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Riot Lawsuit Too Late, Judge Finds

March 23, 2004|From Associated Press

TULSA, Okla. — Survivors of a race riot that destroyed Tulsa's black neighborhood 83 years ago cannot seek reparations in court because of the long-expired statute of limitations, a federal judge has ruled.

The judge dismissed the lawsuit filed last year against the city and the state by 150 survivors and about 300 descendants of those who lost property or were killed in the 1921 riot.

"That plaintiffs' claims are barred by the statute of limitations is strictly a legal conclusion and does not speak to the tragedy of the riot or the terrible devastation it caused," U.S. Senior District Judge James Ellison said.

His decision, issued Friday, was entered into the court's record system Monday.

The city's then-thriving black community of Greenwood was reduced to ashes after whites and blacks clashed on May 31, 1921, outside a courthouse where a black man was being held on allegations of assaulting a white woman.

The confirmed death toll was 37, but some estimates range as high as 300.

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