The strange religious cult known as Peoples Temple apparently has perished with its founder in Guyana.
"Jim Jones was this church," said a woman who identified herself as a "former loyal supporter" of Peoples Temple. "Without him, there ain't no church anymore."
The woman, who agreed to talk on condition she not be identified, said that the 25 adherents holed up in the wood-paneled former synagogue that is headquarters for the cult are alive, out of danger and do not intend to kill themselves. She also said that many would be leaving as soon as they received word about the fate of their friends and relatives in Guyana.
San Francisco police confirmed this account.
"Everybody's all right in there and I'm convicted they're not going to hurt one another," said San Francisco Deputy Police Chief Clem DeAmicis after a tour of the temple yesterday afternoon. He said a search Sunday turned up no sign of weapons.
The talk among the police and on the street in this predominantly black section of San Francisco is that Peoples Temple was essentially a one-man band held together by the personality, discipline and political manipulativeness of its founder.
Even before the massacre in Guyana, the church was a fading presence in San Francisco. Recently, Peoples Temple sold its church in Los Angeles, where membership had dwindled to only a handful of believers.
In the wake of the killings in Guyana, prominent political figures who once had endorsed and praised Jones scurried for safer ground. San Francisco Mayor George Moscone acknowledged he had been taken in by Jones and said he "prroceeded to vomit and cry" when he heard about the murder of Rep. Leo J. Ryan (D-Calif.).
San Francisco District Attorney Joseph Freitas, another onetime Jones backer declined to respond to questions about whether an investigation he was supposed to have made into Peoples Temple turned up anything wrong.
Just about every law enforcement agency here agreed that Peoples Temples should have been investigated - by somebody else.
The state attorney general's office said it had conducted "a preliminary review" and decided that the inquiry was a matter for local officials. The FBI said it had never been asked to look into the affair by the State Department.
And San Francisco Supervisor Quentin Kopp, a probable candidate against Moscone in the next mayoral campaign, blamed bo the the State Department and the mayor.
"The whole damned thing calls to mind the summer of 1977 when I demanded that Moscone investigate the accusations of physical and mental tortures in Peoples Temple here and the conduct of Jones," Kopp said."He refused to do it. The district attorney said he would do it, and he's never done a thing."
In fact, no one seems to have done much of anything.
Jones was an ordained minister of the Christian Church, Disciples of Christ, Carl Irvin, regional minister for the Disciples of Christ, said that his church, which streets the autonomy of individual denominations, had investigated Jones but taken no formal action.
"I assume there will be formal action now," Irvin added.
The white-plastered Peoples Temple presented two faces to San Francisco yesterday. One was the front entrance on Geary Street, where the barooque iron grillwork doors and an inner door of heavy wood were bolted shut. A sign said, "People Temples of the Disciples of Chirst Denominational Brotherhood," and advertised church services on Friday and Sunday.
The other facade was a back street dominated by television cameras where relatives of church members in Guyana trickled by to taunt impassive guards who watched the crow from a parking lot behind a thin metal fence.
Once, a young black man tried to scale the fence and was pulled back by police. When one of the guards retreated into the parking lot to drink what appeared to ba a cup coffee, an onlooker pointed at a sleeping dog and said, "You'd better try that out on the dog fist."
Late in the day, a Peoples Temple minister who identified himself as Archie Ijames came out and said: "We're saddened and we're hearing on the media. But we don't know anymore than you do."
When someone asked if he felt any guilt, Ijames replied, "Guilt for what?" Then he climbed into his salmon-pink Dodge Polara and drove away.
A delegation of four ministers inquiring about the fate of people in Guyana was allowed into the parking lot yestday but not admitted to the temple.
One of the ministers, Bishop Paul Miles of the Church of God, afterward said sadly to reporters: "I've never known church doors to be closed to a minister . . . I'm going home and leave it to God."
Earlier in the day, a well-dressed black who said he was a Baptist minister peered for a long time at the temple, which is conspicuous in the area because of a powerful shortwave antenna on the back roof.
"I was drawn to this place," he said thoughtfully fingering a cross, "and I feel bad about my friends and relatives. This is a terrible thing for this community. There are going to be a lot of funerals here this week."