25 February 2003
Greenwood brings out the big guns
Johnnie Cochran and Dennis Sweet are heading up the legal team for the Tulsa Reparations Council, a group which is seeking damages from the city of Tulsa and the state of Oklahoma in compensation for the 1921 race riot in Tulsa's Greenwood neighborhood.
Among other things, the suit claims that Tulsa police and the Oklahoma National Guard used violence to put down what was perceived as a "negro uprising" in Greenwood, and that afterwards, Tulsa city government reworked its zoning laws to discourage people from rebuilding in the area. State law limits liability in matters of this sort; the suit seeks to have that provision stricken from the books.
The Tulsa Race Riot Commission, which examined this matter in detail a few years ago, issued a recommendation which supported many of the suit's allegations and urged the payment of restitution to survivors of the incident. (The number of survivors is estimated at a bit over 100.) No payments of this sort have been made, though the legislature passed measures in 2001 to improve the neighborhood and provide scholarship money for descendants of survivors.
Government officials in general have yet to comment on the suit.