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The assassination of Robert Kennedy

When Sirhan Bishara Sirhan fired three times at Robert Kennedy in the kitchen of the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles on June 5, 1968 at 0.50 a.m. local time, the political dreams of millions of Americans came to an end.

On his knees, the then 17-year-old Juan Romero wants to prevent the bleeding head of the senator from touching the cold floor. Only seconds before, Kennedy wanted to shake hands with him. Fifty years later, Romero says in a Netflix documentary: "It was as if all hope died with him."

A country that has overstretched its military might. Police violence, debates about gun ownership and immigration, an unjust judicial system, no equality of opportunity between ethnic groups - Robert Kennedy's daughter Kerry shows in a recently published book how much all these topics were in the late 1960s. The Trump era doesn't have them exclusively. Not even the hysteria, the glaring and gaping contrasts in society.

“Everyone today complains about polarization. It was much worse then. "

Bill Galston, political scientist

“Everyone today complains about polarization. It was much worse back then, ”says political scientist Bill Galston. In 1968 America longed for a politician who would pacify the troubled country and repair America's international reputation, damaged by the atrocities of the Vietnam War.

This man appeared to be Robert Francis "Bobby" Kennedy. He promised to restore "US moral leadership on this planet". His mantra: "We can do better."

A man with charisma

Bobby Kennedy was a handsome man, like a fresh promise. Radiant smile, sharp suits, charisma and persuasiveness, softened and more open five years after the murder of his brother John F., in whose cabinet he had served as attorney general.

"Kennedy was on the way to a brilliant career," says Princeton historian Julian Zelizer. Martin Luther King, icon of the black movement, had been murdered two months earlier. Historians describe 1968 as the “year of the national nervous breakdown” in the USA. On Robert Kennedy's sudden death, political scientist Galston writes that it was as if the country wanted to tear apart at its seams afterwards. “Everything got worse and worse. The tensions between the ethnic groups and age groups, along the boundaries of culture, income, genders, values ​​and ideology. "

Juan Romero, the Mexican immigrant who held Kennedy's head at the time, says: "His legacy is more relevant today than ever." The Senator celebrated the primary victory in California with cheering supporters. The 24-year-old assassin met him on the way to the kitchen exit, where the cars were waiting. The next day, Kennedy died from severe head and neck injuries. He was 42 years old. Sirhan shot him because he believed he was complicit in suppressing the Palestinians. He is in California.

Not a lone perpetrator?

Since then, the theory has persisted that Sirhan was not a lone perpetrator who suppressed the FBI's findings. Listen to it in detail, including in a multi-part podcast with Paul Schrade, Kennedy's confidante. The now 91-year-old was shot in the 1968 assassination attempt.

With Bobby Kennedy's death, a seed sprouted for historians that is still bearing dark fruit today. “Many thought that changes would probably never be possible within a 'normal' policy. What began is a deep radicalization and acceptance of violence, ”writes Ross Baker.

The Washington Post commented on Kennedy's death: "He's a reminder to this day that even in times of chaos and turmoil we can decide who we want to be as citizens." For the British director of the Netflix documentary about Kennedy, Dawn Porter, parallels to Trump's America are imperative. "People must be reminded that the office of president is greater than any individual."

Two months and a day before he was fatally shot, Bobby Kennedy responded to the assassination of Martin Luther King in a speech in Indianapolis. He said: "What we need is no longer division, hatred or violence - but love, wisdom and affection." He was very acclaimed. (dpa)

«Western style politics» and the «criminal little bug» - the reporting of the SN

On the day after the assassination attempt on Senator Robert Kennedy, there was only one topic on the front page of the "Schaffhauser Nachrichten". The SN reported in great detail on the condition of the then 42-year-old politician who had applied for the office of president, which he had held since Brother. From today's perspective, astonishing: The picture of Bobby Kennedy lying on the floor was printed on the front. It has to be said, however, that even if you look closely at the “radio picture”, only the vague can be seen. The correspondent's report states in great detail that the athletes Rafer Johnson and Roosevelt Grier fought the shooter down "in dirty blue jeans". Or that his wife Ethel held a handkerchief to her husband's head: "She didn't cry." In the commentary, the author laments the accumulation of political assassinations: “A few years after the assassination of President Kennedy, a few months after the assassination of Martin Luther King and a few weeks after the assassination attempt on Rudi Dutschke, another person was attacked by a criminal little bug Fell victim." And: "Every anonymous worm that equips itself with a cinema cannon can trigger political consequences of historical significance by reacting its pent-up private aggressiveness with a few shots." (sk)