NATIONAL NEWS

Oklahoma declines to discuss a settlement of Tulsa Race Massacre survivors’ lawsuit

Aug 15, 2023, 2:20 PM

FILE - In this 1921 image provided by the Library of Congress, smoke billows over Tulsa, Okla. The ...

FILE - In this 1921 image provided by the Library of Congress, smoke billows over Tulsa, Okla. The state of Oklahoma says it is unwilling to participate in settlement discussions with survivors who are seeking reparations for the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre and that a Tulsa County judge properly dismissed the case in July 2023. The Oklahoma attorney general's litigation division filed its response Monday, Aug. 14, 2023, with the Oklahoma Supreme Court. (Alvin C. Krupnick Co./Library of Congress via AP, File)
Credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS

(Alvin C. Krupnick Co./Library of Congress via AP, File)

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Oklahoma says it won’t discuss a settlement with survivors who are seeking reparations for the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre and have appealed a Tulsa County judge’s dismissal of the case last month.

The Oklahoma Supreme Court has agreed to consider the survivors’ appeal, and the state attorney general’s litigation division filed its response Monday.

There are just three known survivors of the attack still living, all of them more than 100 years old. Lessie Benningfield Randle, Viola Fletcher and Hughes Van Ellis have sued for reparations from the city, state and others for the white mob’s destruction of the once-thriving Black district known as Greenwood. Several other original plaintiffs who are descendants of survivors were dismissed from the case by the trial court judge last year.

“It’s no surprise that the state, which took part in a lawless massacre of American citizens, has refused to settle,” their attorney, Damario Solomon-Simmons, said in a statement to The Associated Press.

“The survivors of the Tulsa Race Massacre are heroes, and Oklahoma has had 102 years to do right by them,” their lawyer added. “The state’s efforts to gaslight the living survivors, whitewash history, and move the goal posts for everyone seeking justice in Oklahoma puts all of us in danger, and that is why we need the Oklahoma Supreme Court to apply the rule of law.”

The lawsuit was brought under Oklahoma’s public nuisance law, saying 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’s Black community. It alleges Tulsa’s long history of racial division and tension stemmed from the massacre.

But the state says that argument was properly dismissed by District Court Judge Caroline Wall. The judge properly determined that the plaintiffs failed to outline a clearly identifiable claim for relief, Assistant Attorney General Kevin McClure wrote in the state’s response to the appeal.

“All their allegations are premised on conflicting historical facts from over 100 years ago, wherein they have failed to properly allege how the Oklahoma Military Department created (or continues to be responsible for) an ongoing ‘public nuisance,’ McClure wrote.

McClure claims the state’s National Guard was activated only to quell the disturbance and left Tulsa after the mission was accomplished. The survivors’ lawsuit alleges National Guard members participated in the massacre, systematically rounding up African Americans and “going so far as to kill those who would not leave their homes.”

Solomon-Simmons said the state’s response denies the need for restorative justice for Black victims.

“We have people that suffered the harm that are still living, and we had the perpetrators, the city, the state, the county chamber, they are still here also,” he said. “Yes, the bombings have stopped. The shooting has stopped. The burning has stopped. But the buildings that were destroyed, they were never rebuilt.”

The attorney general’s office represents only the Oklahoma Military Department. Tulsa officials have declined to discuss the appeal, citing the ongoing litigation. A Tulsa Chamber of Commerce attorney previously said that the massacre was horrible, but the nuisance it caused was not ongoing.

In 2019, Oklahoma’s attorney general used the public nuisance law to force drugmaker Johnson & Johnson to pay the state $465 million in damages for the opioid crisis. The Oklahoma Supreme Court overturned that decision two years later.

___

Alexander reported from Washington, D.C.

National News

Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump and Republican vice presidential ca...

Associated Press

On an unusually busy news day, did the assassination attempt’s aftermath change the media tone?

If this were a typical presidential campaign, Donald Trump’s selection of J.D. Vance as his running mate on the Republican ticket would have likely dominated media discussions for a week or two. This is not a typical presidential campaign. On Monday, that choice was just part of the mix. On the opening day of the […]

8 minutes ago

A hand written sign adds Republican vice presidential candidate Sen. JD Vance, R-Ohio, during the R...

Associated Press

RNC convenes after an assassination attempt and Trump chose a running mate: Takeaways from day 1

MILWAUKEE (AP) — Trump-Vance 2024. The Republican presidential ticket came together on Monday when Donald Trump named JD Vance as his running mate. In turning to the 39-year-old Ohio senator, the Republican nominee injected new energy into a campaign that has centered in recent weeks on questions of age following President Joe Biden’s disastrous debate […]

2 hours ago

Associated Press

Border arrests plunge 29% in June to the lowest of Biden’s presidency as asylum halt takes hold

SAN DIEGO (AP) — Arrests for illegally crossing the border from Mexico plunged 29% in June, the lowest month of Joe Biden’s presidency, according to figures released Monday that provide another window on the impact of a new rule to temporarily suspend asylum. Arrests totaled 83,536 in June, down from 117,901 in May to mark […]

4 hours ago

Photo: A delegate wears a hat with pins during the Republican National Convention Monday, July 15, ...

Christine Fernando, Steve People and Jill Colvin, The Associated Press

Rep. Walsh speaks for Washington as cheering GOP delegates nominate Trump for president

Cheering GOP delegates formally nominated Donald Trump for president at Monday's Republican National Convention kickoff.

4 hours ago

FILE - People walk past May Hall, the main administrative building at Dickinson State University in...

Associated Press

President of Dickinson State University in North Dakota resigns after nursing faculty quit

DICKINSON, N.D. (AP) — The president of Dickinson State University in North Dakota announced his resignation on Monday, days after the school’s nursing faculty quit. In a video, Steve Easton announced his departure and acknowledged “turmoil between some in the faculty and the administration.” Seven faculty members resigned Wednesday, KFYR-TV reported. Former Assistant Professor of […]

4 hours ago

Associated Press

FACT FOCUS: A look at false claims around the assassination attempt on former President Trump

The assassination attempt on former President Donald Trump, who is running for reelection, is fueling a range of false claims and conspiracy theories as authorities seek information about the 20-year-old shooter’s background and motive, how he obtained the AR-style rifle he fired at Trump and security at the venue that failed to stop the shooting. […]

4 hours ago

Oklahoma declines to discuss a settlement of Tulsa Race Massacre survivors’ lawsuit