Follow by Email

Thursday, January 26, 2012

The Assassination of Robert F. Kennedy

By June of 1968, Robert Kennedy had become a beacon of light to many hippies, many Doves, who thought that he had the power to not only win the democratic nomination but also that he would win the election itself in November and, most importantly, that he would end the war in Vietnam as soon as possible. I am sure many of them also knew that with him in office they would most likely never again have to fear the men in shiny shoes, the constant threat of trumped up charges and outrageous sentences over minor offences, or any of the other things that plagued them all under the Johnson administration. So with him running they had hope...hope that he would win and that he would make right all that had gone so terribly wrong with the country since the death of his brother. Imagine, then, the crushed dreams and broken hearts that spread from sea to sea when he was unexpectedly shot dead after making his speech when he won the California primary on June 5th, 1968. Well, shot dead isn't exactly accurate as he was still technically alive when they took him to the hospital that night but...we all know how that ended. It was a devastation to many and it shaped the events that came in the following months because if that moment had never happened, if Bobby had not been slain, the madness in Chicago two months later would have never come to be. Who knows how different everything might have turned out...but he was slain and Liz was there to see it all:
   'The night before the primaries Jack talked Chris into bringing him down. He had with him two press passes and no explanation for where they came from. I didn’t care. I was too excited about the next day to wonder how he managed to make it all possible.       In addition to the press passes that guaranteed our entrance into the private quarters of Robert Kennedy, Jack also brought me a new dress to wear for the event. He showed me this as I drank coffee and willed my hangover away. I had to get ready, I had to go and vote, I had too much to do… “What do you think?”
    I looked up with aching eyes and saw a beautiful handmade dress of light cotton and corduroy. The bodice was fitted while the rest of it flowed past my feet. It was made of the prettiest colors of purple, blue, and pink that I had ever seen. “Where did this come from?” I questioned in shock.
    “I got it from the store. There’s this new chick that’s been making shit and selling it to us… she’s a speeder…anyway, it came in a couple of days ago and I thought of you. Try it on.”
    I did and it fit like a glove. I couldn’t remember a time when I felt more beautiful. If it hadn’t been for that dress I might not have gotten ready that day at all but it inspired me to get up and get a shower. By the time I had finished my makeup and my hair was lying clean and straight against my back all thoughts of a hangover were gone. I was ready to meet the man that I was sure would be the next president of the United States of America. But first there was my patriotic duty to perform. The television had already shown pictures of the packed voting places all over Los Angeles County and the day was unbearably hot but I hadn’t gone through all of my bitching and registering to vote as soon as I turned twenty one to miss out. So I went with Jack by my side and I stood for hours in line with only the thoughts of the evening before me keeping me sane.
     Robert Kennedy arrived at the Ambassador Hotel a little after seven that evening. I came in an hour later. I was tired until we arrived and just seeing the massive structure revitalized me. I made Jack wait with me while I reapplied melting makeup and brushed out my hair. I had to look good for a moment like this...right? Almost as soon as we were inside of the building we were checked by a man who looked at our presses badges, asked our names, and laid out the rules. “Because you have these,” He held our passes up for us to see. “You are free to go to the fifth floor and meet with Senator Kennedy. However, he is very busy, as you might expect, so if you wish you may set a time with him for an interview and then go to the ballroom for music and refreshments. Any questions?” Jack and I shook our heads silently. “Alright then. If you will just follow that guy right there, he’ll show you to the Senator’s suite.”
    Silently we followed the man that he had pointed to on an elevator and up to the fifth floor. The guy seemed tired and not in the mood for conversation and that was just fine with me. Suddenly my nerves were on edge and I felt as though I would throw up. Upon walking into Bobby’s suite this feeling intensified. I had never seen so many people crammed into such a tiny room! At first I couldn’t even see the senator. When at last the sea of people did part I saw this as my chance. I mentally willed away the sickness and I pressed forward, not even stopping to see if Jack was behind me, until I stood right in front of a man that I had been admiring for some time. My first sight of him took my breath. He was not a good looking man as far as I was concerned but he seemed to have some sort of magnetism that just drew you in. It took me a minute before I realized he had spoken to me. “Excuse me?” I asked shyly.
    He smiled and I realized that in that smile there was the power to make you believe whatever he wanted to tell you. It nearly frightened me. “I said how can I help you, miss?”
     “Oh…I…ummm…” Thrusting my press pass at him I fought to gain my wits. Taking a breath I began again. “My name is Liz Sanders and I am the main writer of an underground paper called The Full Circle. I suppose I want what most people in this room are looking for. Some of your time and a little of your thoughts on this particular primary.”
    “First, let me ask you something. Did you vote?”
   I was slightly shocked at the question. “Of course I did. After all the talking I’ve done to my readers about electing you it would be hypocritical of me not to vote.”
     He laughed heartily. “Well, alright then. Ask me what you want to know.”
   I had prepared a typical list of questions but they were soon tossed out the window and in its place was a conversation that flowed easily between us. I remember thinking that I was grateful for my tape recorder. Without it I could have never remembered all that was said between us. He was in an amazing mood. At some point during our conversation he learned that he had won the primaries in South Dakota and this produced pride in him, especially when he learned that it was the American Indian vote that secured that win for him. After that he went around talking but he would come back to me ever so often and say a few words. All of this I captured to go through later and make into our cover story for July. In addition to this I brought my camera and I was snapping pictures with all of the rest. I got some that I knew would be amazing for the paper and some that I planned to keep for myself in a scrapbook that I wanted to make when it was all over.
