Primary Project : Summaries
Summary prepared by Fielding M. McGehee, III. If you use this material, please credit The Jonestown Institute. Thank you.
Tape Number : Q 736
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FBI Catalogue: Radio transmissions
FBI preliminary tape identification note: One Tracs 60/ "Press Conference April 17"
Date cues on tape: 17 April 1978
Public figures/National and international names:
Temple adversaries; members of Concerned Relatives:
Bible verses cited: None
The Peoples Temple leadership in Jonestown including Jim Jones holds a press conference via a ham radio transmission to San Francisco, where reporters are gathered. Responding to charges made by Concerned Relatives, Harriet Sarah Tropp reads a prepared statement that condemns the actions of the Concerned Relatives organization, as well as the media attacks on the church. The statement also extols the Jonestown settlement as a beautiful place, a socialist collective, a place with a solid medical department for seniors, and an opportunity for society's malcontents to start again. Her description of Jonestown concludes that it is "a community for a significant number of people, now over 1000, who have been hurt, angered, alienated and victimized by adverse conditions that prevail in the decaying inner cities of advanced Western societies."
Tropp specifically rejects the charge that relatives cannot visit. "Within three to four weeks, several relatives and parents who are not members [of Concerned Relatives] will be visiting here... We do not ask that people who come agree with us. However, these relatives are not coming with an intention to harass, and so they are very welcome." At the urging of Jones, Tropp adds that what they object to are visits from members the "small committee" which talks about "kidnapping and mercenaries." Later again at the prompting of Jones Tropp speaks of the freedom of movement for Temple members between Jonestown and Georgetown.
The prepared statement concludes with the criticism of "some statement, supposedly issued officially by Peoples Temple, but whose authorship we here are unaware of, to the effect that we prefer to resist harassment and persecution, even if it means death." Instead of disavowing the anonymous statement, though, she denounces the people who would use it against the community. "Since it is clear that the persons who are actively plotting to destroy our organization have neither integrity nor courage, we are not at all surprised that they would find it offensive." She quotes Patrick Henry and Martin Luther King, who "reaffirmed the validity of ultimate commitment," and concludes: "It is not our purpose to die. We believe deeply in the celebration of life... But under these outrageous attacks, we have decided to defend the integrity of our community and our pledge to do this."
Even as the leadership speaks of self-destruction, the reporters and possibly relatives? in San Francisco are eager to hear the voices of community members. The ones who speak are those who have relatives in the Concerned Relatives organization, and one by one, they condemn the group and the involvement of their family members. As one young man says, "Anyone who wants to tear this down is a sadist, a criminal or a neo-Nazi. They've got to be out of their minds."
Reading from prepared texts, the Jonestown relatives speaks of the evils of their kin, accusing them of adultery, child molesting, drug use, alcohol abuse, gambling, and mental illness. For these reasons, the Jonestown relatives don't want anything to do with their kinfolk back home. As one woman says of her father, "I have absolutely no desire to see him, and I want him to leave me alone."
There is strong evidence that the leadership had a role in writing the statements which the Jonestown community members read. The charges against the Temple's enemies are uniform without exception, the relatives have committed evil acts and the request to get out of their lives is often repeated. Most compelling, though, are the last minute edits. Moments before one man accuses a Temple adversary of being amoral, Tropp and Jones discuss whether the word should be "amoral" or "immoral."
Similarly, the leadership tries to buy time before answering direct questions from the reporters in San Francisco. They ask for ham radio identifications, for repetition of questions, for identification of the person speaking, and in one case getting the question before they summon the community member to answer it. Still, one question panics Maria Katsaris, a Temple leader whose father, Steven, has a leadership role in Concerned Relatives. The context is unclear, and the question breaks up in transmission, but Maria who says, "Shit, I was doing that to keep him off my back" turns to Jones for guidance. She then gives the questioner the answer that Jones gives her.
The last family member to speak is Marceline Jones, the wife of Jim Jones, who says that, when she returns to San Francisco she plans to sue "every person who has participated in the conspiracy to destroy Jim Jones ... for defamation of character."
Date of transcription: 3/21/79
Side One - A statement by HARRIET TROPP (phonetic) with a reference to Mr. GARRY's office. This statement discussed concerned relatives and citizens hiring mercenaries to enter Guyana. TROPP asserts that armed agents entered Guyana and attempted, unsuccessfully, to assassinate JIM JONES and others. TROPP mentions a forthcoming trip of a group of relatives from the United States to Guyana within three to four weeks of this transmission, which is an international phone patch.
TROPP states that their ultimate commitment is that they (the members of the People's Temple) will not submit quietly to interminable plotting and persecution by the politically motivated conspiracy and they will resist, actively, putting their lives on the line.
TROPP then introduced members of People's Temple who made various statements to their respective family members in the United States. Each statement expressed a desire to be left alone and to allow them to remain in Guyana without harassment. Background sounds indicate much coaching in these statements by Ms. TROPP and a male voice which may be JIM JONES. These speakers included MARK WAGNER, age 16, MARIA KATSARIS, age 24, WESLEY BRIEDENBACH, age 18, and LEANN HARRIS, age 21.
Side Two - Statements similar to those on Side One, including the coaching. The speakers include LEANN HARRIS, BILLY OLIVER, CHRIS ROSINKO [Rosynko], MARY GRIFFITH, CAROL KERNS, age 19, BOB DAVIS, MARCY SIMON, BARBARA SIMON, CASSANDRA MINOR, age 21, CHRISTINE YOUNG and MARCELINE JONES, wife of JIM JONES. Mrs. JONES stated she would sue the San Francisco press on her return to San Francisco for defamation of character against JIM JONES and the conspiracy against him.
Differences with FBI Summary: None