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Race Massacre survivors want OK Supreme Court rehearing, DOJ investigation

race massacre presser
Posted at 3:57 PM, Jul 02, 2024

TULSA, Okla. — The legal team for the two living survivors of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre is challenging the Oklahoma Supreme Court decision dismissing the case.

On July 2, they filed a petition for a rehearing. They also hosted a press conference pushing for federal help.

At 109, Lessie Benningfield Randle was in the front row as her team of attorneys said they wouldn’t stop pushing for justice.

“No one disputes that the massacre happened, but it’s hard to explain why we aren’t able to move forward,” said Attorney Damario Solomon-Simmons.

Mother Randle, along with 110-year-old Viola Ford Fletcher, are the last two living survivors of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre. They penned a statement that a member of their legal team read at the press conference. 

“It is 2024- 103 years after the Tulsa Race Massacre – and our legal system continues to deny Black Americans an equal opportunity to seek justice under the law. The reality is as simple as it is chilling; we, the last two survivors of the Tulsa Race Massacre, have been forced to seek justice for the atrocities committed upon us and our community. We are profoundly disappointed by the Oklahoma Supreme Court’s decision to reject our lawsuit and are deeply saddened that we may not live long enough to see the state of Oklahoma, or the United States of America, honestly confront and right the wrongs of one of the darkest days of American history.”

“We’re going to continue to fight on this issue as long as there are survivors and descendants in the Greenwood community,” said Solomon-Simmons.

Civil Rights Attorney Damario Solomon-Simmons said they’re looking for help on two fronts. First, they want the Oklahoma Supreme Court to re-hear this case. They filed a petition for a rehearing on July 2.
“We know it’s an uphill battle, but it’s the last step we can do in this particular case, and as I said, we will leave no stone unturned to get justice for Mother Randle and this community,” said Solomon-Simmons.

This comes after the court dismissed their lawsuit against the city of Tulsa and other entities more than two weeks ago. The lawsuit claimed the city caused a public nuisance during the massacre that continues to this day.

After the death of survivor Hughes Van Ellis, Soloman-Simmons argued for the urgency of this case.

Race Masscre Survivors Demand Justice

“This is a story that this happened,” said Solomon-Simmons. “It’s caused damage that is ongoing, and it needs to be rectified.”

At the same time they’re looking for a remedy in state court, they’re pleading with the Biden Administration and the Department of Justice to open an investigation into the massacre under the Emmett Till Unsolved Civil Rights Crimes Act. It allows the federal government to re-open racially based cold cases.

Solomon-Simmons said they’ve had multiple meetings with the DOJ, including an in-person meeting last May, but they’re still waiting to hear back from them on whether they’ll open an investigation.

“Don’t just hold us in limbo,” said Solomon-Simmons. “It’s not fair to Mother Randle. It’s not fair to Mother Fletcher. It’s not fair to this community.”

2 News reached out to the Department of Justice to see if they plan to open an investigation. We’re still waiting to hear back.

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