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Events explore '70s, paranoia in society

November 3, 2015

Paranoia played a large role in American life in the early 1970s, and those concerns return to public conversation this month in two related events, both with links to IUPUI.

John and Bonnie Raines

John and Bonnie Raines, more than 40 years after the break-in.

The IUPUI Arts and Humanities Institute will co-sponsor a panel discussion involving activists Bonnie and John Raines and filmmaker Johanna Hamilton at 7 p.m. Nov. 9 at the Phoenix Theatre, 749 N. Park Ave. They will relate the story of a 1971 break-in at an FBI office in Pennsylvania and its role in exposing a widespread FBI surveillance program called COINTELPRO.

1971 documentary poster

The poster promoting the documentary "1971" for the Spirit & Place event.

The Raineses, Hamilton and former Washington Post reporter Betty Medsger will be on the panel. Medsger was one of the reporters who received a portion of the estimated 1,000 documents stolen by the group, who called themselves The Citizens Commission to Investigate the FBI. In 2014, Medsger wrote a book about the case titled "The Burglary: The Discovery of J. Edgar Hoover's Secret FBI," offering the names of those involved in the case. The Raineses were among those she identified. 

The Phoenix Theatre and the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library are supporting the IAHI event.

The surveillance program targeted, among others, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X and Angela Davis and contributed to the uncertain times that prevailed in America in the 1970s.

The group was featured in Hamilton’s documentary "1971: Paranoia, Surveillance, and the American Dream," which will be screened at 7 p.m. Nov. 10 at Indianapolis Central Library, 40 E. St. Clair St.

After the film airs, the Raineses and Hamilton will join another discussion as part of this year's Spirit & Place Festival. Spirit & Place was established 20 years ago by The Polis Center in the School of Liberal Arts at IUPUI as a civic resource. The Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library, Indiana Humanities and the Indianapolis Public Library are supporting the screening and discussion.

The documentary is free, but registration is encouraged at the ticket site.

What Raines family risked

John and Bonnie Raines risked a lot, primarily their family, to take part in a 1971 break-in that exposed an FBI surveillance program that targeted American citizens.

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