    At ten thirty that night enough of the votes had come in for CBS to declare Robert F. Kennedy the winner of the Democratic Primary in California. On the tape is captured the sounds of victory, mine included, that I recorded at that moment. It all felt like an impossible dream that I should be there watching the reaction of Bobby Kennedy to his big win in California. It was absolutely mind blowing. When he hugged me as he was hugging everyone else and invited me to the post-primary party that he had invited most of the room to, I couldn’t process what was happening as reality. It was too much to take in. After the victory sank in he grew quiet, lighting up a cigar. Then he began to pound his fist into his hand while he swore that he would follow Hubert Humphrey’s ass all across the country if he had to. This is real, I thought then, and so is he. He is not a god or an angel, he is flesh and blood. He has flaws and he is not invincible. That thought unsettled me so that I felt that I had to leave the room.
    Before I walked out he called to me. “Hey, I mean it about the party. I’ve got people telling me I’ve got to go down to the ballroom. I’ll be down there in a bit and when I’m done…Oh hell…just follow us out I guess.”
    I smiled because I could do nothing else. My mind was reeling from everything that I had just witnessed. In three hours I had been a part of something that was beyond anything else I ever dreamed I would do. I had been a part of history and I actually knew it as I was living it. Unless you’ve had something like that happen, you could never comprehend the feeling. Jack and I went to the ballroom because we were hyped up beyond anything a drug could do and we wanted to dance until it was time to go. Of course we were going to the party. How could we not show up? The ballroom was stuffy and packed with people who had been sitting there for hours. The lights were not as bright as I would’ve imagined. There were camera crews everywhere. All of this I ignored. I wanted champagne suddenly and I had it, along with a Lucky Strike, before Jack and I hit the dance floor. Cheesy cocktail music was playing but that didn’t matter either. Glass after glass of champagne we consumed and dance after dance we shared until about an hour had passed and it was announced that Bobby was coming in.
     Because we were already standing and there was no where to sit, I got as close to the stage as I could and I turned on the tape recorder to capture whatever he might say. He looked calm and composed as he took the stage with Ethel and others at his side. There were young kids in a conga line shouting, “Sock it to ‘em, Bobby!” and that made us all laugh, along with those who were singing a goofy tune about him. He started off by thanking people and we all chuckled when he thanked his dog before his wife. He went on to repeat his promise to us all about helping the hungry in America. He thanked his friends in the “black community” and he mentioned Cesar Chavez and a woman named Dolores Huerto before saying, “We have certain obligations and responsibilities to our fellow citizens which we’ve talked about during the course of this campaign and I promise to fulfill them when I am president.”  His smile was broad as he concluded with, “So my thanks to all of you and on to Chicago and let’s win there!” When he flashed the V and his wife grabbed him I teared up. I still couldn’t believe that I was there with such an extraordinary man.
    Everyone erupted into shouts of, “We want Bobby!” while Jack led me toward the group that was now following Kennedy out of the ballroom. I had no idea where we were going but it soon became apparent that we were headed towards the kitchen. I had just stepped inside the doorway when I saw the gun and I heard the shots.  I froze, unable to move, recalling in my mind’s eye the days of footage from his brother’s assassination that had been brought into every living room in America. No, I thought, not Bobby. My feet moved without my consent and I was in that huge hotel kitchen closer to the body of Bobby Kennedy. He was still breathing but there was so much blood….so much blood…and I wanted to be sick but I couldn’t because I did not know how to walk away at that moment. I wanted to see what would happen next. The gunman was wrestled to the ground, his gun was taken away, and still Bobby lay there. I saw that he was trying to talk and Ethel was at his side and people were pouring in and there was so much blood….
    God only knows how long I would have stood there if Jack had not pulled me away and led me out. I played it over and over in my head, the dark man, the little gun, Bobby shaking hands with someone and then he was on the floor with the blood….I don’t remember getting into the car. I know that I had never seen Jack drive before but he drove that night and I made no effort to stop him. I was cold all over. I could feel myself shaking as I watched that horrible scene play again and again. “I just watched Bobby die…I just watched him die…he’s dead, Jack!” Now the hysterics came and I was shouting at my friend. “He’s fucking dead and we just saw it happen!”
    “Calm down, honey. Did you see that gun? It’s nothing but a little revolver. He could make it out of this. He could pull through.” Jack was trying to assure me. In the distance I heard sirens wailing. Yes, I knew where they were going and I did not believe anything coming from my best friend’s mouth.
    “He’s dead, Jack! He’s fucking dead!” That was when the tears came. Sobs racked my body and this time Jack said nothing. He simply drove toward my house in an effort to put distance between us and what had just happened.
    Because I was such a wreck, Jack carried me into the house. I was still sobbing, still seeing the image again and again of a man being shot before my eyes. A thought suddenly occurred to me and I whispered in a hoarse tone, “Where’s my tape recorder?”
“It’s still in the car.” Jack answered.
   “But we got it?” I looked up at him. If he had told me it was gone that would have been my undoing. Suddenly those last happy hours (for I was sure that he already gone) that I had captured were all I cared about in the world."

