July 10 (Reuters) – The last three known survivors of the 1921 Tulsa massacre on Monday denounced a judge’s dismissal of a lawsuit seeking redress for racist violence in Oklahoma.
In a statement read by their attorney at a Tulsa news conference, the three, each over 100, said Tulsa County District Court Judge Caroline Wall had “sentenced” them to languish in the state registry. Oklahoma appeals with its short pitching order on Friday. their case.
“But we won’t go silent,” they said. “We will continue to fight until our last breath.”
The three are Lessie Benningfield Randle, 108, who is named as a plaintiff in the lawsuit; Viola Fletcher, 109; and Hughes Van Ellis, 102.
Damario Solomon-Simmons, their lead attorney and founder of the Justice for Greenwood Foundation, told a Monday news conference where he read the statement that he had not seen any documents setting out the reasons for his firing, the basis for which is not was clarified in his brief order posted on the court’s website. He called the firing a “painful blow to our quest for justice” and called on the federal government to open an investigation into the massacre.
The lawsuit against the city of Tulsa seeks financial and other reparations, including a 99-year tax exemption for Tulsa residents who are descended from victims of the massacre in the Greenwood neighborhood of north Tulsa.
Also named in the lawsuit are five government agencies and the Tulsa County Sheriff in his official capacity.
Up to 300 people, most of them black, are estimated to have died in the massacre.
The violence erupted after a white woman told police a black man grabbed her arm in an elevator in a downtown Tulsa commercial building on May 30, 1921, according to an account in the National Fund for the Humanities.
The following day, police arrested the man, who the Tulsa Tribune said had attempted to assault the woman. Whites surrounded the courthouse, demanding that the man be handed over. World War I veterans were among the black men who went to court to address the mob. A white man tried to disarm a black veteran and a shot rang out, sparking more violence.
Whites looted and burned buildings and dragged blacks from their beds and beat them, according to historical accounts. Whites were deputized by the authorities and instructed to shoot blacks. No one has ever been charged with the violence.
Deep economic and health disparities remain between blacks, who still mostly live in north Tulsa, and whites.
Reporting by Brad Brooks in Lubbock, Texas Editing by Donna Bryson and Matthew Lewis
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