Angela Davis and the Six Day Siege

In early September 1977, the Jonestown community went on high alert. Jeffrey Haas, the attorney for Tim and Grace Stoen, had traveled to Guyana in an effort to persuade the government to intervene in the custody suit over John Victor Stoen. He was partially successful: a Guyana court did issue a writ of habeas corpus; when Jones refused to accept it, the court told Haas that process of the writ would be accomplished by posting it at three locations in Jonestown; and when people in Jonestown ripped down the summonses, the court issued an arrest warrant.

The response was dramatic, as Rebecca Moore writes in Understanding Jonestown and Peoples Temple (Westport, CT: Praeger Publishers, 2009): “[The] Jonestown leadership believed the community was in danger; they precipitated a state of siege in which residents believed that they were under attack by the Guyana Defense Force. Men, women, and children armed themselves with farm implements and stood of the perimeter of Jonestown for days, expecting an armed assault” (p. 76).

The siege lasted for six days.

The people of Jonestown endured in part because of the support they knew they were receiving from political allies in the States. One such statement came from Angela Davis, a University of California professor who had stood for many black causes throughout the 1970s. As the statement was read over the radio patch from the Bay Area, hundreds of people cheered, and she had to repeat her last words to them: “I attempted to say, though not very eloquently, that we are with you, and we appreciate everything you have done. And we know you are going to win, and, in the final analysis, we are all going to win.”

Statement of Angela Davis