JFK 50 Years Later

Half Century Anniversary of Kennedy's efforts to end the Cold War and the coup that removed him from office

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U.S. NEWS Updated December 25, 2012, 7:57 p.m. ET
JFK Conspiracy Theorists Seek Inclusion in Ceremony


DALLAS—Officials in the city where President John F. Kennedy was gunned down Nov. 22, 1963, want to observe the 50th anniversary of that day with a celebration of his life.

The city plans a ceremony that would include readings from Kennedy speeches by historian David McCullough and military jets flying over Dealey Plaza, where the 35th president was shot.


Melissa Golden for The Wall Street Journal
John Judge says Dallas is preventing conspiracy theorists a permit to gather at Dealey Plaza, the assassination site.


But some who believe the assassination was a conspiracy involving high-ranking U.S. officials say their views shouldn't be excluded from the commemoration.

"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 Dealey Plaza every Nov. 22 since 1964. Next year, he added, will be the first that Dallas 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.

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" Dallas 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.

Almost half a century after it shocked the nation, the Kennedy assassination remains a touchy subject in Dallas. 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. It suffered another blow two days later when the prime suspect in the case, Lee Harvey Oswald, was killed while in the custody of Dallas 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.

"The world and the nation turned against Dallas," Mr. Payne said.

The animosity has faded, but Dallas 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 Gallup poll.

"There are so many possible plotters," said Kathy Olmsted, a history professor at University of California, Davis, who has studied conspiracy theories about the U.S. government. "It becomes some sort of parlor game to people."

On any given day, dozens of tourists from around the world track the route followed by Mr. Kennedy's motorcade through downtown Dallas, taking pictures in front of the white X that marks the spot where the first bullet hit the president. The Sixth Floor Museum, housed in the building from which Lee Harvey Oswald fired, gets more than 300,000 visitors a year.

Dallas is sprucing up Dealey Plaza, repairing the chipped paint on its pergolas and covering up graffiti, in preparation for the ceremony, which will start with church bells and end with a benediction. Private funds will cover the cost, estimated at $1 million, with half of the amount set aside for security. People who wish to attend the ceremony will need to sign up for free tickets; the number of tickets and how they will be distributed remains unclear.

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 Columbus, Ohio, who studies the Kennedy assassination in his free time, has launched Occupythegrassyknoll.com to urge supporters to descend on the plaza for the ceremony. 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 ana.campoy@wsj.com

A version of this article appeared December 26, 2012, on page A5 in the U.S. edition of The Wall Street Journal, with the headline: JFK Conspiracy Theorists Seek Inclusion in Ceremony.



The Power Elite in Dallas Takes Charge
By Jim DiEugenio
November 28, 2012


from John Judge, Coalition on Political Assassinations - www.politicalassassinations.com


We are planning a major COPA conference for the 50th anniversary of JFK's assassination in Dallas for 2013. We will be inviting the best researchers involved over the last five decades in that assassination as well as others and presenting the best new evidence available from released records and ongoing investigations. We will be calling for a full release of all records and for renewed legal investigations and actions on these still unsolved murders. Our founding president, Dr. Cyril H. Wecht, JD, MD has already confirmed, as have Walt Brown, Bob Groden and others. We plan to have the best conference yet next year so you won't want to miss it. Please mark your calendar now and let me know you are coming, even if you responded before please fill in the form below and send it back soon.

In order to make plans for room blocks and a banquet meal for our 20th annual conference in Dallas, a major event that will mark the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, to be held from November 22-24, 2013, we need to know whether you plan to be there. If we do not get over 100 confirmations for the special awards dinner soon, we cannot make it happen. We also need to know if you want to stay at the Hyatt Regency which sits above Dealey Plaza, at a special discount rate of $99 per night, or at the nearby Hotel Lawrence for $79 per room night for single rooms. Please fill in the form below and return it to me as soon as possible, and no later than December 31, 2012.

I have also set a special pre-registration rate of $100 for the conference, which does not include the cost of the meal. This early registration rate has to be paid to COPA online or by mail before June 30, 2013. After that the cost of registration will increase. Feel free to send the registration fee in now as well if you can. So, please make your plans now and RSVP on the form below - John Judge












December 14 - December 16
JFK, the Unspeakable & 2013

Rowe Center, Rowe, Massachusetts

James W. Douglass with Paul Schrade

"Since 1996, I have sought the truth at the heart of the four-fold martyrdom of John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, and Robert F. Kennedy. I invite you to join me in exploring their interconnected stories. Our special focus will be JFK's story, as we approach the fiftieth anniversary of his death in 2013. Can hope come from confronting the Unspeakable?"

