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Who Died and Made the Sixth Floor Museum the King of Dealey Plaza?

Who Died and Made the Sixth Floor Museum the King of Dealey Plaza?

Last night the history group called Preservation Dallas gave a special award to Lindalyn Adams, one of the people who created The Sixth Floor, the Kennedy assassination museum downtown.

That's great. She deserves it. Now I want to know why The Sixth Floor got Robert Groden thrown in the slammer.

Groden is a best-selling author whose books argue that the killing of the president in Dallas a half century ago was a conspiracy. On weekends, when tourists, including plenty of assassination buffs, flock to downtown to visit Dealey Plaza where it happened, Groden sets up a table there and lectures and sells books and videos. After ticketing, arresting and jailing him on multiple occasions over the years, the city of Dallas has backed off, apparently agreeing with Groden's lawyers that he was never breaking the law in the first place.

But Groden still has a federal civil rights lawsuit against the city plodding its way slowly through the court system. I hope someday the lawsuit will answer my question. In today's Dallas Morning News story about the award for Adams, the executive director of the museum, Nicola Longford, makes a statement that is quite telling, if you're as close to this stuff as I have been. It's your typical Morning News party-pix happy-talk everybody's-just-GRAND-GRAND story, in which Longford says, "The Sixth Floor has a collective responsibility to maintain the landmark district site."

Oh, is that right? When exactly did that duty get assigned to the museum? Is that responsibility the reason security personnel from the museum asked the Dallas PD to go arrest Groden on June 10, 2010? That was the city's version later, under oath, when they responded to Groden's lawsuit. The cops told the court they popped Groden and threw him in the Lew Sterrett jail because a security guard from the museum told them to. This is after Longford told me the museum had nothing to do with it -- apparently not a truthful statement, if the city is to be believed.

Listen: Adams and curator/designer Connover Hunt did the city a huge solid by saving the School Book Depository Building and turning the sixth-floor "sniper's nest" into a museum. Had it been up to the usual powers that be in Dallas, the building would have been imploded and the site turned into an animatronic Biblical theme park.

But the mission of the museum has been perverted in recent years. It has become a kind of enforcement arm for the ilk of people in Dallas who can't stand controversy about the assassination. Their official line, as purveyed by the museum, is that some lone nut named Oswald did it, that's it, forget about it, it wasn't Dallas' fault.

For all I know that's true. But it's also true that a whole bunch of people disagree, and the intensity of that debate is higher this year because of the impending 50th anniversary of the event. The city has gone to absurd lengths to control that anniversary, giving itself permits that will effectively lock down Dealey Plaza and bar the general public during the entire week of the event.

Why? Who? Who wants this done? Who is afraid of what being said? And why is the museum, which touts itself as a center for scholarly research, out there in the plaza with the gendarmes getting somebody who disagrees with them about history hauled off to the slammer? Who told Longford it was any of her damn business what goes on in Dealey Plaza?

Right now, as the anniversary approaches, the fact that somebody in Dallas is still this touchy about it is the most interesting thing about the anniversary. Otherwise I'm not sure many people would pay attention. But apparently somebody with a lot of stroke in this city wants the bolts screwed down tight on free speech in Dealey Plaza that week. Why?


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