The City of Hate Is Now the City of Bullies

One way or another, the Robert Groden situation in Dealey Plaza will fester and erupt again in months ahead. You know who I mean. Groden is the Kennedy assassination expert who sells books and videos there on weekends. The city has been trying to get rid of him forever.

Funny. People get the car-wash issue — my stories about the people who wash cars for a living at Jim's Car Wash in South Dallas and how the city abuses an anti-begging ordinance to ticket and harass them. I think folks like the car-washers. They're doing something most of us admire, striving to overcome poverty the hard way, by toil of their hands and sweat of their brows. Everybody sees why the city's oppression of them is reprehensible.

Almost nobody gets Groden. The city has done the same thing to him it does to the car-washers, illegally ticketing and even arresting and jailing him for an activity that is specifically allowed by city ordinance and protected by the Constitution.

Robert Groden expects Dallas to keep coming after him on Dealey Plaza.
Mark Graham
Robert Groden expects Dallas to keep coming after him on Dealey Plaza.

Most people don't care. I think most people don't like what Groden does. It sounds cheesy and undignified, an embarrassment to the city in a very public and focal venue, the very site of the city's greatest anguish and humiliation. The message of the recent 50th anniversary ceremony at Dealey Plaza, deemed a success by almost everybody but me, was that Dallas wanted to commemorate the Kennedy assassination with taste and dignity and then forget about it or at least not dwell on it. It's hard to argue with that. Obsessing about tragedy seems sick after a while.

I can make a case for Groden. He's a charming guy with serious credentials as an author and as an expert on the Kennedy assassination. Whenever I visit his little spot on the Grassy Knoll on good weather weekends, he always has a crowd of tourists around paying rapt attention. Tens of thousands of visitors come to Dealey Plaza every year to put their feet on the sod where it happened. Listening to Groden is an interesting and positive part of that experience for many.

But, look. I don't have to make that case. All I really need to tell you is that the city has ticketed him more than 80 times and arrested and jailed him, and literally every one of those tickets and arrests has been ruled illegal by the courts. By illegal, I mean that local and appeals courts have ruled that Dallas arrested or otherwise harassed Groden for something that was not illegal. After a couple dozen of those, I think we can assume the city knew it was breaking the law.

In all of that litigation, a certain archive of emails and other communications has been developed showing a clear trail of purpose and intent by the city over 10 years' time to force Groden out of Dealey Plaza by whatever means necessary. The one healthy outcome from all of that is that the city was forced a couple of years ago to rewrite its ordinances governing vendors in parks in such a way as to specifically distinguish and protect Groden's activities at Dealey Plaza as constitutionally protected speech. So he's still there every weekend doing his thing.

But now he is at a dangerous moment. A couple of weeks ago, with almost no notice from mainstream media, a federal jury ruled against Groden in a civil rights lawsuit. He lost. I guess it wasn't news.

That email trail I told you about showed elaborate planning for his arrest from police headquarters to the park department at City Hall, but, for reasons never explained, a federal judge, who was in the process of leaving the bench for a comfortable academic appointment, dismissed the city from the case as a defendant. Then he turned the case over to a new judge. That left the arresting cop out there on his lonesome, as if he had thought it all up on his own whim.

When the jury announced its verdict clearing the police officer of violating Groden's civil rights, the jury also sent the judge a question, which he read in open court. They wanted to know why the city was not a defendant.

Bradley Kizzia, who was Groden's attorney, was not without sympathy for the jury afterward. He said, "Without having benefit of the opportunity to talk to the jurors, the impression based upon the question they submitted was that they didn't want to leave a 30-plus-year veteran police officer who was on the verge of retirement holding the bag for a policy that his superiors put into place and approved of."

In an ironic sense Kizzia's own case and the evidence he put before the jury may have made it more difficult for jurors to rule in his favor, given the decision to let the city out of it. Kizzia had shown the jury emails from the police officer's superior officer directing him to help carry out a formal campaign of enforcement against Groden and telling the officer that the object was less to win a conviction than merely to cover him up with citations.

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8 comments
masacasa11
masacasa11

I think the judge made an appropriate call on this lawsuit, Jim. Groden's lawyer should have specifically target people he could prove directed the police officer to allegedly violate Groden's rights, not the entire city of Dallas governing officials. Bad attack strategy on the lawyer's part. Kinda like suing the FAA for an airplane causing your window to shatter or your cow to run off from the pasture. Robert Groden makes money telling Dealey Plaza visitors that 'the Government' or 'the CIA' murdered JFK in Dallas but cannot prove any specific individual did such. What BS works on gullible visitors does not work in a court of law. Hats off to the judge.

Mainer_manor
Mainer_manor

Nice connecting of the dirty dots JS. The combination of 'you can't fight City Hall' with the machinations of unelected political appointees does not bode well for the citizenry.

cajunscouse9
cajunscouse9

The National Parks Service should find a way to purchase the site and keep these kooks from disturbing people who are visiting what is essentially hallowed ground. Every time I take friends or family, many who've never been before, we have to dodge people with handouts who are looking for a handout. It detracts from the solemnity. That God awful souvenir shop is terrible as well. Good taste has gone by the wayside.

scottie1620
scottie1620

Costing the City of Dallas money for violating Groden's civil rights would be of no benefit to anybody. The money would come from the pockets of citizen taxpayers, NOT the Mayor and City Council, DPD Administration and other individuals involved in this mess. What is needed is a lawsuit specifically naming individuals and seeking remuneration from THEM!


Let's face it - our city government is a disgrace. That was proven by the 13-2 decision to allow DPD to search bank accounts of "suspected" criminals in clear violation of the 4th Amendment to the US Constitution. But, we elected these bums, so it is our own fault that we have such a disgraceful and incompetent city government. We need to throw out every one of those bums and start over with a new City Council that will then replace the administrations of every city department with people who will serve the public interest above all other interests.

roo_ster
roo_ster

Any of this sort of abuse of authority is bad and ought to be exposed and quashed. But the character of the abused will have an impact on folks give-a-damn meter.

The car wash owners and wash for pay folks are making a living providing a useful service. Groden is at best a tinfoil hatter and at worst a scam artist. Just less sympathy for such folk. Even if they are being wronged.

dallasdrilling.wordpress.com
dallasdrilling.wordpress.com

Great work Jim. I hear the City of Dallas is employing different type of bullying tactics to the residents who are trying to expose the malfeasance that continues at Dallas Executive Airport and White Rock Lake/Arboretum.

James080
James080

@roo_ster Groden esteems himself a photographic expert on the basis of working at a Photomat. He testified as an expert int he OJ trial and really came off as an clueless amateur. Read the transcripts, they are on the internet. What a joke.

Mainer_manor
Mainer_manor

@roo_ster 

"Groden is at best a seeker of truth and at worst someone with whom I don't agree."

ftfy

 
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