President Kennedy's remarkable turn toward peace with his enemies, Nikita Khrushchev and Fidel Castro, saved the world from becoming a nuclear wasteland. His assassination, followed by the murders of Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, and Robert Kennedy, also killed the hope of the Sixties. The seemingly senseless murders began a half-century of politics and culture dominated by an expanding warfare state. The death of hope receded into a denial of systemic evil that Thomas Merton identified as "the unspeakable."

It is the void of moral responsibility in our military's incinerations of Dresden, Tokyo, Hiroshima, and Nagasaki, the void in the Cold War doctrine that allowed the CIA to assassinate ideological opponents around the world at will, the systematic withdrawal of the president's security that allowed for JFK's execution in Dallas, the void of any semblance of truth in the Warren Report, and the void of 49 years of propaganda to cover up the truth of our president's assassination.

Can hope come from confronting the Unspeakable? We believe it can. A paradoxical hope can be discovered in the transforming stories of JFK, Martin, Malcolm, and RFK — and perhaps in the collective story of us all. Join us in exploring that hope, as we prepare for the JFK jubilee year ahead of us.

Now with special guest Paul Schrade, who was shot the same night that Bobby Kennedy was assassinated. Paul Schrade was Labor Chair and an organizer of Kennedy's 1968 California campaign. He was one of the five others shot the night that Robert Kennedy was fatally wounded. Since 1975 he has vigorously pursued the identity of the second gunman who killed his friend. He has recently joined with two forensic scientists Judge Robert Joling and Philip Van Praag to present new forensic evidence of the second gunman and to pursue justice in this case. Attorneys Mel Levine and Rob Bonner former US Attorney both from the law firm Gibson Dunne and Crutcher represent them.

Paul Schrade began work with Robert Kennedy in the 1960 JFK campaign. He helped arrange Robert Kennedy's support for co-founders Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta of the farm workers struggle. He toured with him in Watts after the first urban black rebellion in 1965 to show him the community action program his union had developed. As US Senator Robert Kennedy used it as a model for his Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration Project in Brooklyn. Both community unions still exist long after the War on Poverty was ended by LBJ and his commitment to the War in Vietnam.

Please read JFK and the Unspeakable: Why He Died and Why It Matters, preferably the updated paperback edition, before the workshop.

James W. Douglass wrote JFK and the Unspeakable: Why He Died and Why It Matters, The Nonviolent Cross, Resistance and Contemplation, Lightning East to West, The Nonviolent Coming of God, and Gandhi and the Unspeakable: His Final Experiment with Truth. From 1963­-65 he was a theological adviser on nuclear war and conscientious objection to Catholic bishops at the Second Vatican Council in Rome. After Jim taught college for several years, he and his wife Shelley helped found Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action beside the Trident submarine base near Seattle. Ground Zero's Gandhian campaign to stop Trident included acts of civil disobedience, for which Jim served a year­and­-a-­half in jail. The campaign developed into an extended community in 250 towns and cities vigiling by the tracks of the notorious White Train carrying nuclear weapons, prompting the Douglasses' move along the tracks in 1989 to Birmingham, Alabama. In 1993 Jim and Shelley founded Mary's House, a Catholic Worker house of hospitality in Birmingham for homeless families. Since then Jim has participated in peace walks and witnesses in Israel, theWest Bank, Jordan, Iraq, Sarajevo under siege, and more. Since 1996, Jim has been researching and writing on the assassinations of John and Robert Kennedy, Malcolm X, and Martin Luther King, Jr.

Paul Schrade has over sixty years of union and community action experience including service as an officer of the United Auto Workers union. In 1987 he initiated the plan to build schools as a living memorial to the legacy of Robert Kennedy on the now-demolished Ambassador Hotel site where the shooting occurred. These k thru 12 schools opened for the 2009-10 school year with a social and economic justice curriculum for more than 4,000 children in the most depressed urban area of Los Angeles. Paul Schrade believes that solving the Robert Kennedy case is also Kennedy's legacy because of his own private and intensive efforts to solve his brother's assassination. As a charter member he serves on the boards of the Dolores Huerta Foundation and the Watts Labor Community Action Committee. In 2011 he received the Chavez Legacy Award on behalf of the United Auto Workers Union for their support beginning in 1965.

"The best account I have read of this tragedy and its significance .... But don't take my word for it. Read this extraordinary book and reach your own conclusions ."
— Oliver Stone, director

"Jim Douglass has unraveled the story of President Kennedy's astonishing and little known turn toward peace, and the reasons why members of his own government felt he must be eliminated . This disturbing, enlightening, and ultimately inspiring book should be read by all Americans . It has the power to change our lives and set us free ."
— Martin Sheen, actor

"Arguably the most important book yet written about an American President . . . .Should be required reading for all high school and college students ."
— John Perkins, author of Confessions of an Economic Hitman