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PRESS RELEASE – COPA
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE, June 22, 2013
A Moment of Silencing
Dallas Mayor Bars Public and Free Speech in Dealey Plaza
on 50th Anniversary of Kennedy Assassination
(Dallas, TX) Mike Rawlings, the Mayor of Dallas, Texas has announced an event to be held on November 22 at Dealey Plaza on the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President Kennedy at that location. His event will not focus on the assassination, but on the “life and legacy of President John F. Kennedy”. The event will not be open to the public, or the “tens of thousands” the Mayor expects to visit Dallas that day in commemoration of the assassination, but to a limited crowd of 5,000 people chosen at random in a ticket lottery. Half of the tickets will be issued only to Dallas residents according to press statements and the website set up for “The 50th” event.
The inception for the planning of this event goes back at least to November, 2011, when the Sixth Floor Museum applied for an exclusive permit for the whole of Dealey Plaza for over a week around the anniversary date. This was done, according to the museum director, Nicola Longford, to be “proactive” on behalf of Mayor Rawlings, and to prevent “conspiracy theory” being presented on the Grassy Knoll.
According to the Dallas Morning News, Mayor Rawlings reportedly instructed the chairwoman of the Committee, Ruth Sharp Altschuler, that he did not want “crazy conspiracy theory” on the Grassy Knoll on November 22.
This was clearly in response to a traditional Moment of Silence that has been held annually since 1964 by the assassination researchers critical of the Warren Commission Report conclusion of no conspiracy and of the role of Lee Harvey Oswald as a lone assassin of President Kennedy.
This tradition, begun by Midlothian (TX) Mirror editor Penn Jones, Jr., has been continued over the decades by the Coalition on Political Assassinations (COPA), a national network of medical, forensic and ballistics experts, academicians, authors and investigative researchers into the major assassinations of the 1960s. The founding groups and members of COPA were responsible for the passage and implementation of the JFK Assassination Records Act, which to date has effected the release of over 6.5 million pages of classified material that has rewritten the history of the Bay of Pigs, the Cuban Missile Crisis and the assassination of the president.
COPA had been applying for a legal permit, as they have done over many years, for an event on the 50th anniversary since 2010, and repeatedly denied because it could not be filed more than a year in advance of the event. Despite this, an exclusive permit was issued to the Sixth Floor Museum before they had planned any event. The Mayor’s office announced the formation of a community planning committee for the 50th anniversary events in Dallas.
Last year, COPA approached the chairwoman, Ruth Sharp Altschuler asking to be included on the planning committee represented by Dallas area members, or to address the group about our planned annual event. COPA also wrote to many of the committee members about our plans and concerns. To date we have been stonewalled by the committee, which has sent us no meaningful response and refused access to their meetings.
COPA also approached the Sixth Floor Museum asking them to accommodate our event in their activities, as suggested by Dallas Parks and Recreation. Director Longford replied, “[we] suggest simply that the national and international attention regarding his death be set aside for another moment.” What other moment could that possibly be?
Longford also told the Dallas Morning News that they were still planning what to do, including “maybe a moment of silence”. According to COPA Executive Director John Judge, “Sadly such a ‘moment of silence’ about the assassination and the political truth it reveals would instead mark a perpetuity of silence.”
COPA has obtained transcripts of early planning meetings that included Mayor Rawlings, Ruth Sharp Altschuler and publicist Laurie Peat where our organization was mentioned by name in a discussion about keeping “conspiracists” off the Grassy Knoll that day.
“All of this is a clear violation of the First Amendment, content-based denial of free speech,” according to Dallas lawyer D. Bradley Kizzia. Even the detailed instructions for what items are banned from the event that day, ostensibly for “security reasons”, include “signs, banners, bullhorns and megaphones” according to the Mayor’s event website. “Interestingly, guns are not on the list. Free speech is presumably more of a threat to security,” Judge noted.
Members of COPA met with Mayor Rawlings in Washington, DC during the presidential inaugural events. At an opening event for “The 50th” in Dallas, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. spoke at a public venue and got loud applause when he revealed that his father, former Attorney General in 1963, never believed the Warren Commission conclusions and held his own investigation into a conspiracy. The Mayor was present. Researcher Jeff Morley asked the Mayor if Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. would be allowed to speak at his event. Mayor Rawlings conceded that he could speak, “but he would have to stay on point.” “Apparently no one is allowed free speech or any alternative message that day in Dallas,” Judge observed.
The Sixth Floor Museum withdrew their permit application on November 19 last year and COPA filed a timely legal application on November 23. The City Attorney responded that the only park available for event permits on November 22, 2013 would be City Hall Plaza, which has subsequently been closed for use by dignitaries. The Mayor made public statements suggesting that park could be used by the “dissent”. “Since our point of view about the Warren Commission and conspiracy is shared by 85% of the American people in recent polls,” Judge said, “we are not the dissent, we are the mainstream.”
The Mayor of Dallas knows the press is coming from all over the world that day to Dealey Plaza, and he wants to control the message to hold a massive public relations event to show the world that Dallas loved and still loves John F. Kennedy. “It would be like celebrating the life and legacy of Abraham Lincoln on April 14 at the Ford Theater where he was shot in Washington, DC,” Judge noted.
Dealey Plaza is both a public park and a U.S. Department of Interior Designated Historical Site. “As such, it belongs at all times, and especially on the 50th anniversary of Kennedy’s assassination, to the American people, the world and to history. Why do we need a ticket to see our history? Why do we need unprecedented background checks and lottery tickets for access to the scene of the crime and a commemorative visit? Thousands of people are coming from all over the world and America to be in Dealey Plaza that day. Instead they will meet police barricades and be asked to watch the Mayor’s event on Jumbotron screens in other parks. This will be a Moment of Silencing of the voices speaking to real history when the whole world is watching.” Judge observed.
Despite nearly a year of effort to address the 50th Planning Committee regarding our 49-year tradition of holding a Moment of Silence on the Grassy Knoll to commemorate the life, legacy and assassination of President John F. Kennedy and to speak the truth about who killed him and why, COPA has been greeted with denial and total silence to date. “We still intend to be visible that day on the Grassy Knoll at Dealey Plaza, to exercise our Constitutional rights to assembly and free speech,” Judge said.
We suggest that people who support public access and free speech write to Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings (Dallas City Hall, 1500 Marilla Street, Room 5EN, Dallas, TX 75201) to let him know they want to attend the COPA Moment of Silence on November 22 at 12:30 pm, that they want him to let the public and the world in without tickets that day, and that they support free speech.
COPA also has an online petition to the Mayor to open Dealey Plaza to the public that day with over 500 signatures to date. See
COPA will hold its 20th annual regional conference in Dallas, Texas that weekend, November 22-24 to present the latest and best evidence and documentary records in the assassinations of President Kennedy, Robert F. Kennedy, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X. The conference theme is “50 Years of Denial is Enough! Free the Files – Find the Truth”. For details see www.politicalassassinations.com.