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Monday 25 September 2017

Dallas still struggles to shake off its image as the 'city of hate'

Flowers and a plaque at the base of the 'Grassy Knoll' at the spot where John F Kennedy was shot dead in 1963.
Flowers and a plaque at the base of the 'Grassy Knoll' at the spot where John F Kennedy was shot dead in 1963.

Philip Sherwell , Dallas

As mist and drizzle shrouded downtown Dallas yesterday, the word 'Love' exploded from the vibrantly coloured drawings and posters plastered across the windows of its bars, shops hotels and restaurants.

The artwork project organised by a coalition of local groups is the most visual illustration of the city's struggle to shed the enduring "city of hate" label that has clung since President John F Kennedy was assassinated there 50 years ago.

The eyes of the world will be on the city today as it stages a commemorative ceremony marking the grim anniversary in Dealey Plaza, where the darkest day in its history played out.

The historian David McCullough will read excerpts from Kennedy's speeches and a Navy Academic chorus will perform before the 5,000 guests.

At 12.30pm, the minute the bullets struck the president, bells will peel at churches across the city. It is the first time that Dallas has formally marked the anniversary – a sign of how the city has struggled to handle the legacy.

The slow embrace of the past began when city fathers fought off moves to tear down the Texas School Book Depository from which Lee Harvey Oswald fired the fatal shots. The building now houses the impressive Sixth Floor Museum where visitors crowd silently around Oswald's "sniper's nest".

Outside, the nondescript embankment that was dubbed "the grassy knoll" and became the focus for myriad conspiracy theories about other gunmen is another source of pilgrimage.

TOURS

Visitors have been pouring into the city for the anniversary and travel companies have been laying on dozens of additional "JFK assassination tours".

It is an influx that leaves locals with mixed feelings.

"It's hardly a cause for civic pride that people are coming to Dallas because the president was murdered here," said David Ware, an advertising executive who works close to Dealey Plaza. "But it is a chance to show we have changed a lot."

With 10,000 pieces of artwork put up across the city, the organisers of the Dallas Love Project are hoping to change that image. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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