Jonestown Massacre Monument Lawsuit

An attempt to install a monument to commemorate the 1978 Jonestown Massacre — the mass suicide led by Jim Jones that killed more than 900 members of a religious cult –is the center of a lawsuit.  [source]

Jones’ adopted son, Jim Jones Jr., commissioned the memorial and included his father’s name. Jim Jones Jr. was 18-years-old at the time of the massacre, and tried to stop it.  He has since formed a survivors’ group and has raised the funds for the monument.

But Rev. Jyona Norwood — who lost 27 family members in the massacre — wants her monument installed instead.  Rev. Norwood heads a different foundation — the Guyana Tribute Foundation — and has spent 20 years planning the monument.

Rev. Norwood does not agree that Jim Jones’ name should be included on the memorial and seeks $30,000 from the cemetery for stones she bought for her never-built memorial, which she said the cemetery agreed to install.

The Jonestown Massacre/Mass Suicide is hard to get your head around.  The facts according to Wikipedia:

Jonestown was the informal name for the Peoples Temple Agricultural Project, an intentional community in northwestern Guyana formed by the Peoples Temple, a cult led by Jim Jones. It became internationally notorious when, on November 18, 1978, 918 people died in the settlement as well as in a nearby airstrip and in Georgetown, Guyana’s capital. The name of the settlement became synonymous with the incidents at those locations.  A total of 909 Temple members died in Jonestown, all but two from apparent cyanide poisoning, in an event termed “revolutionary suicide” by Jones and some members on an audio tape of the event and in prior discussions. The poisonings in Jonestown followed the murder of five others by Temple members at a nearby Port Kaituma airstrip. The victims included Congressman Leo Ryan, the first member of Congress assassinated in the line of duty in the history of the United States. Four other Temple members died in Georgetown at Jones’s command.

About 400 of the victims are buried in a mass grave in Oakland, California.  This is where the disputed monument will be placed.  The court denied Rev. Norwood’s request for an injunction.  So, the monument with Jones’ name will be constructed at the cemetery.

The judge probably got this one right.  There is no law that can stop the inclusion of Jim Jones’ name on a privately funded monument.  Siouxsie is no Jim Jones fan, but allowing a private memorial to include his name is legally correct.

Lost in the stories on this dispute is an explanation of why Jim Jones’ adopted son would want to include his father’s name.  Jim Jones, Jr. states only that it should be included because it is factually correct to do so.  But there has more to it than that.  Jim Jones ended up a devil and a mass murderer, but started out crusading against racism and poverty.  The story of Jonestown and its tragic ending are more complicated, than most people want to know about.  It is not entirely surprising that a monument would include the name of the man to blame for the tragedy.

If you have any interest in learning about Jonestown, the American Experience documentary on the subject is terrific.  It includes interviews with survivors and former members of the church.  Plus, Jones recorded videos of himself and the events of November 18, 1978.

~ by siouxsielaw on May 25, 2011.

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