Conspiracy Theory

JFK assassination buffs who peddle their wares on the grassy knoll think there's a plot to put them out of business. They may be right.

Oakes says he called City Hall seeking information about licensing before he ever moved here. "I talked to seven people before I finally got to a person who knew what they were doing," says Oakes. "I asked how would I go about getting a permit to sell historical documents in Dealey Plaza. The person said that the only permits were for food vendors and all the available permits were taken. I asked him how the people who sell books to tourists get away with it. He said, 'If no one complains, they probably won't do anything about it.'"

Not long after Oakes moved here, he says, someone from the Park Department confronted him at his stand and told him he wasn't allowed to sell videos. The other vendors, the Park Department staffer told him, were selling printed materials, which was permissible.

From that point on, Oakes thought he could get around the ordinance by selling customers photocopied pages of historical documents--the FBI report that verifies that Paschall had submitted her film to the bureau, for instance--and giving the videos away.

The policeman who ticketed him apparently didn't go for the ruse. "No reasonable person would spend $20 for a package of Xeroxed material, thus I'm issuing a citation," police officer C. Amadon wrote on the ticket.

When Oakes read in the Morning News that the Sixth Floor was negotiating a management contract with the city, he was convinced it was behind the ticketing. "I would bet my life on it. They want to rid the plaza of the conspiracy theorists. I think part of it is legitimate. There are a lot of idiots out there who fight constantly--or at least they were until six or eight months ago. It's been a lot more civilized lately."

Oakes thinks that another motive might be "to stop Robert Groden." Of all the people out there, he clearly is the most reputable and respected member of the assassination research community and certainly the most well known. He is even on the advisory committee to the Sixth Floor. Two of the three videotapes he sells include all the available film footage and photos taken of the assassination, including the frame-by-frame enhancement of the Zapruder film, which suggests that the shots fired at Kennedy were fired too quickly to have come from Oswald's gun.

"One of the most common complaints I hear from tourists after they've toured the Sixth Floor is that they didn't get to see anything," says Oakes. "The only film they show is half the Zapruder film [it stops before the fatal head shot]--that's it. You can't have the word getting around that Groden is selling a video that shows 100 films for $29. Doesn't that look bad?"

The way Groden sees it, it doesn't matter who is trying to get rid of the vendors on Dealey Plaza. The fact is, once the Sixth Floor takes control of the park, the vendors will be gone.

"The problem is the Sixth Floor is the presence the city wants down there," says Groden. "They claim they are neutral, but they strongly imply Oswald was the lone assassin--the official fiction. I've been supportive of them and their erroneous point of view. They've promised for years to carry my books and videotapes. But they will not carry anything I do."

Groden is tired of the ticketing, the harassment, and especially of the Sixth Floor. "They left everyone alone before Groden tried making a little bit of money," he says. "It makes me extremely angry. There will be no credible voice to present an alternative to the official fiction. I'll say this now. What it comes down to is I have 34 years into this. If anyone has a right to be down there expressing their point of view, it's me. Whether it's political or financial, someone doesn't want us down there.

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