Attorneys for 3 last-known survivors of 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre appeal dismissed reparations case

FILE - Damario Solomon-Simmons speaks at a news conference in Tulsa, Okla., on June 2, 2021. Attorneys seeking reparations for three living survivors of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre have filed an appeal in the case with the Oklahoma Supreme Court. The appeal was filed Friday, Aug. 4, 2023, after a district court judge in Tulsa dismissed the case last month. Solomon-Simmons says he wants the state's high court to send the case back to district court so that it can proceed. (Stephen Pingry/Tulsa World via AP)
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By Sean Murphy

Associated Press

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Attorneys seeking reparations for three living survivors of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre filed an appeal in the case with the Oklahoma Supreme Court and said a district court judge erred in dismissing the case last month.

The appeal was filed Friday on behalf of the last known living survivors of the attack, all of whom are now over 100 years old. They are seeking reparations from the city and other defendants for the destruction of the once-thriving Black district known as Greenwood.

“For 102 years… they’ve been waiting,” said Damario Solomon-Simmons, an attorney for the three, during a press conference Monday on the steps of the Oklahoma Supreme Court building. “They’ve been waiting, just like every other victim and survivor of the massacre, for just an opportunity to have their day in court.”

Solomon-Simmons, who brought the lawsuit under Oklahoma’s public nuisance law, said he wants the high court to return the case to district court for discovery and for a judge to decide the case on its merits.

District Court Judge Caroline Wall last month dismissed the case with prejudice, dashing an effort to obtain some measure of legal justice by survivors of the deadly racist rampage. Defendants in the case include the City of Tulsa, the Tulsa Regional Chamber, the Board of County Commissioners, the Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office and the Oklahoma Military Department.

A spokesperson for the City of Tulsa, Michelle Brooks, declined to comment, citing the pending litigation.

A Chamber of Commerce attorney previously said the massacre was horrible, but the nuisance it caused was not ongoing.

The lawsuit contends Tulsa’s long history of racial division and tension stemmed from the massacre, during which an angry white mob descended on a 35-block area, looting, killing and burning it to the ground. Beyond those killed, thousands more were left homeless and living in a hastily constructed internment camp.

The city and insurance companies never compensated victims for their losses, and the massacre ultimately resulted in racial and economic disparities that still exist today, the lawsuit argued. It seeks a detailed accounting of the property and wealth lost or stolen in the massacre, the construction of a hospital in north Tulsa and the creation of a victims compensation fund, among other things.