Memorial for victims of Jonestown mass murder and suicide dedicated

Nearly 200 people gathered at Oakland’s Evergreen Cemetery on Sunday to dedicate a newly completed memorial to the victims of the 1978 mass murder and suicide at Jonestown, Guyana, organizers said.

Controversially the memorial includes the name of the Peoples Temple cult’s leader — mass murdered Jim Jones.

The Associated Press reports:

The $45,000 monument, which consists of four large granite slabs embedded in the ground and etched with the names of the dead, has sparked controversy because it includes the name of Peoples Temple leader Jim Jones among the 917 other people who died.

The Oakland Tribune explains:

Jones is the reviled leader who culled much of the Jonestown population from religious and activist communities in the wake of the civil rights movement.

He is held responsible for brainwashing hundreds of people, many of whom wanted simply to keep building a better world, and forcing them to commit suicide on the day Rep. Leo Ryan, of San Mateo, arrived to investigate and was assassinated.

ABC affiliate KGO-TV says:

A Southern California pastor who lost 27 family members at Jonestown sued to block the memorial, but last week, a superior court judge sided with a group of memorial supporters including Jim Jones’ son, saying the service should go on with Jones’ name etched in stone.

For many, the mass murder-suicide in 1978 tarnishes otherwise happy memories from life on the commune in Guyana.

“Unfortunately, Jim Jones became a madman and he destroyed all those lives,” survivor Herbert Newell said.

Newell has 11 family members on the memorial and says Jones’ name should be among them.

“I don’t see why not. He was a part of it. He was a leader of it, but people go wrong you know, in life. All of us wouldn’t have been there if it wouldn’t a been for him,” he said.

The memorial to the Jonestown victims is open to the public at Evergreen Cemetery, 6450 Camden St. in Oakland.

Peoples Temple research resources
Seductive Poison: A Jonestown Survivor’s Story of Life and Death in the People’s Temple

Outrage at Jonestown Massacre Monument

A woman who lost 27 family members in the 1978 Jonestown Massacre has sued an Oakland cemetery association and its top officers, claiming that after she spent 18 years raising money to build a monument to the victims, the cemetery pulled a switch and decided to erect a different monument, based on a design from Jones’ People’s Church, which “proposes to include the name of Jim Jones himself as a victim of the Jonestown Massacre-Suicides.”

Courthouse News Service reports:

Jynona Norwood and her nonprofit, the Guyana Tribute Foundation, sued The Evergreen Cemetery Association, its president Buck Kamphausen, and its executive director Ron Haulman, in Alameda County Court. […]

Norwood says most of her family members who died at Jonestown are buried at the Evergreen mass grave site.

Since 1980, Norwood has been holding annual public memorials at Evergreen to honor the victims of the massacre. She says that for decades she has been trying to erect a memorial wall with the names of the 918 victims at the Evergreen Cemetery, and that she planned to exclude Jim Jones’ name from the memorial.

According to the complaint, the “defendants orally agreed that they would be agreeable to, and willing to assist in, the building of a memorial wall honoring the victims of the Jonestown Massacre-Suicides.”

Norwood says that after she received a proposal from a monument company, the “defendants notified plaintiff that they would permit the construction of the memorial wall only if plaintiff used their preferred vendor, called Marin Monument Company Inc., working through Amador Memorial Company.

However, “On or about December 15, 2009, defendants wrote a letter to Norwood wherein they alleged, among other things, that the memorial wall had never been approved and that it was too large.”

Then, in March this year,

“Plaintiffs discovered by reading a news article that defendants had approved plans for another monument to be erected on the base and setting originally approved for plaintiffs’ memorial wall. This monument is proposed by the surviving People’s Church, led by [Jim Jones’ adopted son] Jim Jones, Jr., and proposes to include the name of Jim Jones himself as a victim of the Jonestown Massacre-Suicides.” (Emphasis in complaint.)

Norwood says the defendants misappropriated the money she raised for the memorial and “defrauded plaintiffs of the use of a sacred site which plaintiffs have used for years to honor the victims of the Jonestown Massacre-Suicides.”

Norwood seeks compensatory and punitive damages for breach of contract, misrepresentation and fraud. And she wants the defendants enjoined from building a memorial that honors Jim Jones “upon the mass grave site where most of the 305 children that Jim Jones ordered to be murdered are buried.”

Research resources on the Peoples Temple cult

Peoples Temple cult survivor dies

Robert Paul, one of 33 survivors of cult leader Jim Jones’ Jonestown murder-suicide massacre Nov. 18, 1978, has died.

Paul, who had joined the Peoples Temple church with his then-girlfriend Ruletta Paul and their 1-year-old son Robert Paul Jr., became a security guard for Jones.

He and Rulette followed Jim Jones to Guyana. According to his cousin Paul quickly discovered Jones had taken the church in the wrong direction and repeatedly tried to leave.

He eventually joined a group of 11 members who escaped through the jungle and caught a train out of Jonestown before making it back to the United States.

Ruletta Paul and Robert Jr. were among the 900-plus people who drank the cyanide-laced Flavor Aid drink and died at Jonestown. [Read more...]

Jonestown Revisited: Play looks at how man turned to cult, suicide

Peoples Temple, Jonestown While reading an exposé about San Francisco preacher and cult leader Jim Jones in 1977, Ken White was surprised to see mention of Michael Prokes, an old friend who had become a spokesperson for Jones.

Prokes killed himself a few months after the mass murder/suicide took place at the cult’s compound. White has now turned his friend’s story into a play. [Read more...]