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Feud Over Jonestown Memorial

| February 28, 2011
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By any measure, the Jonestown Massacre is one of the most tragic episodes in U.S. history. Thirty-two years after the murder of more than 900 people in Guyana—followers of the Rev. Jim Jones forced to drink poison—the nightmare refuses to fade away. The latest evidence: a media conference today at Oakland’s Evergreen Cemetery, site of a mass grave that holds remains of several hundred victims. Family members have worked for decades to place a monument with the name of all those who died, but today they suggested the cemetery isn’t cooperating with their plans to install it.

But as related by Angela Woodall of the Bay Area News Group, the Jonestown memorial saga has taken a bizarre turns. Jim Jones Jr., the son of the man who ordered the forced self-immolation in Guyana, is reportedly insisting that his father’s name be included on the new monument. Woodall says that a company in Amador County is actually preparing such a memorial—and that it includes Jones’s name.

The response at today’s cemetery gathering in Oakland? “In plain English,” one speaker said, “the children’s names should be listed, not the tyrant’s.” And it’s a little hard to avoid constructing analogies from this. For instance, who’d find it appropriate to list Stalin on a memorial to the victims of the gulag?

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Category: California History, Oakland, San Francisco

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About the Author ()

Dan Brekke has worked in media ever since Nixon's first term, when newspapers were still using hot type. He had moved on to online news by the time Bill Clinton met Monica Lewinsky. He's been at KQED since 2007, is an enthusiastic practitioner of radio and online journalism and will talk to you about absolutely anything. Reach Dan Brekke at dbrekke@kqed.org.

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