Oklahoma judge dismisses Tulsa race massacre reparations case filed by last known survivors

Oklahoma judge dismisses Tulsa race massacre reparations case filed by last known survivors



This is what happened during that 18 hour period, 18 hours. That’s all it took. The earth had not even fully turned on its axis before this prominent part of black history here in America Was destroyed 18 hours and people’s livelihoods just completely uprooted like that. I imagine Just in those 18 hours just chaos on the ground. I don’t know if you can kind of paint a picture in terms of what it was like for people Black people living there. I mean was it just a constant state of fear. Following the red summer of 1919, there needed to be an igniter or an event tossed on the Embers and that trigger event happened on May 30, It was an incident that involved two teenagers. This was Dick Rowland who was a shoeshine boy. I didn’t think he was 19 years old and there was a Sarah page who I believe was 17 years old, a divorce site. She, they were in an elevator in a downtown building and then he’s going into the one place, the Drexel building where he can he can go to the restroom. She opens it, he gets in appears just stumbled and the walkway between between the outside of the elevator and getting on, stumbles and grabs her hand. She screams, maybe maybe hit him and in response to your on me or whatever. And someone hears this in the Rosenbergs building. So they hear this and um this is reported as an attack. And so this creates the narrative going through the community that a black man has attacked a white woman, uh Greenberg’s employee called the police and she said actually I’ve been assaulted the local newspaper here, the Tulsa tribune running this article claiming Roland had assaulted the 17 year old white elevator girl, paige had refused to press charges. But the article read like a call to action with the headlines saying quote Nab negro for attacking girl in an elevator. But many survivors remember a second article in the tribune that day. The tribune had come out and said told about the incident of Dick Rowland and the shoeshine boy and the elevator of the direction building and they said look, it looks as if there will be a lynch tonight. Notes were put on people’s houses all throughout north Tulsa, It’s around the counties that sit in. You’d be out of town by May 30, what else today? No copies of the second article headline exists anymore. In fact, all microfilm copies of the Tulsa Tribune from that day have been purged, adding to that conspiracy of silence and no matter what the headline said, it inflamed a large crowd at the courthouse were rolling was the white community comes in big numbers when he’s arrested because of this. And the black community comes and basically there’s a a back and forth between the communities of go home. It’ll be we’ll take care of this. And then of course this concern that maybe this will not be taken care of in the right way, and there were lynchings that had occurred, not just for black people, but for whites, for lawbreaking. And so the black community is concerned and they’re wanting to watch out for Dick Rowland, not necessarily because they loved Dick Rowland, but because they did not want to see another black person who was lynched for something that he did not do. And and those who did know him said this was not some kind of character that he would have. The two groups would meet in mayhem, Survivor robert Fairchild describes being confronted by the white mob, who said, what are you doing with that crystal? He said, I’m going to use it if I need it, I need to. And he said, no, you give it to me. And he tried to take it from this. A fellow direct and when they in discovering they started shooting with one other newspapers claimed only black people were armed, but the only person at the time to be wounded by gunfire was a black man. That man shot in the abdomen writhed in pain while a white mob blocked medics from taking him to a hospital. Onlookers would watch as that man died in the street less than 100 ft away, the body of another black man was found lying in the street. That story told by Ed Miller who was just arriving for work when the massacre began right around the corner of the side doors back behind me. He’s trying to get into, we’re both trying to make the same door and no luck hand. I said, I think I’ll go ahead, try that for the alley. By that time, some fella cruising around the corner and pulled a gun on his down there and I said, hey, I’m white and I knew he was shooting at the luck man. I said, give me a chance to get around the alley. So he said, make it snappy. So I did. By that time the black boy, he decided he crossed over into the other alley. They got the middle of the street. Brothers fella shot him, shot right on the streetcar track and things went from bad to worse. Within a few minutes there’s a hill here, a standpipe hill, but there was a machine gun on standpipe hill and they were firing down on men, women and Children wholesale murder. In the midst of the massacre, the young girls of ST mary’s catholic school were having graduation ceremonies. All of a sudden we heard all these shops and they were shooting through the windows and shards of glass came down and we were just scared to death ruth Siegler Avery Parker would become a vital part in telling the story of what happened in Tulsa on that day. And I heard this peculiar heavy movement of cars and it wasn’t ordinarily like that and I looked out and I saw two truckloads of bodies going by. Even the black churches weren’t spared rumors swirled about ammunition being stored at Mount Zion baptist church. The report out that the church was built to start around which is the biggest fraud. So there was that church was built to worship and praise God and we’ll have a decent place to worship. And that church dedicated just a month before gutted. The entire Tulsa Police Department was called out there stationed in the line between black and white Tulsa. Their orders pretty simple. Keep the black people from coming back into white Tulsa. Meanwhile, the Oklahoma National Guard was put on standby shortly after midnight, a telegram sent to the military authorities in Oklahoma city. It read a race riot developed here, several killed unable to handle situation requests that National Guard forces be sent by special train, situation serious. As the National Guard made its way to Tulsa by train from Oklahoma city. A fierce gun battle was raging in Greenwood massacre. Survivor clearance fields was a World War veteran. He served without firing one shot and he only returned to Oklahoma to be engaged in a more vicious battle. I’m a shot at a, the bullet hit the wood and the spinners putting it into my arm. A B Block or two. We’d meet some officer, some captain. They’re the group, you know what? Let’s get those hangs up with hands held high black men, women and Children were corralled like animals into the convention hall. All this while planes were being used as weapons against them. Now it’s coming to come down green and the bullets go on and on on the floor and down the pavement, airplane came and dropped. I guess we would call them fire bums now gasoline, uh, in jugs and send them a fire. You know, many refute the claims that planes were used, but historians are certain something was being dropped from the sky. You can call it turpentine, you can call it a bomb, you can call it incendiary devices. It was something that caught the house on fire. I think it’s sort of, it’s sending us to a different direction from the reality that this is the first time that were attacking with airplanes. A community within the United States were attacking our own. And this is a documented example where racism created the circumstances where we attacked Another community that was our own. And it happened in Tulsa Oklahoma in 1921. By midday on June one Black Wall Street had been destroyed. By definition destroy means to put an end to the existence of something by damaging it or attacking it. Another definition is to quote, ruin emotionally or spiritually. This is exactly what happened in the Greenwood district of Tulsa, with the exception of one thing, the spirit of Greenwood would persevere through the atrocity that was bestowed upon them. But we’ll get to that The ramifications of this massacre would not just end with those 18 hours of horror. They would go on to haunt survivors for the next 100 years. The bodies of loved ones never recovered, those who thought they were part of the American dream, living real life nightmares.

