A Washington-based group that has long questioned the official version of John F. Kennedy's assassination says the city of Dallas is trampling its rights by barring it from Dealey Plaza for this year's 50th anniversary of the murder of the nation's 35th president.
The Coalition on Political Assassinations has gathered every year since 1994 at the site where Kennedy was killed by a sniper on Nov. 22, 1963. The group typically observes a moment of silence and members often give speeches. But this year it was denied a permit, the group's director told FoxNews.com.
"It's ironic that the city wants to celebrate JFK's life -- and not his death -- at the very place where he was assassinated," John Judge, the executive director of the group, said. "They are afraid of the thousands of people that will come to the site to commemorate his death and call for the truth."
"They are afraid of the thousands of people that will come to the site to commemorate his death and call for the truth."
- John Judge, Coalition on Political Assassinations
The annual gatherings were first loosely organized by journalist Penn Jones, who was one of the earliest skeptics of the official explanation of the assassination. Judge was a friend of Jones, who died in 1998.
"When he died, I promised him I would keep the tradition going," Judge said.
Although a federal commission studied the shooting and determined that Lee Harvey Oswald, a socialist drifter and former Marine, had acted alone, the assassination has long been the subject of conspiracy theories. Judge said his coalition, which focuses on killings ranging from the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., to recent drone attacks in the Middle East, has no single theory about how Kennedy was killed. But the group rejects the findings of the Warren Commission and does not believe Oswald, who was killed two days after the assassination, played any role in Kennedy's death.
Regardless of who killed Kennedy, Judge believes his group has every right to mark the date at the site.
"This is content-based denial of free speech in a public park," Judge wrote on his organization's website. "Dealey Plaza belongs to history and to the American people, especially on the 50th anniversary."
Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings denied that the city banned the coalition from the event, but acknowledged that officials intend to focus on the late president's life and ensure the event was open "mainly" to residents of Dallas.
"We make sure that opposing voices are heard in Dallas and celebrate freedom of speech," Rawlings said. "But with this event, we focus on Kennedy's life and legacy."
In May, Rawlings put together a committee called The 50th Committee, to organize the anniversary. Most board members were alive to remember the president's assassination.
"We have one board member who was waiting for Kennedy at a luncheon that he never attended," Rawlings said.
Rawlings, for his part, remembers sitting cross-legged inside the Leawood Elementary School's gym in Kansas and being told the news by his teacher.
"I knew it was important," he recalls. "It was the president."
Rawlings said his office has reached out to Judge to discuss the event.