The order comes in a case started by three survivors of the attack, all now over 100, and who filed suit in 2020 with the hopes of seeing what their lawyer called « justice in their lives. »
Tulsa Mayor GT Bynum said in a statement that the city has not yet received the full court order. “The city remains committed to finding the graves of victims of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre, promoting economic investment in the Greenwood District, educating future generations about the worst event in our community’s history, and building a city where every person have an equal opportunity for a great life,” he said.
A lawyer for the survivors – Lessie Benningfield Randle, Viola Fletcher and Hughes Van Ellis – did not say on Sunday whether they intend to appeal. But a group advocating for the lawsuit has suggested they will likely contest Wall’s decision.
“Judge Wall has effectively sentenced the three survivors of the Tulsa Race Massacre to languish — truthfully to death — on the Oklahoma appellate registry,” the group, Justice for Greenwood, said in a statement. « There is no semblance of justice or access to justice here. »
Wall, a Tulsa County District Court judge, wrote in a brief order that he was dismissing the case based on arguments from the city, the regional chamber of commerce and other state and local government agencies. Last year she ruled against the defendants’ motions to be dismissed and allowed the case to proceed.
Local judicial elections in Oklahoma are technically nonpartisan, but Wall has described herself as a « constitutional conservative » in previous election polls.
The lawsuit was brought under Oklahoma’s public nuisance law, saying the actions of the white mob that killed hundreds of black residents and destroyed what had been the nation’s most prosperous black business district continue to affect the city today .
He argued that 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 razing it. In addition to those killed, thousands more were left homeless and living in a hastily built internment camp.
The city and the insurance companies never compensated the victims for their losses, and the massacre ultimately led to racial and economic disparities that still exist today, the lawsuit argued. He sought, among other things, 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 compensation fund for the victims.
A Chamber of Commerce lawyer had previously said the massacre was horrific, but the nuisance it caused was not ongoing.
Fletcher, who is 109 and the oldest living survivor, released a memoir last week about the life she lived in the shadow of the massacre. It will become widely available for purchase in August.
In 2019, the Oklahoma Attorney General used the public nuisance law to force opioid drug maker Johnson & Johnson to pay the state $465 million in damages. The Oklahoma Supreme Court overturned that decision two years later.