Lawsuit Filed Seeking Restoration, Compensation Over 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre

Tuesday, September 1st 2020, 5:15 pm
By: Amy Slanchik

TULSA, Okla. -

A civil lawsuit filed Tuesday in Tulsa seeks restoration and a victims' compensation fund for descendants of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre. 

Attorneys representing several descendants of people who died in the massacre are suing the City of Tulsa, the county, the Oklahoma National Guard and other government agencies.  

The 48-page lawsuit does not only reference the past, but claims the massacre is now being exploited for the city and chamber's gain. 

Hear From The Press Conference: Lawsuit Filed On Behalf Of 1921 Race Massacre Victims Against Several Tulsa Government Agencies

Representing a 105-year-old massacre survivor along with several descendants, Attorney Damario Solomon Simmons announced a lawsuit against the City of Tulsa, the Tulsa Regional Chamber, the county, the Tulsa Development Authority, the Tulsa Metropolitan Area Planning Commission, the Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office and the Oklahoma National Guard.  

"This is a truly historic and emotional day for me and my team,” Solomon Simmons said during a news conference at the Greenwood Cultural Center. 

The civil suit claims the Tulsa Race Massacre had and continues to have a severe impact on the health and safety of the Greenwood community. 

The lawsuit also alleges the city and chamber are exploiting the massacre by promoting tourism for their own gain, at the plaintiffs' expense. 

"We're not just talking about what happened in 1921," Solomon Simmons said. "We're talking about what's happening right now as we stand here. It's a continuing massacre. That highway is right there, cutting through Greenwood. That's a continuing massacre. That's a continuing nuisance. Period."

Solomon Simmons said this lawsuit is different from a federal case from the early 2000s seeking reparations, in which the courts determined the statute of limitations had run out.  

This lawsuit is a public nuisance case. 

Solomon Simmons said the precedent is last year's landmark opioid trial, where the state of Oklahoma won. 

"There is no statute of limitation on a nuisance. The nuisance is there until it's abated,” he said. 

The lawsuit calls for the creation of a Victims Compensation Fund. Plaintiffs also want a scholarship program benefitting descendants, and immunity from all city and county taxes, for the next 99 years for massacre descendants. 

It also calls for payment of all outstanding claims from the massacre made by Greenwood residents, and a new hospital and urgent care center, named after massacre victim Dr. A.C. Jackson. 

"We believe if he would have lived, we would have a hospital in North Tulsa,” Solomon Simmons said. 

Solomon-Simmons shied away from using the word “reparations” and said this is about "respect, repair and restoration." 

The National Guard released the following statement in response to the lawsuit: 

"There are widely varying accounts of the role played by the National Guard during the events of late May and early June 1921 in the Greenwood District. However, the historical record shows that a handful of Guardsmen protected the Tulsa armory and the weapons inside from more than 300 rioters. The actions of these Guardsmen substantially reduced the number of deaths in the Greenwood District. In the days following the riots, Oklahoma Guardsmen restored order to the area and prevented further attacks by both black and white Tulsans. Due to pending litigation, the Oklahoma National Guard will offer no further comment on this subject."

The other defendants in the case either said they do not comment on pending litigation or did not get back to News On 6. 

You can read the full lawsuit below.