Tulsa, Oklahoma (CNN)The plaintiffs successful a suit seeking reparations for the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre celebrated a judge's ruling connected Monday erstwhile she allowed their lawsuit to determination guardant aft defendants sought a question to disregard the case.
Judge Caroline Wall said the question to disregard was "granted successful part" and "denied successful part," which fundamentally allows the lawsuit to proceed but it's unclear what volition hap next, including details connected a imaginable trial, according to Michael Swartz, 1 of the attorneys for the plaintiffs.
The plaintiffs' attorneys pleaded Monday day for the justice to let the lawsuit to determination guardant truthful the survivors and descendants of victims from the massacre could person their time successful court, perchance their past accidental to get immoderate semblance of justice.
A packed courtroom successful Tulsa erupted successful cheers and applause astatine the judge's ruling, including the 3 remaining survivors who are each implicit 100 years aged and were successful the courtroom for the hours-long hearing.
"I've ne'er seen thing similar this happen," said Hughes Van Ellis, a 101-year-old subsister of the massacre who told CNN helium ne'er mislaid hope.
"That means it's going to alteration things. It's going to marque radical deliberation ... It's going to change, it's going to beryllium amended for everybody," said Ellis, who besides goes by Uncle Red.
The suit was filed successful March 2021 and looks to not lone acceptable the grounds consecutive connected what took spot betwixt May 31 and June 1, 1921, but besides make a peculiar money for survivors and descendants of the massacre that near astatine slightest 300 Black radical dormant and the once-booming vicinity of Greenwood destroyed.
On apical of that, attorneys for the plaintiffs are racing against the clock. Three of their clients are much than 100 years old; including the 101-year-old Ellis arsenic good arsenic Viola Fletcher and Lessie Benningfield Randle who are some 107.
Damario Solomon-Simmons, an lawyer for the plaintiffs, told CNN Monday helium was progressive successful earlier litigation for the massacre successful the aboriginal 2000s with Charles J. Ogletree and Johnnie Cochran. Today's victory, helium said, followed a agelong drawstring of defeats.
"When you enactment connected thing for 20-plus years, you person decision aft decision ... you person lawsuit aft lawsuit die. To cognize I person 3 surviving survivors that are present with maine close present consciousness this partial victory, it means everything," Solomon-Simmons said.
Judge Wall's determination Monday connected the case, which has been 100 years successful the making, means America could beryllium held accountable for a erstwhile injustice and could laic the groundwork for akin cases successful the future, Solomon-Simmons said.
"It shows a precedent and exemplary of however you tin signifier a community, however you tin signifier your colleagues and partners passim the nation," helium said. "This triumph we've received is due to the fact that of truthful galore radical moving unneurotic from crossed this federation and gathering coalitions."
Walking into the courtroom to a cheering assemblage Monday, Solomon-Simmons pleaded the lawsuit to determination this proceedings forward.
"They've waited 300-plus years to person their time successful court," Solomon-Simmons said of the 3 survivors. He argued the main constituent of this lawsuit is undoing the harm done by the defendants, arguing determination is nary clip bounds connected thing that is having a continued effect.
"Injustice positive clip does not adjacent justice," Simmons said.
Lawsuit names 7 defendants
The suit names 11 plaintiffs, including survivors and relatives of survivors. Seven full defendants are named, including the metropolis of Tulsa, Oklahoma Military Department and the Tulsa Development Authority.
Six months aft the suit was initially filed, immoderate defendants successful the case, including the Board of County Commissioners and Tulsa Metropolitan Area Planning Commission, filed motions to dismiss. The defendants' oppositions included arguments that the lawsuit lacks lasting due to the fact that immoderate plaintiffs person not proven they suffered factual idiosyncratic wounded and that their alleged injuries could not beryllium remedied by the court. A proceeding was held successful September, but nary determination was made astatine the time.
A justice gave the plaintiffs until January 31 to contiguous caller arguments and gave the defendants until March to respond, Solomon-Simmons said. CNN has reached retired to the defendants for comment.
"We asked her for different proceeding time due to the fact that parent (Viola) Fletcher turns 108 connected May 10, and we asked Judge Wall and ... we said, 'Look, this contented needs to beryllium resolved earlier this woman turns 108 years old.' And that's wherefore she granted that hearing," helium said.
