A week before the country pauses to remember the death of John F. Kennedy, conspiracy theorists and Dallas City Hall have agreed to a truce.
Under the agreement, members of the Coalition on Political Assassinations will occupy a parking lot on the southeast corner of Market and Main, where they will mark the fatal shot with a 12:30 p.m. moment of silence. They will repeat that ceremony two hours later in Dealey Plaza, once it has been vacated by David McCullough, the U.S. Naval Academy glee club, and the 5,000 civilian ticket holders.
In return, they promise not to do anything to upset the dignity of the official commemoration.
It's an uneasy detente. John Judge, COPA's executive director, says his group wanted to be in Dealey on the moment Kennedy was shot and was contemplating a lawsuit to make it so. The city, meanwhile, would be more comfortable with the conspiracy theorists permanently exiled to Siberia, out of view of the national and foreign press.
But the peace seems likely to hold. Judge says COPA backed off its lawsuit threat when the city, after three years of stonewalling, finally agreed to a handful of minor concessions, like allowing them to distribute leaflets at designated points, hang banners, and be in Dealey Plaza wearing their specially designed 50th-anniversary T-shirts, featuring a Kennedy half-dollar with blood oozing from a bullet hole in Kennedy's head.
Two of Judge's demands the city declined to meet, refusing email ticketholders to alert them to COPA's 2:30 p.m. moment of silence or to announce the event on stage.
Judge has an explanation for why the city has worked so hard and so long to exclude him and his fellow conspiracy buffs, and it's hard to argue with: "Their whole purpose was PR ... They did not want our message visible."
"Back when the Wall Street Journal piece came out -- he's an ad man, Rawlings -- he knew he had to deal with it."
So Judge will be there on Friday with his fellow conspiracy buffs, all wearing their special yellow T-shirts, a silent rebuke to the exercise in collective amnesia taking place two blocks away.
"They want to say Dallas loved Kennedy," Judge says. "How can you love Kennedy if you won't solve his murder?"