attorney General Kevin McClure stated in the state’s answer to the appeal that the judge correctly concluded that the plaintiffs had failed to specify a clearly recognisable claim for relief.
“All their allegations are premised on conflicting historical facts from over 100 years ago, wherein they have failed to properly allege how the Oklahoma Military Department created (or continues to be responsible for) an ongoing ‘public nuisance,’ McClure wrote.
According to McClure, the state’s National Guard was simply called into action to put an end to the disruption and left Tulsa as its task was completed. According to the complaint filed by the survivors, National Guard personnel took part in the massacre by gathering up African Americans in a methodical manner and “going so far as to kill those who would not leave their homes.”
The state’s reaction, according to Solomon-Simmons, refutes the necessity for restorative justice for Black victims.
“We have people that suffered the harm that are still living, and we had the perpetrators, the city, the state, the county chamber, they are still here also,” he said. “Yes, the bombings have stopped. The shooting has stopped. The burning has stopped. But the buildings that were destroyed, they were never rebuilt.”
Only the Oklahoma Military Department is represented by the attorney general’s office. Tulsa officials have refrained from speaking about the appeal due to pending litigation. Despite the massacre’s terror, the disruption it produced, according to a Tulsa Chamber of Commerce lawyer, was not continuous.
The drugmaker Johnson & Johnson was ordered to pay the state $465 million in damages for the opioid crisis in 2019 by the attorney general of Oklahoma, who did this by invoking the public nuisance law. Two years later, the Oklahoma Supreme Court overturned that judgement.