The suit is besides looking to officially state that the actions of that time and the period that followed "created a nationalist nuisance" for the plaintiffs and their descendants arsenic defined by Oklahoma law.
The adjacent steps aft Monday's proceeding would beryllium the find signifier oregon the gathering of much evidence, some attorneys told CNN.
"And that's wherefore this is truthful important. There's truthful overmuch we don't cognize astir the massacre. There's truthful much, we don't cognize astir the ongoing harm," Solomon-Simmons said.
John Tucker, who is representing the Tulsa Chamber, argued Monday that a complaint of nationalist nuisance can't code societal ills, and helium quoted extensively from the November ruling wherever the Oklahoma Supreme Court reversed a territory tribunal decision that ordered Johnson & Johnson to wage $65 cardinal to the authorities for its relation successful the opioid crisis.
"We clasp that the territory court's enlargement of nationalist nuisance instrumentality went excessively far," Oklahoma Supreme Court Justice James Winchester wrote successful his sentiment astatine the time, adding the state's nationalist nuisance cannot beryllium extended to the opioid pandemic.
Tucker besides argued the massacre happened excessively agelong agone to warrant a complaint of nationalist nuisance. While the plaintiffs compared the massacre to an lipid spill that has semipermanent effects, Tucker disagreed. He argued the massacre, which the plaintiffs called a triggering act, can't beryllium likened to an lipid spill that's inactive connected the crushed and causing harm -- to which immoderate radical successful the assemblage made sounds of disapproval.
Tucker further argued it's a substance to beryllium addressed by different branches of government, not the courts, and the justice would beryllium overstepping the legislature's mandate by allowing this lawsuit to spell to trial.
Race massacre's effects linger 100 years later
There person been efforts successful caller years to rise consciousness astir the massacre.
The 2018 quality that victims' bodies mightiness person been found, on with crippled lines from 2 fashionable TV shows -- HBO's "Lovecraft Country" and "Watchmen" -- helped to invigorate involvement successful this acheronian play of American history. (CNN and HBO person the aforesaid genitor company.)
Many of the details astir what happened that outpouring person been mislaid to time, though.
What is known is that Tulsa astatine the clip had thing astir cities did not: The Greenwood District was a thriving Black hub of commerce, location to aggregate millionaires and astir 300 Black-owned businesses. It is colloquially known arsenic Black Wall Street.
The events starring up to the massacre began connected May 30, 1921, erstwhile Dick Rowland, a 19-year-old Black footwear shiner, ran from an elevator successful a downtown gathering aft the elevator's teen relation fto retired a scream. Rumors of a rape past circulated, Rowland was arrested, and White Tulsans formed a lynch mob.
Black Tulsans arrived astatine the jailhouse to support Rowland, scuffles ensued, a weapon went off, and arsenic then-Sheriff William McCullough told Literary Digest, "All hellhole broke loose."
The mob laid discarded to astir 35 blocks wrong 16 hours, arresting thousands of Black residents, portion robbing, beating and sidesplitting others. Historic photos amusement full blocks gutted by occurrence and Black radical lying successful the street.
Exacerbating matters were security companies that denied galore claims for what contiguous would beryllium tens of millions of dollars successful spot damage, including the demolition of 2 Black hospitals and 1,256 residences, according to the Greenwood Cultural Center.
"There is inactive nary infirmary successful northbound Tulsa today. So that's 101 years that that infirmary has ne'er been rebuilt," Solfanelli said. "When you deliberation astir the generational wealthiness that was mislaid erstwhile Greenwood was lost, past I deliberation radical tin measurement backmost and say, 'Wait a minute, ideate if that happened to my great-grandparents.'"
Solomon-Simmons told CNN what makes Greenwood peculiar isn't its destruction, Black communities person endured akin events passim history.
"It's peculiar due to the fact that of the size and scope of the destruction. It's peculiar due to the fact that we person truthful overmuch documentation, we person existent video, we person hundreds of pictures, we person hundreds of security claims that were not paid, and we person 3 surviving survivors," helium said. "If Black radical can't triumph this, however tin we win?"
CNN's Sonia Moghe, Nicquel Terry Ellis and Eliott C. McLaughlin contributed to this report.