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Monday, July 22, 2024 | Back issues
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Competing JFK Commemorators Settle Row

DALLAS (CN) - A group of conspiracy theorists has resolved its dispute with Dallas officials over their competing commemorations of the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in Dealey Plaza, ending the threat of litigation.

The Coalition on Political Assassinations announced the agreement with the city "that will restore and protect First Amendment rights within and outside Dealey Plaza on November 22."

With the Sixth Floor Museum planning to close the plaza for two weeks via an exclusive permit, the coalition said it would not be able to continue its 49-year-long tradition of holding a moment of silence on the grassy knoll in the plaza at the time Kennedy was shot.

In its place, the city has planned its own official commemoration that will require the closure of the plaza for 5,000 ticketed attendees.

"When that permit was withdrawn, COPA made a legal application for a permit for the annual event," COPA said in a statement Thursday. "The City of Dallas Attorney responded that all Dallas parks would be closed for First Amendment activity permits on November 22 save for City Hall Plaza, which was then closed and 'reserved for dignitaries' that day. In our view, Dealey Plaza, a public park and also a designated historical site belongs, especially on November 22 on the 50th anniversary, to the American people, to history and to the world, not to any exclusive event that will not mention the assassination."

COPA said that, after Dallas mayor Mike Rawlings met with it in February and failed to respond until August, it prepared for a lawsuit that would have asked for injunctive relief to protect First Amendment rights that were violated by a content-based denial of a permit by the city. COPA believed city officials did not want "conspiracy theory" proponents on the grassy knoll during its separate commemoration for the world's media to see.

"The public was to be excluded and inside the event 'signs, banners, bullhorns and megaphones' were to be banned," COPA said. "A moment of silence was planned by Dallas that would effectively be a Perpetuity of Silence about the assassination and the unresolved evidence in the case."

Under the parties' agreement, COPA will be allowed to hand out leaflets to crowds at the city's commemoration at designated locations starting at 8 a.m.

COPA will be allowed to hold its moment of silence at the nearby intersection of Main and Market Streets at 11 a.m. on Nov. 22, simultaneously with the city's commemoration. Signs, banners and speeches will not be allowed at this site.

Members of COPA can then gather at an alternative site and will be escorted by police into Dealey Plaza once the city's event ends at 2:30 p.m. The group then plans to hold its traditional moment of silence at the grassy knoll.

"First Amendment rights both inside and outside Dealey Plaza are somewhat restored by this agreement and we plan to exercise them that day, to speak truth to power, and to continue to be visible and to speak for full disclosure of all government records on assassinations, for reopening these unsolved homicides, and for restoration of democracy and the rule of law in this country," the group said.

The city's commemoration and associated events downtown on Nov. 22 mean that Dallas County offices, including the Dallas County District Courts and Dallas County Courts at Law, will be closed.

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