Ms. Viola Fletcher was 7 years when the 1921 Race Massacre took place on those terror filled days of May 31 and June 1 – now one hundred plus years ago.
She spoke to Congress this past May, and that she can still remember black men being shot, black bodies lying in the streets, that she still hears the screams and has lived the massacre everyday. She noted the country may forget this violence but she cannot.
Attorney Damario Solomon-Simmons filed the lawsuit under the Oklahoma Public Nuisance law, a unique angle and argues that nuisance is still on-going because of unlawful conduct or omission of duty by state security apparatuses, insurance companies that failed to honor their obligations and pay Black businesses the damages incurred after the murderous rampage that obliterated the thriving Black neighborhood of Greenwood.
Mr. Solomon-Simmsons is representing Ms. Fletcher — along with the two other survivors, one at 106 years and another just about 101 of age.
The terror that visited them on the two day massacre — sat in a courtroom in Oklahoma and listened to arguments that may well determine if there will ever be the justice she has sought.
Oklahoma’s Public Nuisance law does not have a statue of limitation. Mr. Solomon-Simmsons argues that the continuing harm goes on to this very day – generational poverty, loss of property and the reason why the city of Tulsa is so divided by race, hence the grounds for the lawsuit.
The lawsuit is seeking an abatement, i.e. to fix the overall problems brought forth by the sheer destruction of lives and property. Potential avenues of redemption may include – scholarships, counseling, accounting for the stolen generational wealth, restore what was lost which has resulted to a 15 year gap of black life expectancy compared to that of their white counterparts who live in the south part of the city.
The defendants, i.e. the city of Tulsa and the regional chamber of commerce are against the lawsuit and seek its dismissal.
The lawsuit has a steep climb based on previous cases dismissed on grounds of the statue of limitation. A case on the same was brought forth in 2003 and was summarily dismissed, but not under the current case that seeks to proceed under the Public Nuisance law.
Oklahoma District Court Judge Caroline Wall is considering the merits of the case and will soon make a decision if it proceeds or dismissed.
Previous post on the centennial anniversary of the massacre: