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?

Feud Over Jonestown Memorial 28 February,2011Dan Brekke


Dan Brekke

Dan Brekke is a blogger, reporter and editor for KQED News, responsible for online breaking news coverage of topics ranging from California water issues to the Bay Area’s transportation challenges. In a newsroom career that began in Chicago in 1972, Dan has worked as a city and foreign/national editor for The San Francisco Examiner, editor at Wired News, deputy editor at Wired magazine, managing editor at TechTV as well as for several Web startups.

Since joining KQED in 2007, Dan has reported, edited and produced both radio and online features and breaking news pieces. He has shared in two Society of Professional Journalists Norcal Excellence in Journalism awards — for his 2012 reporting on a KQED Science series on water and power in California, and in 2014, for KQED’s comprehensive reporting on the south Napa earthquake.

In addition to his 44 years of on-the-job education, Dan is a lifelong student of history and is still pursuing an undergraduate degree.

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