Monday, November 18, 2013

JONESTOWN ~ November 18, 1978

Thirty-five years ago tomorrow morning I left my friend Gary Murakami’s small apartment at Pierce and California Street and walked to Geary and observed the police barricades surrounding the San Francisco headquarters of the Peoples Temple. A few members of the cult were still inside. We didn’t know what kind of local violence might now be forthcoming. The news from Guyana had come out the night before. The SF headquarters of the Peoples Temple was in a former synagogue on Geary near the corner of Fillmore. Years later the building became a museum of exotic feather art before it was completely destroyed in a fire. Today there’s a modern post office on the site next door to the current Fillmore Auditorium.

“The Rev. Jim Jones is infamous for leading hundreds to their deaths in Jonestown. Before that horrific event, however, Jones was known as a charismatic preacher who dazzled followers of the Peoples Temple with promises of racial equality and a socialist utopia. He rose to prominence in San Francisco, becoming a politically powerful figure. But lawsuits and investigations by the press would prompt the fateful move by Jones and his Bay Area flock to the jungles of Guyana.” San Francisco Chronicle 10/17/2008

Jim Jones was now an embarrassment to local politicos. Mayor George Moscone, Assembly Speaker Willie Brown and others had given wide support to Rev. Jones over the years. Now they realized what a deranged crank he had been. The news of the murder of U.S. Rep. Leo J. Ryan and several news media personnel, then the mass suicide and murder of nearly 900 Jonestown followers was almost beyond comprehension. The entire city was in mourning, led by our mayor, George Moscone.

Little did we know that in nine days we would be mourning him and Supervisor Harvey Milk after the double murders at City Hall!

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