Excerpts from the days that followed leading up to Bobby's death:
"“Do you think the government was in on this? The Kennedy's were never chummy with Johnson and with Bobby going the way he was, Humphrey was all but fucked for the nomination. Against McCarthy he still has a chance. Do you think it was coincidence that the same night he took California and South Dakota he was shot dead by some crazy fuck in the hotel kitchen?”
     I had never been one for conspiracy theories but I knew a set up when I saw one and to me there was no mistaking this as a simple act of another madman’s bullet. “You should stop hanging out with Jack so much. You are beginning to think like him.”
“You can really tell me that there seems to be nothing odd about what happened last night? Are you serious! Bobby was gaining steam. By August he would have had it and any fool could see as much…”
    “If Humphrey does win this than we’re fucked. There is no way that anyone is going to vote him into office. Everyone is so sick of what is going on and he’s as much a part of Johnson as his right arm! Do you think that Johnson doesn’t see that? He had to know enough to reject the nomination.”
    I smirked at him. “You mean, when his party was putting him on his fucking pedestal and dying to reelect him? No, he doesn’t know that and neither do I. All I know is that last night I met a man who is amazing, a man who could have taken us on to the next chapter in our history, who would have pulled us out of that fucking jungle, and today he’s lying on a hospital bed waiting to die. I know that we are under an administration that has agents following anyone who says a word against it and we have a president who will do anything to keep up a useless war because he wants to go down in history as bigger and better than the man that died so he could have that seat in the Oval Office. In light of what I do know I think it is safe to say that my theory is not that hard to imagine.”"
"Bobby held on until the following day and when he finally passed it was surrounded by ghosts and grief at the Good Samaritan Hospital right there in Los Angeles. I had cried so much that when I heard the news I had no tears left to weep. I knew it was coming. As soon as he was shot I knew he wouldn’t make it. I just chased a nerve pill with some whiskey and I let the depression come."
Pretty heavy shit indeed...but...it was a pretty heavy time. Sorrow and fury were the prominent emotions of 1968 for America as a nation and for many who called her home.
The official version of what occurred the night Bobby was shot taken from http://homepages.tcp.co.uk/~dlewis/crime.htm:
The Crime

