TULSA, Okla. — Tulsa Race Massacre survivors had their day in court on Monday to fight for a chance to go to trial for reparations. A Tulsa County judge rules she will allow part of the lawsuit to move forward but dismissed another part of their "public nuisance" argument saying she will explain the details in a brief to be sent out later.
Justice for Greenwood filed a lawsuit against the city, county, chamber and others seeking reparations and rebuilding in connection to the 1921race massacre. The defendants had asked the judge to dismiss the lawsuit but Monday she allowed part of it to move forward.
The courtroom full of justice for greenwood supporters erupted into cheers and chants once court was dismissed.
“History was made today,” said Damario Solomon-Simmons, Justice for Greenwood attorney.
Solomon-Simmons argued the state's Johnson & Johnson decision established guidelines for public nuisance suits, including their clients.
Last year, the Oklahoma Supreme Court overturned a $465 million judgment against Johnson & Johnson. They ruled the state's public nuisance law only applied to discrete, localized problems involving criminal or property-based conflicts and not policy problems.
Attorneys for Justice for Greenwood say that ruling made it clear that a public nuisance must stem from a criminal act of physical injury to property that renders an entire neighborhood uninhabitable.
“Historic Mt. Zion was burnt down to the ground and that church had to rebuild and had to pay two mortgages off at the same time," Solomon-Simmons said. "That is what this case is about. That is the harm. You just don’t understand what we had to do to thread the needle on this public nuisance case but we did it.”
The defense represented by an attorney for the Tulsa Regional Chamber argued the acts occurred too long ago and declaring it a public nuisance doesn’t provide remedy. The defense attorneys left immediately after the hearing without comment.
A descendant of one of three survivors says reparations are long overdue.
“There has been other nationalities that has been repatriated. I feel that the black community has been left out over the years. Tulsa has been making some changes but it’s not enough,” said George Drew a race massacre survivor’s nephew.
Drew left the building giving our 2 News reporter a thumbs up and shaking his head yes.
The plaintiff’s attorney also celebrating saying no one has ever gotten this far with a case like this and they are ready.
“We got a lot of work to do to prove and we can prove it, we will prove it but I appreciate her giving us the opportunity to show that we had the necessary information to move past a motion to dismiss,” Solomon-Simmons said.
The judge didn't say when she would provide that brief with the details of the ruling but we will keep you posted when she does.
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