Bad news, "extremists": If you try to get tickets to the upcoming shindig at Dealey Plaza, the one memorializing the 50th anniversary of the JFK assassination, you will be denied.
"What's an extremist?" you may ask yourself, which is precisely the sort of question an extremist would ask. Minus 10 points for you. But the answer, if you must know, is classified.
That was the takeaway this morning at the Sixth Floor Museum, during a tightly wound, security-heavy and very brusque press conference from Mayor Mike Rawlings and the JFK 50th committee: Nobody will be kept away from Dealey Plaza on November 22 based on their political beliefs. But, then again, they kind of will.
"We're planning a serious, understated, respectful commemoration of President Kennedy's life," the mayor said, adding that the city was working closely with Dallas County in the planning process. And while making sure that the president is adequately memorialized, he said, "the city's intent is to provide the safest environment to those who attend this program. In a post-9/11 world, and after the Boston Marathon, vigilance in regards to public safety should take precedence in all matters."
So here's how all that vigilance and understatedness affects you: There will be 5,000 tickets made available to the general public for the event. You can apply for a ticket at 50th Honoring John F. Kennedy, which went live this morning. About half the tickets, Rawlings said, will be "randomly allocated" to Dallas-area residents, meaning the city, the County, and the larger DFW region. The other half will go to people from outside the region. Other tickets will be made available to the media (who have to jump through our own special set of hoops), the 50th committee, government officials and various civic leaders.
"This is not a simple process," Rawlings said, "because of public safety, and because we want to give everyone a fair chance."
The last day to request the free tickets is July 31. At that point, Rawlings said, "Each person will be screened before a ticket is given to them." That screening will be conducted by the Dallas Police Department; Assistant Police Chief Charles Cato was on hand to provide exactly no useful information about what the screening entailed.
"There are some public databases" they'll be checking, Cato said. "No one with a history of violence, threats or extremist ties" will be given a ticket.
At that point, someone asked the obvious question: Is this about keeping people out who might insist on saying things like "third man" and "cover-up"?
The answer, Rawlings said, was no. There's "no question" that the screenings are solely related to security, he added. "We want everyone, no matter what their point of view is, to sign up and get some of these tickets. But safety is first and foremost."
But to return to the whole screening thing, if we could: What sort of criminal history might disqualify you from attending this very dignified event? Felony? Misdemeanor? Sex crime?
"All I'm willing to say is that we're going to do a full criminal background check," Cato said. He was "not willing to say" what that involved.
Rawlings jumped in. "We're trying to make sure we have as many resources as we can, with as little said on the front end. We'll make those judgments as the data is brought in."
When pressed on what those "extremist ties" might look like, he paused lengthily, then said, "We're going to say less versus more on this. If we see anything that we think raises an alarm on this, they're not getting tickets. We're going to err on the conservative, safe side."
If you're too extreme or felonious and can't manage to score a ticket, there'll be screens set up all over downtown and at Victory Plaza to view the event. No security screening is required to view a screen in the middle of the vast empty wilderness of the AAC. Not yet, anyway.
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