This is the official version of the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy, as put forward by the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) and the LA District Attourney's office (LADA).
On 5th June 1968, 12.15am, Senator Robert F. Kennedy was making his way from the ballroom at the Ambassador Hotel, Los Angeles, to give a press conference, after winning the California Primary. The prearranged route went through a food service pantry. While making his way through this area, a Palastinian Arab, Sirhan Sirhan, stepped forward and fired a .22 revolver at the Senator. Although Sirhan was quickly subdued, Kennedy and five others were wounded, although only Kennedy was fatally wounded. Sirhan was arrested at the scene, charged and convicted of first degree murder. He was to have been executed, but the U.S. Supreme Court voided the constitutionality of the death sentence before the sentence could be carried out. Sirhan has been incarcerated at Corcoran State Prison, California, since then. Under Californian law, he should have been automatically scheduled for release in 1984, but this was not the case.
Other sections of the above linked website:
The Complications


The problem with this scenario is that the physical evidence and eyewitness reports would seem to show that Sirhan was incapable of inflicting the wounds attributed to him.The autopsy carried out by Coroner Thomas Noguchi showed that Senator Kennedy had been shot three times. One shot entered the head behind the right ear, a second shot near the right armpit and a third roughly one and a half inches below the second. All shots entered the body at a sharply upward angle, moving slightly right to left. These shots are incompatible with eyewitness reports of the shooting. Sirhan had no access to the Senator's rear, and Kennedy never turned more than sideways to Sirhan. In addition, Sirhan fired with his arm parallel to the floor, i.e. straight ahead. Maitre d' Karl Uecker, who had been leading Kennedy forward by the right hand at the time the shooting started, grappled Sirhan after his second shot and pushed the gun away. All these points, as well as the fact that the gun was one and a half to six feet from Kennedy, prove that Sirhan could not have inflicted the fatal wounds to the Senator.
Sirhan's .22 revolver contained eight bullets and he had no chance to reload. This caused a problem for the official version of the assassination as all bullets had been accounted for, except for one which was lost in the ceiling space. Reports indicated that a wooden door jamb contained two bullets. This frame and as many as five or six ceiling tiles were removed from the crime scene for tests. Photographs of the crime scene show at least this many tiles missing and more besides. Los Angeles Police Department criminologist DeWayne Wolfer was quoted as saying "it's unbelievable how many holes there are in the kitchen ceiling." This suggests that LAPD found more bullets (or traces of bullets) than could be accounted for by Sirhan's eight shot revolver, at least seven and probably more.
As well as the problems noted above, there are the reports of suspicious people in the area at the time of the assassination. The first policeman on the scene, Sergeant Paul Schraga, was approached by a couple who told him that they had encountered a young man and woman fleeing the Ambassador Hotel shouting "We shot him! We shot him." When asked who they had shot, the young woman joyously replied, "Senator Kennedy." Schraga sent out an All Points Bulletin on the two suspects. This was the start of the "Polka-dot Dress Girl" controversy. In one of the most intuitive pieces of police deduction since the JFK assassination, LAPD declared that Sirhan was the sole assassin within minutes of the crime. Schraga was asked to cancel his APB, and when he refused, it was canceled by his superiors.
The couple's story was explained by the LAPD as a case of mishearing, stating that the young woman must have said "They shot him!" However, a young woman sitting on a staircase outside the Ambassador Hotel, Sandra Serrano, corroborated the couple's story.
Two witnesses in the pantry also saw armed men, aside from Sirhan and security guard Thane Eugene Cesar. Lisa Urso noticed a blond haired man in a grey suit putting a gun into a holster. A second, unnamed, witness saw a tall, dark-haired man, wearing a black suit, fire two shots and run out of the pantry.
The Cover-up


