Airing New Research and Dusting Off Old Yarns, 46 Years After the Kennedy Assassination

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Patrick Michels
Ernest Brandt, who says he was an eyewitness to the Kennedy assassination, shows 11-year-old Mack Reed the window where Oswald fired from. More photos are up in this slide show.
Out at Dealey Plaza Sunday afternoon, there was something for everyone: fashion, literature, song and, finally, a moment of silence at 12:30 p.m., to mark the 46th anniversary of the Kennedy assassination. Hundreds of people milled around, some picking up pamphlets or snapping photos next to the helpful "Grassy Knoll" banner, others giving speeches or rehashing eyewitness stories for any audience they could attract.

The main ceremony on the plaza was organized by JFK Lancer, a research group promoting government openness about the assassination, to wrap up its annual downtown conference. The group is named after Kennedy's Secret Service handle, co-founder Debra Conway told the crowd, to signify that "we don't want secrets anymore."

Speaking with Unfair Park after the ceremony, Conway said she created Lancer "to provide a platform to people who have done research," and even help fund further truth-hunting. "That's what we strive to do, to leave behind the crazy and look at it in a scientific way."

In a circus like this, that line between science and crazy can be hard to spot. A man claiming to be an eyewitness sounds credible enough, till the book-seller at a card table calls him a fraud. You might think the guy in track pants looks dignified in his Abraham Lincoln fake beard and hat, and then you notice his T-shirt that reads, "Remember my name. You'll be screaming it later."

Just after the half-hour ceremony ended, a man raised his voice in the crowd and attracted a swarm of cameras, repeating that Kennedy's assassination was a "military coup d'etat," and one in an organized string of assassinations.

Taking in the scene around her, Conway put it bluntly: "We're the normal people."

Even though almost 50 years have passed, Conway said there's still plenty of new research being done, and new documents coming to light.

This year's conference at the Adolphus Hotel, included a presentation on the evidence against Oswald in the murder of Dallas police officer J.D. Tippit, and a talk by former Secret Service agent Abraham Bolden, who helped derail an assassination plot against Kennedy in Chicago, then served time in prison on charges he sold files related to the investigation.

Two areas with the richest potential for future investigation, she says, are hundreds of unreleased CIA documents that weren't made public with the files made public under the JFK Assassination Records Act -- specifically, reports related to a Cuban exile group in New Orleans that may mention Oswald.

There were clearly some Dealey Plaza regulars among the crowd, folks you might find waving a yellowed Dallas Morning News here on any other Sunday afternoon. But the milestone did allow for some rarer moments, like 11-year-old Mack Reed -- grandson of KBOX's Sam Pate, who famously told radio listeners that "something has happened in the motorcade route" -- jamming with Ernie Brandt, who shared his recollections from within the crowd that day.

Looking on while her son and Brandt talked business, Rosalyn Costanzo said that even with the weirdness it can attract, she enjoys marking the anniversary at Dealey Plaza. "It's fun. It's nice to get everybody together and talk about what they think, and share their theories," she says, "because, really, that's all anyone's got."

More photos from Dealey Plaza are in this slide show.
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