JFK Conspiracy Theorists Seek Inclusion in Ceremony
By ANA CAMPOY
The city plans a ceremony that would include readings from Kennedy speeches by historian David McCullough and military jets flying over
, where the 35th president was
Melissa Golden for The Wall Street Journal
John Judge says
is preventing conspiracy theorists a permit to gather at Dallas , the assassination site. Dealey
But some who believe the assassination was a conspiracy involving high-ranking
officials say their views shouldn't be excluded from the commemoration. U.S.
"It's absurd to move the discussion of his death to another moment," said John Judge, executive director of the Coalition on Political Assassinations, a Washington, D.C., nonprofit that studies 1960s murders of public figures. "Our First Amendment rights are being violated."
Mr. Judge, 65 years old, said conspiracy-theory proponents have gathered at
every Nov. 22 since 1964. Next year, he added, will be the first that Dealey Plaza
hasn't granted a permit for the meeting, which usually involves a moment of
silence and a few speeches. He said the city should move its ceremony
elsewhere, adding that his group's members would find a way to disseminate
their theories during the city event, possibly even dropping protest banners
from nearby buildings. Dallas
Mayor Mike Rawlings said in an interview that he would meet with Mr. Judge's group, as well as with others who object to the city's plans, to hear their concerns. But he is determined to keep the tone of the event reflective of the "international, cosmopolitan, arts-centered city"
is today, he said, while focusing on President Kennedy's life and
accomplishments. "For 40 minutes, we need to be focusing on the man, not
the moment 50 years ago," Mr. Rawlings said. Dallas
Almost half a century after it shocked the nation, the Kennedy assassination remains a touchy subject in
The city's reputation took a beating after the president was slain while riding
in a roofless limousine through the city's downtown during an official visit. Dallas
It suffered another blow two days later when the prime suspect in the case, Lee Harvey Oswald, was killed while in the custody of
police. Hate mail poured in from across the country, and cabdrivers in other
cities refused service to visiting Dallasites, said Darwin Payne, professor
emeritus at Southern Methodist University and a reporter for a local newspaper
at the time of the shooting. Dallas
"The world and the nation turned against
Mr. Payne said. Dallas
The animosity has faded, but
remains closely linked to the assassination, a topic that continues to
fascinate many. Over 70% of Americans believe that more than one person was
involved in the killing, according to a 2003 Dallas
"There are so many possible plotters," said Kathy Olmsted, a history professor at
of California ,
who has studied conspiracy theories about the Davis
government. "It becomes some sort of parlor game to people." U.S.
On any given day, dozens of tourists from around the world track the route followed by Mr. Kennedy's motorcade through downtown
taking pictures in front of the white X that marks the spot where the first
bullet hit the president. The Dallas , housed in the building from
which Lee Harvey Oswald fired, gets more than 300,000 visitors a year. Sixth Floor
For those who can't get tickets, the event will be broadcast on giant screens around the city. Demonstrators will be allowed to gather in front of City Hall a few blocks away.
But Pete Johnson, a 58-year-old pharmacist from
, who studies the Kennedy assassination
in his free time, has launched Occupythegrassyknoll.com to urge supporters to
descend on the plaza for the ceremony. Columbus,
Some conspiracy theorists believe a second shooter fired at Mr. Kennedy from a patch of grass in the plaza.
"It's a controversial historical event," he said, "and they need to allow that controversy to be expressed."
Write to Ana Campoy at email@example.com