On September 1st, 2021, a group of activists who burglarized an FBI office and uncovered the existence of an illegal surveillance program on American citizens will return to the “scene of the crime” in Media, PA. Along with the Washington Post reporter who exposed it all and several other featured guests, the burglars will commemorate the 50th anniversary of the event and most importantly what their discovery meant.
This act of civil disobedience and the documents disclosed revealed that the FBI watched, infiltrated, and planted counter-intelligence on non-violent anti-Vietnam War protesters and civil rights groups and their leaders, including Martin Luther King, Jr. It brought to the public’s attention the existence of the now-infamous COINTELPRO operation directed by J. Edgar Hoover himself which led to congressional oversight of US intelligence agencies.
MEDBURG, the FBI’s name for the burglary investigation, was never solved.
Join us on September 1st, 2021, when the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission will dedicate a historical marker at 1-6 Veterans Square in Media Borough, where documents were taken from the former FBI field office. In conjunction with the historical marker dedication, events are planned to shed light on the significance of the event at the time and the shockwaves it caused for years after.
The public are welcome to attend any of the following events.
MEDBURG 2021: 50th Anniversary Commemoration of the FBI Office Burglary
You can also purchase a copy of the book with your reservation or ticket
This event is brought to you in part by the Media Arts Council, a 501c3 nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting local art and artists. With a gallery located at the West End of State Street, MAC integrates a wide range of arts into the life of the entire community.
In March 1971, Betty Medsger, then a reporter at the Washington Post, received from anonymous sources copies of files stolen from the Media, PA, FBI office the night of March 8, 1971. She wrote the first stories about these files that revealed FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover had, for nearly a half century, distorted the mission of the most powerful law enforcement agency and one of the most venerated institutions in the nation: the FBI.
From her stories, Americans learned for the first time about Hoover’s massive political spying and dirty tricks operations that suppressed dissent and damaged individuals and organizations.
Washington Post publisher Katharine Graham’s decision to publish Medsger’s stories on the Media files marked the first time Graham rejected a Nixon administration demand that she suppress a story. It also was the first time a journalist received secret government files from outside sources who had stolen them. Just three months later, Graham approved publication of stories about the Pentagon Papers, the history of the Vietnam war leaked by former State Department military analyst Daniel Ellsberg.
Now, in 2014, Medsger has written “The Burglary: The Discovery of J. Edgar Hoover’s Secret FBI,” published by Alfred A. Knopf 43 years after this historic act of resistance.
In “The Burglary” the Media burglars, found by Medsger many years after the burglary, are introduced to the public for the first time.
“The Burglary” is a moving account of how seemingly ordinary people found extraordinary courage and carried out one of the most powerful acts of non-violent resistance in American history. It also is the story of the enormous impact of the burglary, including how public outrage about the revelations in the stolen files ignited the first national discussion about the role of intelligence agencies in a democratic society. The 1971 revelations lead to the exposure of COINTELPRO — first mentioned in the Media files — to the first congressional investigation of all intelligence agencies and to the establishment of congressional oversight of all intelligence agencies.
Medsger also is the author of Framed: The New Right Attack on Chief Justice Rose Bird and the Courts, an investigation of attacks on the California Supreme Court from inside and outside the court in the late 1970s, and Winds of Change: Challenges Confronting Journalism Education, the first national study of journalism education.
Medsger’s journalism career began in 1964 at The Tribune-Democrat in Johnstown, PA. Prior to working at The Washington Post in 1970, she was a reporter at The Evening Bulletin in Philadelphia. As a newspaper reporter, she wrote about racial issues, criminal justice and religion.
She lives in New York with her husband, John T. Racanelli, retired Presiding Justice of the California Court of Appeal, First Appellate District, Northern California.
Bonnie Raines, M Ed., founded child care centers for Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and LaSalle University. She established standards and developed facilities for high-quality care for infants, toddlers and preschoolers.
During her tenure as Executive Director, Educating Communities for Parenting became established as a national model of education, incorporating a formal curriculum, program evaluation and training systems.
More recently, as a policy associate for Philadelphia Citizens for Children and Youth, Bonnie led a city-wide initiative to partner with community groups and social service organizations in starting after-school programs and teen programs in the most disadvantaged neighborhoods.
She coordinated the Picasso Project to raise funds for grants to city schools without adequate arts resources. Over seven years the project has awarded grants totaling $225,000 to 61 programs in elementary, middle and high schools and provides leadership for arts education advocacy in Philadelphia.
