Three survivors of the Tulsa Race Massacre are scheduled to appear in court on Sept. 28. This time, a court will rule on a request to allow a lawsuit that may result in the awarding of damages to the three surviving survivors.
In an interview with The Grio, civil rights attorney Damario Solomon-Simmons explained the legal state of play for the three remaining Tulsa massacre survivors. A legal challenge may finally bring monetary justice to three survivors.
“It’s not just for these survivors, it’s about our ability as a people to get redress and justice for things that we know have happened,” Solomon-Simmons told theGrio. “That’s what’s at stake here. If we can’t get justice for what happened with the Tulsa massacre, what can we get justice from?”
The three Tulsa survivors are Viola Fletcher, who is 107, her brother Hughes Van Ellis, 100, and Lessie Randle, the lead plaintiff who was 6 when the massacre occurred. Randle will turn 107 on Nov. 10.
Though no similar cases have been won by victims of race massacres in the U.S., the state of Oklahoma used a similar legal strategy Solomon-Simmons will utilize. In Aug. 2019, the state of Oklahoma used a “public nuisance law” to win in court against Johnson & Johnson for those seeking decades of damage from the opioid epidemic.
“One of the interesting things about our case is that the state of Oklahoma is actually saying the exact opposite of what they stated in that case to get us out of court,” he added.
Tulsa race massacre survivors Hughes Van Ellis Sr., left, Lessie Benningfield Randle, center, and Viola Fletcher, right, wave and high-five supporters from a horse drawn carriage before a march Friday, May 28, 2021, in Tulsa, Okla. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)
If the judge rules in favor of the survivors, they will be able to demonstrate evidence of decades-long damage to their lives as a result of the Tulsa Massacre.
“We have a comprehensive abatement plan to fix the damage that was done and is currently being done because of the massacre. It includes a number of different things, like the building of a hospital, providing an accounting of what was lost, mental and emotional therapy opportunities, land development,” Solomon-Simmons told theGrio.
“The court needs to allow us the opportunity to move forward in our case, so we can do actual discovery,” he added.
If the Fletcher/Ellis/Randle case moves forward, historians, economists, doctors, psychiatrists and land development experts could relay specifics on damages created because of the massacre
Fletcher’s family had to flee Tulsa after the massacre. Over 6,000 Black people had to be brought to the Tulsa County Fairgrounds by the National Guard to be protected by the mob for up to a week.
A 501(c)(3) launched at JusticeforGreenwood.org was established in support of the Greenwood massacre survivors. There have been several remembrances, congressional floor speeches and street renaming related to the Tulsa Massacre.
Soon it will be known if a monetary award is within grasps for the centenarian survivors.