A judge in Oklahoma determined on Monday that a case seeking reparations for survivors and descendants of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre can proceed.
Judge Caroline Wall of Tulsa County Sector Court gave new hope for some measure of justice in the racist rampage that killed hundreds of Black individuals and ruined what had been the nation’s most profitable Black commercial district.
The city, the Tulsa Regional Chamber of Commerce, and other local and state institutions filed a request to dismiss the complaint, but Wall denied it. Damario Solomon-Simmons, a civil rights attorney, filed the complaint in 2020 under the state’s public nuisance law. It demands unspecified punitive penalties as well as other actions.
Solomon-Simmons filed the lawsuit under Oklahoma’s public nuisance law, claiming that the white mob’s actions, resulted in the deaths of hundreds of Black people and the destruction of what had been the country’s most prosperous Black business district, continue to have an impact on the city today. The lawsuit also seeks restitution for the massacre’s victims’ descendants.
According to Eric Miller, a Loyola Marymount University law professor who is assisting the plaintiffs, “in public nuisance cases, it is apparent either criminal activities or destruction of personal property” constitute a nuisance. According to Miller, the massacre’s economic and racial discrepancies persist to this day.
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An enraged white mob came on a 35-block area in Tulsa in 1921, killing people, plundering, and torching businesses and residences. Hundreds of Black people were killed in Tulsa’s Greenwood District. Thousands more were displaced and forced to live in a hurriedly built detention camp.
According to the lawsuit, the city and insurance companies never compensated the plaintiffs for their losses, and the massacre resulted in racial and economic imbalances that persist today. According to the lawsuit, municipal and county leaders aggressively hindered the community’s efforts to recover in the years following the killing, neglecting Greenwood and the mostly Black north Tulsa community in favour of overwhelmingly white portions of Tulsa.