The Assassination of Robert F Kennedy by Sirhan Sirhan

Who was Robert F Kennedy?

Robert F Kennedy (RFK) was a prominent American politician, adored and endeared member of the US Democratic party and a champion of modern liberalism. Robert F Kennedy was also notably from the Kennedy family which has a long line of historical political figures and which is famous for its fortune, wealth and success in the stock market.

Kennedy served as the 64th Attorney General from the beginning of 1961 to September 1964. At this time RFK was Attorney General during his elder brother, John F Kennedy’s (JFK) tenure as president. Robert F Kennedy went on to be elected into the 89th United States Congress as a senator representing New York in 1965.

Read also Five Accounts of the Assassination of Malcolm X

Robert had mass appeal among minorities due to his passion for civil rights, championing equality, equity, and his goal to unite the then-divided social classes in the United States. Robert F Kennedy was also against the controversial Vietnam War. He could be quoted in many speeches critiquing the wealthy and fighting for minorities.

Bobby Kennedy’s background and affiliations appealed to the American upper class enabling him to have a majority of America’s support in a period full of racial and class division. His success in US politics and admirable character are, however, overshadowed by the questions – Who assassinated Robert F Kennedy? And, why was Robert F Kennedy assassinated?

Who assassinated Robert F Kennedy and why?

Robert F Kennedy was assassinated on June 5th 1968. It was shortly after being announced the winner of the 1968 California Democratic presidential primary. Robert Kennedy made his speech condemning the country’s toxic divisions and his aim to unite America and all was well received by the excited crowd.

As Robert Kennedy was exiting through the kitchen rear exit of the Ambassador Hotel, LA, at about a quarter past midnight he paused to greet Juan Romero, a busboy of the hotel, and it is then that Sirhan Sirhan fired a .22 revolver multiple times at close range and aiming at the senator. It is documented that Sirhan Sirhan was as close as a foot to Robert Kennedy when he fired the shots.
Sirhan shot Robert F Kennedy 3 times, twice in the back and once in the head. Kennedy died 26 hours later at the Good Samaritan Hospital. Sirhan had hidden the weapon in a folded poster and those years security for politicians was not as advanced and equipped as it is in recent years. It was thus hard for security to detect the weapon.

Why was Robert F Kennedy assassinated?

To understand an assassination or a murder it is best to first understand the perpetrator. Getting to know the person behind the assassination uncovers the motive and association between the assassination and the person assassinated.

Who is Sirhan Sirhan?

Sirhan Sirhan is the man that killed Robert F Kennedy and if it were not for the assassination his name would probably not be as pronounced in history books as it is.
Sirhan is of Palestinian descent and immigrated to the United States at the age of 12 with his family. His childhood was marred by the violence of the Arab – Israeli conflict and he even witnessed his brother getting run over by a military vehicle. His mother said the violence he witnessed as a child traumatized him. Sirhan and his family briefly lived in New York upon their arrival in the United States before moving and settling in California. Sirhan Sirhan’s father was strict and said to have raised his sons with an iron fist and often harshly beat them.
At 20 years Sirhan trained to be a jockey when he moved to Corona but quit that aspiration when he fell while racing and suffered a head injury. He never applied for US citizenship and chose to remain solely with Jordanian citizenship.

Why did Sirhan Sirhan assassinate Robert F Kennedy?

Sirhan was raised an Arab Christian from his early days in Jerusalem and remained Christian even in adulthood despite changing denominations several times. He is noted to have joined Baptist and Adventist churches.

Studies have shown that a background in child abuse and violence contributes to violence during adulthood. It is worth noting that Sirhan experienced extreme levels of violence as a child. Also at the time of Robert Kennedy’s assassination, Kennedy was very vocal about his support for Israel in the Arab-Israeli war. Sirhan might have developed strong political views during his stay in America and factoring in that he is from Palestine, Sirhan must’ve felt betrayed by Kennedy who had voiced his support for Israel during the June 1967 Six-Day War and especially during campaigns when Kennedy promised to send Phantom fighter jets to Israel if elected president.
Sirhan’s diary which was discovered during the investigation of Robert F Kennedy’s assassination detailed his anger which seemed to fixate on Kennedy. Sirhan’s diary is even quoted to say, “… Kennedy must die before June 5th.’

His written scripts not only seemed to obsess with Kennedy but also in support of Communism and strongly against American capitalism. Sirhan admitted guilt whilst in custody upon his arrest.

Trial and Conviction

What followed was a long and publicized trial dubbed The People of the State of California v. Sirhan Sirhan. Sirhan’s lawyers filed a motion in chambers to enter a plea of guilty of murder in the first degree in exchange for life imprisonment as the judge had initially rejected their plea of “not guilty”.
Sirhan’s lawyers argued impulse and reaction to America’s involvement in the Arab-Israeli war. Sirhan even had the support of the secretary-general of the Action Committee on American-Arab Relations who said, “… he was defending himself against those 50 Phantom jets Kennedy was sending to Israel.” Sirhan would also state that his actions were also fueled by his being drunk.
Despite his defense Sirhan was convicted on 17th April 1969 and days later given the death in the gas chamber sentence. Three years later the sentence was later changed to life in prison as California’s Supreme court ruled capital punishment was in violation of California’s Constitution which was against cruel and unusual punishment.
The assassination of Robert F Kennedy marked 1968 as the bloodiest year in American politics. Two months earlier Robert Kennedy had marched to Martin Luther King Jr.’s funeral after he was also assassinated.

The assassination of the two was a big blow to civil rights movements. Some members of minority groups even claimed there were hidden agendas in the assassinations. Some said the Robert F Kennedy assassination was too well calculated and the shooter’s motive and evidence against him were so well elaborated to be believed.

Sirhan Sirhan’s lawyer Lawrence Teeter even claimed brainwashing and hypnotism as a defense during appeals. Other conspiracies also surround the Robert F Kennedy assassination including the Kennedy curse.
In August 2021, Sirhan Sirhan who was serving his 52nd year in prison was recommended for parole through the help of two of Robert F Kennedy’s sons who pitied the then 77-year-old. One of Kennedy’s sons said he could see how remorseful Sirhan was. America’s Criminal Justice System is however complex and the pity and forgiveness of Kennedy’s family are not enough to release Sirhan. California Governor Newsom, later on, denied Sirhan’s parole.
Robert F Kennedy continues to be remembered as a champion of civil rights, a president that America was robbed of that would have potentially been the bridge to unite Americans at a time when hostility and division among races and classes were at a high.

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