Robert Kennedy is as­sas­si­nated

A Pales­tinian gun­man slays the pres­i­den­tial hope­ful in an LA ho­tel

BBC History Magazine - - Anniversaries -

It was just af­ter mid­night on 5 June when, to the roars of his sup­port­ers, Se­na­tor Robert F Kennedy emerged into the glare of the ball­room at the Am­bas­sador Ho­tel, Los An­ge­les. Af­ter one of the most tur­bu­lent cam­paigns in liv­ing mem­ory, he seemed to have taken a de­ci­sive step to­wards the Demo­cratic pres­i­den­tial nom­i­na­tion, hav­ing nar­rowly de­feated his ri­val anti-war se­na­tor, Eu­gene McCarthy, in the Cal­i­for­nia and South Dakota pri­maries.

For months Kennedy had hes­i­tated to chal­lenge Pres­i­dent Lyn­don John­son over the Viet­nam War, but at last the prize was within sight. Now, as the crowd pressed ur­gently around him, his aides pro­pelled him to­wards the press room, tak­ing a short cut through the ho­tel kitchen. It was there that a 24-year-old Pales­tinian drifter, Sirhan Sirhan, en­raged by Kennedy’s sup­port for Is­rael, saw his chance. As the se­na­tor pushed past him, Sirhan lifted his re­volver and fired.

Even as Kennedy’s body­guards over­pow­ered his as­sas­sin, the se­na­tor was bleed­ing to death on the floor. He had been shot three times; later, pho­to­graphs showed him be­ing cra­dled by a kitchen as­sis­tant, who pressed a rosary into his hand. “Don’t lift me,” Kennedy said weakly when, a few min­utes later, the paramedics ar­rived. For more than a day he clung to life, but at 2am on 6 June, his press sec­re­tary told the wait­ing jour­nal­ists that it was all over. Less than five years af­ter his older brother had fallen to an as­sas­sin’s bul­let, Amer­i­can pol­i­tics had claimed the life of an­other Kennedy.

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