Had I not been versed on the history thereof, my first impression very well might have been that it was a cultlike gathering, similar to Jim Jones and Jonestown, Guyana, or David Koresh and Waco, Texas.
There they were, this odd, eclectic mix of humanity, from the haggard homeless to well-groomed scholars. However, there existed a commonality amongst them: the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.
The site that I’m referring to is the Dealey Plaza area of Dallas, Texas, site of the JFK assassination, which took place Nov. 22, 1963. It was an event that altered the course of both American and world history.
It was Nov. 20, 2000, and Jerry Ray and I had driven to Dallas to take part in a Coalition on Political Assassinations convention. The JFK assassination had been the main topic in past gatherings, but the 2000 conference focused on the assassination of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in Memphis on April 4, 1968, and whether James Earl Ray was guilty of killing him.
Former Memphis Judge Joe Brown, who once presided over the assassination proceedings, was the guest speaker. Along with many others, Jerry Ray, younger brother of James Earl Ray, also spoke at the 2000 convention.
Every Nov. 22, coalition members and attendees hold a vigil commemorating the anniversary of the JFK assassination.
As most are aware, exponential are the theories about who and what was responsible for the JFK assassination: a lone gunman firing a single shot from the Texas School Book Depository to a mass conspiracy involving multiple shooters firing from a grassy knoll and other lairs.
A movie titled "Parkland" was released in theaters on Oct. 4. Featuring a stellar cast, including Billy Bob Thornton, Zach Efron, Paul Giamatti, and Colin Hanks, with Tom Hanks as executive producer, "Parkland" is a historical drama film that traces the chaotic events that occurred following the JFK assassination.
Parkland Memorial Hospital is a major medical facility in Dallas, and it is where JFK was rushed and pronounced dead after being shot.
Over the years, many have claimed that the Dallas Police Department, U.S. Secret Service, Federal Bureau of Investigation and Central Intelligence Agency forced medical personnel at Parkland Memorial Hospital to cover up evidence that could have pointed to individuals other than Lee Harvey Oswald as being responsible for the JFK assassination.
However, let’s get back to what I witnessed at Dealey Plaza during the 2000 COPA convention.
Jerry and I were staying at the Paramount Hotel, located in the Dealey Plaza area. It was around 2 a.m., and I couldn’t sleep. So, I got dressed and took a stroll down Elm Street toward the Texas School Book Depository and the near-mystic grassy knoll. A slight rain was falling, and the temperature was low enough that I needed a jacket.
Lo and behold, you would have thought a major rock concert was about to kick off. There were people everywhere, and as mentioned, every imaginable walk of life was there.
When I returned to the hotel, the desk clerk told me that whether rain, snow or sunshine, there is a throng of people to be seen at Dealey Plaza 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. He went on to say a college professor from England had given up his job and moved to Dallas so he could solve the JFK assassination.
According to the desk clerk, the former college professor was homeless. Still, there clerk claimed there were many others like the homeless professor.
Of course, the above description denotes those who carry it to the extreme. However, if necessary, I will stand in the rain for a little while to purchase a ticket to watch "Parkland."