An Oklahoma judge dismissed the reparations lawsuit filed by the last three known survivors of the Tulsa race massacre on Friday, court records show.Video above: What happened during the Tulsa Race Massacre?The three had been locked in a yearslong court battle against the City of Tulsa and other groups and officials over the opportunities taken from them when the city’s Greenwood neighborhood was burned to the ground in 1921.Contemporary reports of deaths began at 36, but historians now believe as many as 300 people may have died, according to the Tulsa Historical Society and Museum. Thousands were left homeless.Lessie Benningfield Randle, 108, Viola Fletcher, 109, and her brother, Hughes Van Ellis, 102, were among the plaintiffs, CNN previously reported.The plaintiffs had argued that the damage inflicted during the massacre was a “public nuisance” from the start and were seeking relief from that nuisance as well as to “recover for unjust enrichment” others have gained from the “exploitation of the massacre.”Cornell’s Legal Information Institute defines a public nuisance as when a person or entity “unreasonably interferes with a right that the general public shares in common.” However, the City of Tulsa requested the lawsuit be dismissed with prejudice against refiling, arguing in part that “simply being connected to a historical event does not provide a person with unlimited rights to seek compensation from any project in any way related to that historical event.””If that were the case, every person connected to any historical event could make similar unjust enrichment claims against every museum or point of remembrance,” the city claimed.Video above: How did the Tulsa Race Massacre history become hidden, forgotten?Judge Caroline Wall on Friday found that “upon hearing the arguments of counsel and considering the briefs filed by counsel for plaintiffs and counsel for defendants” the plaintiffs’ Second Amendment petition “should and shall be” dismissed with prejudice, court records show.Ike Howard, grandson of Viola Fletcher, said he was angry about the ruling,”They were blighted and once again not made whole,” Howard said.”We still remain blighted. We wish the D.O.J would investigate. … How can we get justice in the same city that created the nuisance? Is justice only for the rich?”Family attorneys are expected to address the possibility of an appeal. Family members for Randle could not immediately be contacted.Ed Mitzen, who made a private $1 million donation to the three survivors, told CNN on Saturday, “The Oklahoma State government should be ashamed of itself for not doing right by these three wonderful people, one of whom fought for this country in World War II.”Fletcher was 7 years old when a violent white mob targeted Black residents and destroyed her community’s thriving Black economic hub. “My life was taken from me,” Van Ellis previously said as he reflected on his family fleeing Greenwood when he was only a few months old.He previously told CNN his family and other survivors left their homes and opportunities behind.”I lost 102 years. I don’t want nobody else to lose that,” Van Ellis said.

