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Judge Hears Arguments Over Jonestown Memorial In Oakland

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This Nov. 1978 photo shows the aftermath of the Jonestown tragedy. Dead bodies of Peoples Temple members are strewn around the Jonestown Commune in Guyana. (AP)

This Nov. 1978 photo shows the aftermath of the Jonestown tragedy. Dead bodies of Peoples Temple members are strewn around the Jonestown Commune in Guyana. (AP)

OAKLAND (CBS SF) – A judge said Wednesday he would decide quickly whether to grant an injunction blocking the dedication of a controversial memorial dedicated to those who died in the mass suicide at Jonestown in Guyana in 1978.

The lawsuit was brought by a pastor who has tried for years to build a memorial at Evergreen Cemetery in Oakland, where nearly half the victims of the Nov. 18, 1978 mass suicide were buried.

Rev. Jynona Norwood, who lost 27 relatives in the Peoples Temple tragedy, alleges the cemetery has reneged on a commitment to have her memorial installed there instead.

The four granite plaques to be dedicated during this year’s anniversary ceremony this weekend were paid for by a new group called the Jonestown Memorial Fund, which includes Jim Jones Jr. of Pacifica, the son of the Rev. Jim Jones.

The most controversial aspect of the existing $45,000 memorial is that it includes the name of the Rev. Jones.

KCBS’ Bob Melrose Reports:

Norwood, the senior pastor of the Family Christian Cathedral in Inglewood, said after the first hearing two weeks ago that Jones’ name shouldn’t be on any memorial because it “desecrates the memory of the victims.”

Evergreen executive director Ron Haulman has said he allowed the group to install the memorial because Norwood never raised enough money to complete the memorial she had planned.

Norwood’s lawyer said his client’s ultimate goal is to have the existing memorial removed.

The most pressing issue before Alameda County Superior Court Judge Robert McGuiness Wednesday is Norwood’s bid to prevent a dedication ceremony for the memorial from being held as planned on Sunday.

McGuiness said he will take the matter under submission after Wednesday’s hearing and will issue a ruling on Thursday.

McGuiness said it’s “extremely rare” for testimony to be allowed at a preliminary injunction hearing but he said he is permitting it at Wednesday’s hearing because he believes there are good legal reasons for it.

(Copyright 2011 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Wire services may have contributed to this report.)

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