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Press Release: RCC Will Appeal Dismissal

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  • wautella
    For Immediate Release Contact Persons: Charles Ogletree (617)496-2054 Adjoa Aiyetoro (202) 829-5169 REPARATIONS COORDINATING COMMITTEE WILL APPEAL DISMISSAL
    Message 1 of 1 , Apr 1, 2004
      For Immediate Release

      Contact Persons: Charles Ogletree (617)496-2054
      Adjoa Aiyetoro (202) 829-5169


      "Down but not out" is the view of the survivors of the massacre
      of the Greenwood District in Tulsa, Oklahoma (better known as "Black
      Wall Street"), their many supporters and their attorneys, the
      Reparations Coordinating Committee (RCC). In a 27-page order, Judge
      James O. Ellison of the Northern District of Oklahoma dismissed
      Alexander v. Governor of the State of Oklahoma, et. al., brought by
      125 Survivors against the City of Tulsa and the State of Oklahoma for
      this 1921 massacre.

      Ironically, Judge Ellison agreed with Plaintiffs' counsel that
      the 125 survivors did not have a meaningful opportunity to pursue
      their legal rights after the massacre. "The political and social
      climate after the riot simply was not one wherein the Plaintiffs had a
      true opportunity to pursue their legal rights." Yet, despite this
      finding he concludes that the 125 survivors should be denied their day
      in court because of the Statute of Limitations.

      Professor Charles Ogletree, lead counsel for the plaintiffs,
      says "We will continue this legal battle on behalf of our clients who
      have waited 80 years to get their day in court. We are appealing this
      case because the dismissal continues the travesty of justice suffered
      by the survivors and undermines fundamental principles of justice upon
      which a democratic society is based."
      Judge Ellison also agrees with Plaintiffs, their supporters and
      attorneys that this case is about more than justice for the survivors
      and their descendants. It is about justice for the Greenwood District
      and the need to heal race relations in Tulsa. "The Riot, costly in
      terms of lives and property, destroyed the African ┬ľAmerican Community
      of Greenwood and affects relations among races in the City of Tulsa
      and the State of Oklahoma to this date."

      Randall Robinson and Charles J. Ogletree, Jr., Jesse Climenko
      Professor of Law at Harvard Law School, organized the RCC in 2000.
      Professor Ogletree and Adjoa A. Aiyetoro, Legal Counsel for the
      National Coalition of Blacks for Reparations in America (N'COBRA),
      co-chair the RCC. Other lawyers on the RCC team include Johnnie
      Cochran, Michael Hausfeld, recognized as one of the country's top
      class action lawyers, Michele Roberts, Washingtonian Magazine's lawyer
      of the year for 2002, Dennis Sweet, one of the nation's pre-eminent
      tort lawyers, Faye' Rose Sanders, an activist lawyer involved in the
      Black Farmers' litigation, Professor Eric J. Miller of Western New
      England Law School and Leslie Mansfield of the Tulsa University Legal
      Clinic. Plaintiffs' counsel obtained the services of several experts
      including John Hope Franklin, the Chairman of President Clinton's Race
      Initiative and noted African American historian who is also a
      plaintiff in this lawsuit; Professor Alfred L. Brophy of the
      University of Alabama Law School, an acknowledged expert on the
      Greenwood Massacre, Professor Leon Litwack, one of the foremost
      experts on segregation and discrimination during the Jim Crow period,
      and Eric D. Caine, M.D., an expert on the psychological and
      psychiatric effects of traumatic stress.

      In his opinion, Judge Ellison accepted the Plaintiffs' facts,
      taken from the 1921 Race Riot Commission's report. However, he
      allowed justice to be denied once again for the murder of up to 300
      people, primarily African Americans; the destruction of more than 1200
      structures including homes, schools, businesses and churches; the
      involvement of Tulsa's police force and the Oklahoma's National Guard
      in this massacre; and the detention of surviving African American
      Greenwood residents in camps until a white person "vouched" for them.
      According to Professor Miller, one of the drafters of the lawsuit,
      "by dismissing this case and allowing the City and State to win, as
      Judge Ellison acknowledges, `on a legal technicality,' the City and
      State are permitted to continue to deny their moral and legal
      responsibility for the loss of lives, homes and community."

      The Reparations Coordinating Committee plans to file an appeal
      in the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals. According to Adjoa Aiyetoro,
      "We will turn this stumbling block into a stepping stone. We will
      continue to seek justice for our clients and a remedy for these crimes
      against people of African descent." Ogletree promises that "this is
      not the last of us in Tulsa."

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