Oklahoma Supreme Court rejects Tulsa Race Massacre lawsuit

 June 13, 2024

Last month marked 93 years since hundreds of mostly African American victims were killed in the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre.

While three survivors of the tragedy filed a lawsuit four years ago seeking reparations, the Supreme Court of Oklahoma moved on Wednesday to dismiss their case. 

Plaintiff accused city of causing a "public nuisance"

According to the Washington Post, the suit was brought by Lessie Benningfield Randle, Viola Fletcher, and Hughes Van Ellis, who died last year. They argued that Tulsa, the state of Oklahoma, and other officials caused a "public nuisance" by failing to stop a rampaging mob.

However, Oklahoma's highest judicial body concluded that "harms flowing from the massacre" can not be redressed via the state's public nuisance law.

"We further hold that the plaintiff’s allegations do not sufficiently support a claim for unjust enrichment," the court went on to stress.

"The continuing blight alleged within the Greenwood community born out of the Massacre implicates generational-societal inequities that can only be resolved by policymakers — not the courts," the justices added.

Lawyers will ask court to reconsider

The legal team representing Fletcher and Randle told the Post that they plan to file a petition asking that the court reconsider its ruling.

"The destruction of forty-square blocks of property on the night of May 31, 1921 through murder and arson clearly meets the definition of a public nuisance under Oklahoma law," the Post quoted them as saying in a statement.

"It is not a political question simply because the suit seeks to remedy wrongful acts perpetrated by a white mob against Black people," the statement continued.

The statement went on to declare that "the court system is the very place where such harms are meant to be remedied."

City "respects the court's decision"

Meanwhile, Fox News reported that the City of Tulsa issued a statement of its own in the wake of Wednesday's decision.

"The City of Tulsa respects the court's decision and affirms the significance of the work the City continues to do in the North Tulsa and Greenwood communities," it read.

"Through economic development and policy projects, the 1921 Graves Investigation, and a renewed community vision for the Kirkpatrick Heights & Greenwood Master Plan, the City remains committed to working with residents and providing resources to support the North Tulsa and Greenwood communities," the city went on to add.

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