In 1968 it was not a federal offence to murder a presidential candidate. The case, therefore, came under LAPD juristriction. The investigation was based on the wish of Police Chief Ed Davis that it would not be "another Dallas." Whether this meant an intense, professional investigation or a tighter cover-up is debatable.As the case was the responsibility of the LAPD, there was no pressure to release their findings, the "Summary Report". Researchers into the RFK Assassination finally forced the Report and the LAPD's files to be released, in 1988. Compare this to 1964 for the Warren Commission Report (the year after JFK's assassination) and it becomes obvious why the official version of the assassination has been unchallenged, despite the obvious complications.
After the release of the files, it became clear to what extent the cover-up had been carried out. Evidence which contradicted the official version was destroyed. The more extreme acts of destruction included:
  • 2,400 photographs burned because they were "duplicates." In fact, there were no lists precise enough to show that all the photos destroyed were indeed duplicates.
  • Ceiling tiles and the door frame from the pantry destroyed, because, according to then Assistant Chief Daryl Gates, they wouldn't fit into card files.
In addition, LAPD records showed that they had recorded 3,470 interviews during the course of the investigation. Only 301 interviews were released. Examination by researchers showed that for 51 key "conspiracy" witnesses, there were no interviews.The LAPD were not alone in conducting this cover-up. The Los Angeles District Attorney's Office was also involved. The scope of this involvement was seen in the files released to researchers in 1985, due mainly to the inclusion of a box of tapes, videos and documents sent from the LADA branch at Van Nuys. This box contained evidence which went against the official version. The most graphic examples were the video reconstructions from 1968 and 1977, which prove that Sirhan could not have inflicted the wounds on Senator Kennedy. However, by using selected stills from the reconstructions, the official version was supported.
The coverup of the RFK assassination has been maintained because the facts are simply not known. Whereas the Warren Commission report was released the year following the JFK assassination, LAPD's "Summary Report" was not released until 1986. The files were released two years later. Both of these achievements were made despite strong LAPD/LADA resistance, for obvious reasons.
The RFK assassination was not investigated in by the House Select Commitee on Assassinations because of the seemingly open and shut nature of the case. Now that the facts are known, perhaps it is time that the RFK assassination was investigated. While the JFK assassination has reached the point where the answer is "Oswald might have done it or he might not have", there is no possible way that Sirhan could have inflicted the wounds on Senator Kennedy. All that is required is the official investigation.
In addition to these sections there are also interviews, pictures, etc. from that night. I don't recommend the site, however, if you aren't interested in the...ummm...alternative view of what occurred in that pantry. Because this site is dedicated to the belief that there was far more to Robert Kennedy's assassination than what everyone was led to believe.
                Part One of Kennedy's Speech at the Ambassador Hotel:
Part 2:

Part 3:
                                





                                  



No comments:

Post a Comment