Known as the country’s deadliest act of racial violence, the Tulsa Race Massacre left a negative impact on Lessie Benningfield Randle, 108, Viola Fletcher, 109, and her brother, Hughes Van Ellis, 102. The trio has been in a years-long legal battle against the City of Tulsa and other officials over opportunities taken from them when the city’s Greenwood neighborhood – aka Black Wall Street– was burned to the ground by a violent White mob in 1921, CNN reported.
In their lawsuit, the plaintiffs argued that damage inflicted during the massacre was a “public nuisance” and sought relief to “recover for unjust enrichment” others gained from the “exploitation of the massacre.”
Judge Wall’s ruling was another unexpected “hurtful, difficult blow,” attorney Damario Solomon-Simmons said during a Monday news conference.
“We were forced to plead this case beyond what is required under Oklahoma standards, which is certainly a familiar circumstance when Black Americans ask the American legal system to work for them. And now, Judge Wall has condemned us to languish on Oklahoma’s appellate docket,” the three survivors said in a statement read by attorney Damario Solomon-Simmons during the news conference.
“But we will not go quietly. We will continue to fight until our last breaths.”
“Like so many Black Americans, we carry the weight of intergenerational racial trauma day in and day out,” the statement added. “The dismissal of this case is just one more example of how America’s – and specifically Tulsa’s – legacy of racial harm and racial distress is disproportionally and unjustly borne by Black communities.”
“We will not rest until there’s justice for Greenwood,” Solomon-Simmons said, adding that his clients have “waited 102 years trying to get justice and reparations for themselves, their families, and our community here in Tulsa. And for me to get the phone call … I could not believe it. We were completely blown away.”
Last year, Judge Wall ruled that the lawsuit could move forward, so it was surprising to learn that she dismissed it. Now, the plaintiffs hope to get some clarity behind her decision when her written ruling becomes available.
“We will be moving forward with an appeal on this case to the Oklahoma Supreme Court,” the attorney continued. They are also requesting that the federal government investigates the massacre.
Solomon-Simmons told CNN the judge’s decision is “completely against the law.”
“We think the law is very clear. No one disputes that the massacre happened. No one disputes that my clients suffered a great loss. No one disputes that their property was burned down. They’re simply saying, ‘we don’t care,'” Solomon-Simmons said.