Dealey Plaza vendor sues city of Dallas after police sweep

Robert Groden is no clown, as the comment rudely implies. He is a serious and committed researcher for decades into the truth of the assassination of John F. Kennedy and the mendacity of the official version and the media that still denies reality to support it, including the Sixth Floor Museum, funded to perpetuate the lies. Groden was hired as a photographic consultant to the House Select Committee on Assassinations and is the author of many critical and groundbreaking books on the evidence in the JFK case. He sells videos of the actual footage of the assassination as well as those works on the Grassy Knoll and has for decades now. He has not failed to fill out any paperwork, none is needed and no permit has ever been offered. He was not ticketed 80 times for harassing anyone. It has been a long campaign of harassment and each time the court threw out the charge and voided the ticket. It is a matter of free speech, free thought and the protection of dissent in the face of the propaganda, lies, cover-up and even witness murders that have marred the lack of investigation into the Kennedy assassination from the start. I come to Dealey Plaza each year on November 22 to hold a moment of silence begun in the 60s by journalist and newspaper editor Penn Jones, Jr. who also knew and respected Bob Groen. I represent the national network of serious assassination researchers based in Washington, DC, responsible for freeing 6.5 million pages of classified records on the JFK case. I do not come to honor JFK’s life and record, which were impressive, but to talk about how those things got him killed, why and by what forces that are still in power in this country. I come, as Groden does, to speak truth to power in the dimming light of this democracy before darkness overtakes us all. Those who harass Groden for telling the truth are those who wish to extinguish one of the few remaining lights in this age of blind consensus. Shame on the Dallas police, and shame on the Dallas press for not searching the truth they were honor bound to pursue in the name of law and justice. Shame on a country where a man must spend his life at the scene of a murder, like the mothers of the disappeared in the foreign countries ruled by dictators we put into power, holding up the mirror to the lies incorporated at the Museum nearby. Oswald did not kill Kennedy, he did not shoot anyone that day. The forces that placed him as the patsy go to the top of the government and the Pentagon that removed him for their own venal agendas which to this day ruin our economy, our lives, our freedom and our future. Forgive my grief, as Tennyson and Penn Jones said. Forgive my refusal to bend down to a lie. Forgive the boldness of Robert Groden to spit in the eye of false history and demand the truth, much less to speak and spread it on the vile location where democracy died long ago.

Dealey Plaza vendor sues city of Dallas after police sweep

06:38 AM CDT on Monday, July 12, 2010
By DAVID FLICK / The Dallas Morning News
dflick@dallasnews.com
http://www.dallasnews.com/sharedcontent/dws/news/localnews/stories/071210dnmetjfksuit.1d941e9.html

Alone among the newspaper vendors and self-appointed guides in Dealey Plaza who for years regaled tourists with conspiracy theories, Robert Groden suddenly has the grassy knoll to himself.

And he has his suspicions about the forces at work.

“A security guard from the Sixth Floor Museum told me they were behind it,” Groden said of the recent police crackdown. In addition, “Everybody knows they [city officials] want us out of here because of the Super Bowl.”

After his arrest June 13 for selling merchandise without authorization in a city park, Groden sued the city of Dallas in federal court, charging that he is being denied his constitutional right to freedom of speech. A hearing is set for Aug. 25.

Until then, the city has agreed to allow him to continue to sell his newspapers and DVDs from a folding table in an obscure corner of the plaza. His competitors, who sometimes outnumbered the tourists, were gone last week. Security patrols, sponsored by the private group Downtown Dallas, had a higher-than-usual presence.

Deputy Chief Vince Goldbeck said the crackdown was in response to complaints that visitors to Dealey Plaza – where President John F. Kennedy was assassinated on Nov. 22, 1963 – were sometimes harassed and intimidated by the vendors.

He acknowledged that some of the complaints have come from officials of the Sixth Floor Museum and Downtown Dallas, but said most were from individual visitors and organized tours.

“We were responding to quality-of-life issues that have generated complaints for quite some time,” Goldbeck said. “It’s been going on for several months, but lately it’s become more intense.”

An official at the Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza declined to comment on the museum’s role on the crackdown, noting that it was in litigation.

But she took issue with Groden’s contention that officials there were motivated by fear that competition from the vendors would take tourist money away from the Sixth Floor’s new museum store and cafe.

“I’m surprised he would say that,” said Nicola Longford, museum executive director. “We run our own business, and we only care what the Sixth Floor is doing.”

As for the charge that the sweep was a way to clean up a major tourist site before next year’s Super Bowl in North Texas, Chris Bowers, a city attorney, was blunt.

“This has nothing to do with the Super Bowl,” he said.

The vendors’ statesman

Many of the Dealey Plaza vendors frequent the site for only days or weeks before moving on. Some are homeless people trying to gain a few dollars. In that subculture, Groden has something like statesman status.

Groden, 64, moved to Dallas from New York in 1995. He has been a familiar figure in Dealey Plaza ever since.

Groden maintains the taped “X” along the extension of Elm Street, which marks, more or less, where Kennedy was shot.

Working in a film processing company in New York, Groden copied Abraham Zapruder’s famed home movie of the JFK assassination and aired it on Geraldo Rivera’s late-night television show in 1975. Groden later served as a consultant to the House Select Committee on Assassinations, and to Oliver Stone’s 1991 movie JFK, in which he also played a doctor at Parkland Memorial Hospital.

He was a paid witness for the defense in the O.J. Simpson civil trial, testifying that a photo showing Simpson wearing Bruno Magli shoes was faked. His expertise and testimony were battered in cross-examination by a plaintiff’s attorney, who demonstrated that Simpson appeared in the shoes in more than a score of other photos.

Some good, some bad

For his part, Groden acknowledges that there have been problems on the plaza.

“Some of the people are a bit pushy, some have gotten in the face of visitors,” he said. “No one is more against them than I am.”

He contends that the city has ticketed him 80 times for selling his newspapers over the years. But he said they agreed to tolerate his presence in the plaza after he threatened an earlier suit seven years ago. Bowers denied any such agreement existed.

Beyond official circles, visitors to Dealey Plaza interviewed one day last week expressed disagreement about the vendors.

“I thought it was interesting,” said Matt Tanner of Kansas City, Mo., of Groden’s newspaper JFK: The Case for Conspiracy.

“I didn’t like seeing the autopsy photos. But it was different from what you’d see up there [motioning toward the Sixth Floor museum]. It was another opinion.”

On the other hand, John Sekul of Biloxi, Miss., said he found the presence of newspaper vendors offensive.

“This is a national monument, they shouldn’t have vendors here,” he said.

“When I walked through the plaza and remembered that day, I had tears in my eyes. This is sacred ground.”

Comments:
CitySlicker
5:22 PM on July 12, 2010

Is the city interfering with Groden’s right to express himself, or just trying to protect tourists from another form of aggressive panhandling? Has he REALLY been ticketed 80 times? Why is he not in jail? The city is too soft with this clown.

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