Dealey Plaza vendors get green light from City Council

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by BRAD WATSON

WFAA

Posted on June 22, 2011 at 8:25 PM

Updated Wednesday, Jun 22 at 10:02 PM

DALLAS — Vendors in Dallas' Dealey Plaza — where President Kennedy was shot — appear to be in the clear legally at long last after action by the City Council Wednesday.

Over the years, some of the vendors have been ticketed for selling merchandise without a permit, but the City Council has now revised the law.

The last arrest didn't stick when a judge ruled the city didn't apply the law correctly.

After police arrested Robert Groden last year, a city judge tossed out the case for selling material without a permit at Dealey Plaza and Groden took the city to federal court for violating his right to free speech.

He hopes the change in city law means he can sell his assassination magazine and DVD without interference.

“I'm not completely surprised that they did something; I'm just not sure where this is going to lead," he said. "I know the way it looks on paper, but you know we have to see how it's going to be treated.”

Without debate, the City Council revised the law to let a person sell noncommercial, First Amendment-protected items like newspapers, magazines, CDs or DVDs at parks.

Some Dealey Plaza visitors like Kim Richards from Oklahoma think the vendors should be allowed. "When you come and you’re a visitor and you don't know where anything is, it helps tremendously to know that they know everything and they've been here for years,” he said.

But after Groden's arrest, police said they cracked down based on visitor complaints that vendors harassed them. And some tourists said they think vendors should not be permitted at the National Historic Landmark.

“I think if somebody wants to come up with their own printed material, they can sell it in other venues," said Brian Christiansen of California.  "But to sell it here at the site, I think, makes it controversial and kind of almost confrontational.”

Groden has sold his materials at Dealey Plaza for years, and with some wariness hopes he is now on solid legal ground.

“I will be here as long as I possibly can,” he pledged.

The change in the law becomes effective immediately.

E-mail bwatson@wfaa.com

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