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Tulsa Race Massacre lawsuit faces third motion to dismiss

by Deon Osborne, Associate Editor
Published: Last Updated on
Tulsa Race Massacre lawsuit faces third motion to dismiss
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The attorneys representing three survivors of the Tulsa Race Massacre must defend their public nuisance lawsuit once again before going to trial. The Justice for Greenwood attorneys must respond to several motions to dismiss the case, a judge at the Tulsa County Courthouse ruled on Tuesday.

Months after successfully defeating previous attempts to dismiss the historic lawsuit, attorney Damario Solomon-Simmons and his team will have 30 days to respond to four new motions to dismiss the lawsuit  The judge also ruled, however, that nothing prevents the Justice for Greenwood team from moving forward with depositions. 

 

“We’re dealing with the same entities that bombed Greenwood 100+ years ago, that lied about bombing Greenwood for 80+ years and will allow people to die instead of just saying we’re in the wrong, we want to make this right,” attorney Damario Solomon-Simmons told The Black Wall Street Times immediately after Tuesday’s hearing. 

The City of Tulsa, Tulsa County, Tulsa Regional Chamber, the Oklahoma Military Department and other entities all face accountability for their roles in the 1921 destruction of hundreds of businesses, over 1,200 homes and the killings of up to 300 Black men, women and children in the wealthiest Black business district in U.S. history.

Many in the Greenwood community worry time is running out to provide justice for survivors Lessie Benningfield “Mother” Randle (108 years old), Viola Ford “Mother” Fletcher (107 years old) and “Uncle” Hughes Van Ellis (101 years old).

“So, is it disappointing? Yes. Is it surprising? No,” Solomon-Simmons added.

Tulsa Judge allows Race Massacre lawsuit to proceed to discovery

The last three living survivors of the Tulsa Race Massacre enter Tulsa County courthouse for a hearing on Attorney Damario Solomon-Simmons’ public nuisance lawsuit on Monday, May 2, 2022. (Mike Creef / The Black Wall Street Times)

October court hearing adds more hurdles to Tulsa Race Massacre lawsuit

Some people in the tightly packed courtroom on Tuesday wore purple in support of the three last living survivors as Judge Caroline Wall listened to plaintiffs and defendants make their oral arguments.

Central to Tuesday’s scheduling conference was whether the lawsuit seeking restitution could proceed as amended.

On May 2nd, in a historic decision, Judge Wall ruled that the lawsuit was “granted in part and denied in part.” The lawsuit accuses the City of Tulsa and other entities of creating a “public nuisance” under state law through the 1921 Massacre.

The lawsuit demands the City of Tulsa and other defendants fix the public nuisance that they caused by their destruction of the Black community of Greenwood in 1921, their continuing failure to rebuild the community and their audacity in seeking to reap benefits from their violent acts. 

Building on admissions from defendants and the City of Tulsa Mayor, as well as the testimony of living survivors of the Massacre, the complaint sets forth the reality that the racial and economic disparities that exist in Tulsa’s Black community today can be traced to the 1921 race massacre.  

On August 3rd, Judge Wall denied the defendants’ efforts to entirely dismiss plaintiffs’ claim that the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre was a public nuisance under Oklahoma law. Instead, Judge Wall ruled that the lawsuit must be amended to exclude descendants and contemporary issues, such as police brutality.

Mother Fletcher closer to justice on her 108th birthday

The oldest known living survivor of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre, “mother” Viola Ford Fletcher, left, speaks with Vice President Kamala Harris. (Courtesy of: Dr. Tiffany Crutcher )

Justice for Greenwood attorneys to defend public nuisance lawsuit

Despite the setback, the ruling marked the first time a lawsuit seeking justice for the Historic Greenwood District has ever made it this close to a trial, and attorneys for the City and County of Tulsa continue to put up roadblocks.

Attorney Solomon-Simmons argued the survivors shouldn’t be penalized by “the defendants abusing the process.” He accused the defense of trying to wait out the 100-plus-year-old survivors by prolonging the case with procedural hurdles.

Meanwhile, attorneys for the City and County of Tulsa argued that they have standing to dismiss the lawsuit anytime a lawsuit is amended. At one point, the defense appeared to argue that Judge Wall didn’t understand her own previous ruling, to which the judge responded “the record speaks for itself.”

“I personally felt like it was disrespectful to the court,” attorney Solomon-Simmons said. “Myself, I wouldn’t have done that,” he added, saying both sides had already reached an agreement on the content of the lawsuit.

Ultimately, Judge Wall ruled that Solomon-Simmons must first respond to those motions to dismiss before making any rulings on whether the motions have merit.

“Tulsa tries to present itself as this progressive place that’s bringing people in, but in reality, they’ll do any trick to keep people who they know were wronged and deserve justice from getting justice,” attorney Damario Solomon-Simmons said.

Moving forward, attorneys for the three living survivors say they will begin recording depositions, starting with Hughes Van Ellis in the coming weeks.

Correction: Judge Wall has not set a new court date for Nov. 18. She gave plaintiffs 30 days to respond to the defendants’ motions to dismiss.

3 comments

Carl Olson October 18, 2022 - 5:36 pm

This lawsuit must move forward! Hiding from the past only prolongs the hurt and suffering.

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