March 13, 2017 (Fault Lines) — Robert Groden may be the world’s most dedicated expert on the Kennedy assassination. For better than seven years, he has sold his books and DVDs from a table in Dallas’ Dealey Plaza, where the assassination took place nearly 54 years ago.
Over the last seven years the Dallas Police Department has ticketed and/or arrested him 82 times. Every single one of those cases was dismissed. This month Groden accepted a meager $25,000 to settle his civil rights lawsuit against the city of Dallas.
Some folks might immediately ask why Groden didn’t get the message and quit after being ticketed or arrested five, ten or more times. Tickets and trips to court are expensive, stressful and time-consuming.
But the real question and mystery is: why did the city doggedly keep at it after losing case after case? Why did the cops continue weekend after weekend? The only answer is that someone was out to get him. But why? Who cares about some guy selling his books in the plaza?
It turns out Groden isn’t just some guy. He never bought the official version that a shooter named Lee Harvey Oswald was the lone gunman in President Kennedy’s assassination. The single shooter idea is the official version of events as far as the city of Dallas, Texas is concerned. This is also the conclusion of the Warren Commission, which was formed to look into the assassination. It is also the official version of the Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza, which we will get back to.
Lest you dismiss Groden as just some conspiracy theorist, it turns out he has been a thorn in the side of the “official” version of events for a long time. He has essentially dedicated his life to exposing what he thinks is the truth, that there was a conspiracy with many actors involved. Folks who refuse to just accept the official version can be viewed as performing an important public service.
Groden wouldn’t let it go and was never quite alone in thinking that the official version was a cover-up. Oliver Stone used him as a consultant on his 1991 film JFK, and he was the first person to bring the Zapruder film to the public. He was also the chief photo consultant on the House Select Committee on Assassinations.
After better than 50 years there are no more commissions to be convened. No more consulting gigs, and for the most part the nation is willing to let the events of November 22, 1963 slide into history without further review.
But not Robert Groden. This brings us back to the dark, secretive forces behind the 82 cases brought against him for selling his books and DVDs in Dealy Plaza.
It seems that the Sixth Floor Museum is a nice official-type tourist attraction that happens to jibe with the city of Dallas’ idea of a nice, squeaky clean assassination location. Having a guy like Groden downstairs right in plain view of the museum, its patrons and visitors to the plaza peddling a completely different version of events is something that can’t be tolerated.
Groden’s lawsuit against the city of Dallas detailed a conspiracy between employees of the Sixth Floor, the city council and at least one cop named Frank Gorka. The city tried to shut him down, saying he couldn’t identify an official policy or a policymaker behind his allegedly unlawful arrest. In other words, since it’s not in official writing, you can’t say it was us.
At that point he was left with only the choice of suing Officer Gorka who arrested him for selling without a license in a park. It turns out, Dealy Plaza is not a park and the city of Dallas didn’t even offer a license for vendors to sell in a park anyways.
Gorka went for qualified immunity and was awarded a general verdict in his favor. Then Groden’s motion for a new trial was denied and he appealed. The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit reversed and remanded the lower court’s decision, stating that:
Thus, to show that the city of Dallas acted unconstitutionally, Groden must show that the city council promulgated or ratified an unconstitutional policy. Accordingly, we now face a single question: whether Groden pled facts that, read in the light most favorable to him, show that the city council promulgated or ratified the challenged policy.
We conclude that he did. Groden alleged that the city “publicly announced a new policy” of cracking down on vendors in Dealey Plaza and that the city’s official “spokesman,” Vincent Golbeck, “gave media interviews describing the new policy.” The allegation that an official city spokesperson announced an official city policy allows for a reasonable pleading inference that this crackdown policy was attributable to an official policy made by the policymaker of the city (i.e., the city council).
Groden didn’t have to show any official policy or policymaker. All he had to show was that he was affected by unlawful actions at the hands of city employees, and that since the city council was the one who announced a crackdown on vendors in Dealey Plaza, it was clear they were responsible whether they called it a policy or not.
Hopefully for Groden, the harassment is over. But after 82 citations, it seems like $25,000 isn’t much.