An Oklahoma judge dismissed the reparations lawsuit filed by the last three known survivors of the Tulsa race massacre on Friday, court records show.

Video above: What happened during the Tulsa Race Massacre?

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The three had been locked in a yearslong court battle against the City of Tulsa and other groups and officials over the opportunities taken from them when the city’s Greenwood neighborhood was burned to the ground in 1921.

Contemporary reports of deaths began at 36, but historians now believe as many as 300 people may have died, according to the Tulsa Historical Society and Museum. Thousands were left homeless.

Lessie Benningfield Randle, 108, Viola Fletcher, 109, and her brother, Hughes Van Ellis, 102, were among the plaintiffs, CNN previously reported.

The plaintiffs had argued that the damage inflicted during the massacre was a “public nuisance” from the start and were seeking relief from that nuisance as well as to “recover for unjust enrichment” others have gained from the “exploitation of the massacre.”

Celal Gunes/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

109-year-old survivor of the Tulsa Race massacre Viola Fletcher (L) and Hughes Van Ellis (R) is 102 years old, is a survivor of the Massacre and brother of Mother Viola Fletcher speaks about their memoir in Washington D.C., United States on June 18, 2023.

Cornell’s Legal Information Institute defines a public nuisance as when a person or entity “unreasonably interferes with a right that the general public shares in common.”

However, the City of Tulsa requested the lawsuit be dismissed with prejudice against refiling, arguing in part that “simply being connected to a historical event does not provide a person with unlimited rights to seek compensation from any project in any way related to that historical event.”

“If that were the case, every person connected to any historical event could make similar unjust enrichment claims against every museum or point of remembrance,” the city claimed.

Video above: How did the Tulsa Race Massacre history become hidden, forgotten?

Judge Caroline Wall on Friday found that “upon hearing the arguments of counsel and considering the briefs filed by counsel for plaintiffs and counsel for defendants” the plaintiffs’ Second Amendment petition “should and shall be” dismissed with prejudice, court records show.

Ike Howard, grandson of Viola Fletcher, said he was angry about the ruling,

“They were blighted and once again not made whole,” Howard said.

“We still remain blighted. We wish the D.O.J would investigate. … How can we get justice in the same city that created the nuisance? Is justice only for the rich?”

Family attorneys are expected to address the possibility of an appeal. Family members for Randle could not immediately be contacted.

Ed Mitzen, who made a private $1 million donation to the three survivors, told CNN on Saturday, “The Oklahoma State government should be ashamed of itself for not doing right by these three wonderful people, one of whom fought for this country in World War II.”

Fletcher was 7 years old when a violent white mob targeted Black residents and destroyed her community’s thriving Black economic hub.

“My life was taken from me,” Van Ellis previously said as he reflected on his family fleeing Greenwood when he was only a few months old.

He previously told CNN his family and other survivors left their homes and opportunities behind.

“I lost 102 years. I don’t want nobody else to lose that,” Van Ellis said.

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