South Congaree, SC (Paul Kirby) – Some residents of South Congaree are scorching mad about signs that popped up all over town Wednesday morning. Most believe they are dirty trick related to an upcoming municipal election, while they say that in part, the signs are making a joke of a serious historical tragedy.
The signs that were apparently erected at night are the size of regular political yard signs. They were professionally made so someone had to pay for them. The signs read, “Coming Soon! Jonestown!” In smaller print they continue, “You will have no personal or property rights. Don’t drink the koolaid! #teamsouthcongaree.”
Most who’ve contacted The Ledger felt they were aimed at Danny Jones, the current mayor of the town who has several people opposing him for re-election in April. He’s pushed hard to make changes in the town’s ordinances that would force people to clean up their businesses, the many mobile home parks in town, their homes, and regulate new businesses and growth. Every call we’ve received say whether you agree with Jones' efforts or not, these signs are no joke. The problem’s not with small town politics or Jones' push for change, they make a joke of a tragedy that few who were alive when it happened will ever forget.
The younger of the town’s residents might not even understand why people would be offended at what they'd think is at most, a dirty personal political prank. Those residents would probably be the ones too young to remember the Jonestown Massacre which occurred at The People’s Temple, better known as Jonestown, in 1978.
Jonestown was established by a man named Jim Jones who was described as a civil rights preacher. He later was exposed as an evil cult leader. Jim Jones started his ministry in Indiana in the ‘50s, later moved it to California, and as it grew, he moved it to the jungles of Guyana where he began a commune in the early 1970s.
In the late ‘70s, media reports surfaced of human rights abuses in Jonestown. Then U.S. Representative Leo Ryan led a delegation to the commune to investigate. Ryan and his party were gunned down while boarding a return flight to the US. Realizing that swift action and reprisal was coming, Jones ordered his followers to commit mass suicide and mass murder. In total, 918 of his disciples died. 304 of the dead were children forced to kill themselves by parents or Jones' inner circle. Almost all died by drinking a Kool-Aid flavored drink laced with the poisonous cyanide.
For those alive at the time, even the mention of Jonestown and its Kool-Aid brings about horrific memories of pictures taken that showed dead human bodies bloated by the South American heat. There was footage of mothers with their dead child in their arms stacked layer upon layer killed by the deadly cocktail.
Most of the people who were complaining the loudest this week were the older citizens of South Congaree. “Things like this offend me a great deal,” one older caller to The Lexington Ledger said. “No matter who you support politically, there’s no appropriate joking about a tragedy like the Jonestown Massacre. Things like this make or town look like a laughingstock to the rest of the county.”
Mayor Danny Jones said that he was alerted and saw the signs before they were removed by police officers Wednesday morning. “I told a member of my family to put them back up,” Jones said after they were retrieved from officers. “Stunts such as this show the character of whoever did it and make them look small and callous which is what they apparently are. If they have no more taste than this, let everyone see just who they really are!”
Mayor Jones said he wasn’t sure exactly who did this, but he had his own ideas about the responsible parties. No one candidate or group has taken responsibility for putting up the signs. Rumors have abounded but at this point, the signs were spread all over the town as of Thursday morning.