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Dealey Plaza – 60 Years Later

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Matthew Porcelli
Matthew Porcelli
Matthew Porcelli, MSc, CPP, CPOI, F.ISRM, FSyl , is a Safety/Security Management Specialist with over two decades of experience in the criminal justice and private security sector working with clients from international airlines to corporate global headquarters, and alongside municipal, state, and federal law enforcement partners. Porcelli is a globally recognized volunteer thought leader, author, presenter, and featured in many global security periodicals.

Last week, I had the privilege of attending and speaking at the Global Security Exchange (GSX) brought to us by ASIS International, in Dallas, Texas. As this was my first visit to the Big D, and a passionate student of security, I made a point to visit Dealey Plaza and pay my respects to, where on November 22, 1963, President John F. Kennedy was assassinated while traveling via motorcade through the plaza via Elm Street.

Upon arrival in the early evening, Dealey Plaza had a few visitors talking to city tour officials and taking photographs near and around the Grassy Knoll, the Texas Book Depository, and next to two affixed, “X” marks in the road where two of the shots hit the 35th President of the United States, to name a few. Recognized as a National Historic Landmark, it still surprises me how over a quarter of a million visitors a year may visit the site but for varying reasons ranging from curiosity to quelling the suspicions of conspiracy theorists.

Furthermore, I find it astonishing how this and other tragically historical events reflect modern day public perception and reactions to crises and how many parallels can be drawn.

Conspiracy Theories and Public Opinion on the Dealey Plaza Incident

One of the first questions/comments made to me by tour guides trying to sell brochures was, “How many shooters do you think there were?” and, “Did you know that Lyndon Johnson did not like John F. Kennedy and might have had something to do with the assassination?” People are drawn to conspiracy theories and inflated opinions about the facts.

This is even more relevant through speculation from the public.

Security professionals both involved in close quarter protection and with fixed assets, now more than ever with a hybrid society, understand that public opinion will exacerbate a crisis, even years after the crisis occurred. Unfortunately, with the fathomless option of anonymity on social media, this will continue.

Misconception of Competence

Regardless of how many theories, whether there was one or many shooters, or if the Babushka Lady and Umbrella Man had something to do with the assassination, one misconception remains…that actors of nefarious deeds are mindless brutes.

Quite the contrary, aggressors are not mindless but well prepared and study their targets at times for weeks, months, or even years. Staying ahead of threats, especially when reviewing what is at stake if your principal and the organization that they represent are hurt or defamed.

A Learning Experience or Tourism

Memorialization helps future generations learn and respect certain events, regardless of how tragic, and the individuals involved. As time goes on, an amount of reverence remains; however, others might view and treat the location more as a stop on a tour rather than respecting the importance of how the nation stood still on that autumn day in 1963.  Interestingly, as many of the visitors to Dealey Plaza were fellow attendees of GSX, there was a subtle perception from visiting global security professionals compared to tourists.

For example, analyzation of how the Secret Service was position on the bumpers of the motorcade, range and type of firearm used in the shooting, speed of motorcade as it rounded onto Elm Street, and so on. Of course, myself, and I can guarantee my fellow global security professionals at Dealey Plaza that evening also took photographs as keepsakes; however, many other laypersons or naive tourists have gone as far as to lay in the street on the, “X,” marks for a picture prior to the traffic flow proceeding from a green traffic light.

How often has a tragedy occurred or a principal/fixed asset been in danger and onlookers are more concerned with snapping a picture and posting on social media rather than assisting in the safety and security of an already hectic event?

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