Bonnie has served as the president of the board of directors of the West Philadelphia Child Care Network and the Northwest Interfaith Movement. She is the mother of four and grandmother of seven
Keith was born in 1950 in Marion Ohio, where he spent most of his childhood. Politics entered his life in 1968 when he was schooled on the truth about the Vietnam war by a member of the Religious Society of Friends. He left Ohio for Philadelphia in 1970, shortly after the invasion of Cambodia and the murders at Kent State and Jackson State, intending to become more involved in the anti-war movement. For the next five years he actively participated in both the legal peace movement and in illegal nonviolent resistance. In 1972 his main focus shifted from the peace movement to community and later union organizing. During this period he earned a living as a cabdriver, stamping press operator, and electrician. In 1980 he withdrew from active political work and began attending night school, eventually earning a degree and working as an engineer until retiring in 2015. He and his wife Susan have been married for 40 years; they have two grown children and two grandchildren. Keith now occupies himself with family, playing jazz, and the anti-gerrymandering organization Fair Districts PA.
David Kairys, Professor of Law Emeritus, Temple University
David Kairys is a professor of constitutional law, emeritus, at Temple University, an author, and a leading civil rights lawyer. Kairys represented the Media FBI office activists confidentially soon after the action.
He wrote Philadelphia Freedom, Memoir of a Civil Rights Lawyer (2008), about which Cornel West commented: “David Kairys is one of the grand long-distance runners in the struggle for justice in America. His brilliant legal mind and superb lawyerly skills are legendary. This marvelous book is his gift to us!”
Kairys also edited and co-authored the classic progressive critique of the law, The Politics of Law, A Progressive Critique (3d ed. 1998), and wrote With Liberty and Justice for Some (1993) and over 35 articles and book chapters and over 50 commentaries.
As a civil rights lawyer (full-time 1968-90), Kairys won the leading race discrimination case against the FBI, won challenges to unrepresentative juries around the country, stopped police sweeps of minority neighborhoods in Philadelphia, was the lead lawyer and co-counsel with the defendants in the most significant acquittal of anti-Vietnam War activists (known as the Camden 28), and represented Dr. Benjamin Spock in a free speech case before the Supreme Court.
He conceived the city lawsuits against handgun manufacturers, and his public-nuisance theory has become the major basis for a range of challenges to corporate practices that endanger public health, safety, or peace. In 1971 he co-founded the law firm Kairys, Rudovsky, Messing, Feinberg & Lin (now of counsel).
David Boardman is Dean of the School of Media and Communication at Temple University in Philadelphia. Previously, he was Executive Editor and Senior Vice President of The Seattle Times. Under his leadership, The Seattle Times won four Pulitzer Prizes.
He is a board member and immediate past president of the American Society of News Editors, president of the Accrediting Council on Education in Journalism and Mass Communication, the immediate past chairman of the National Advisory Board of the Poynter Institute for Media Studies, and a Poynter Ethics Fellow.
Boardman served as a director and president of Investigative Reporters and Editors, and is a member of the Board of Directors of the Center for Investigative Reporting, and the Steering Committee of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press. He is a charter member of the Advisory Board of ProPublica, the investigative-journalism nonprofit. He also serves as a board member for the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project, based in Sarajevo, Bosnia.
Michael German served sixteen years as an FBI Special Agent specializing in covert operations and domestic terrorism. He resigned from the FBI in 2004 to report continuing deficiencies in the bureau’s counterterrorism program, and then spent seven as a civil rights lobbyist with the American Civil Liberties Union’s Washington Legislative Office.
He has taught courses on terrorism and civil liberties at the FBI National Academy, the National Defense University, and John Jay College of Criminal Justice. He is the author of, “Thinking Like a Terrorist: Insights of a Former FBI Undercover Agent,” published in 2007, and “Disrupt, Discredit, and Divide: How the New FBI Damages Democracy,” published in 2019.
He received a B.A. from Wake Forest University in 1985, and a J.D. from Northwestern University Law School in 1988.
Marc Lamont Hill is currently the host of BET News and the Coffee & Books podcast. An award-winning journalist, Dr. Hill has received numerous prestigious awards from the National Association of Black Journalists, GLAAD, and the International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences.
Dr. Hill is the Steve Charles Professor of Media, Cities, and Solutions at Temple University. Prior to that, he held positions at Columbia University and Morehouse College.
Since his days as a youth in Philadelphia, Dr. Hill has been a social justice activist and organizer. He has worked on campaigns to end the death penalty, abolish prisons, and release numerous political prisoners. Dr. Hill has also worked in solidarity with human rights movements around the world. He is the founder and director of The People’s Education Center in Philadelphia, as well as the owner of Uncle Bobbie’s Coffee & Books.
Ebony Magazine has named him one of America’s 100 most influential Black leaders.
Dr. Hill is the author or co-author of six books: the award-winning Beats, Rhymes, and Classroom Life: Hip-Hop Pedagogy and the Politics of Identity; The Classroom and the Cell: Conversations on Black life in America; Nobody: Casualties of America’s War on The Vulnerable from Ferguson to Flint and Beyond; Gentrifier; We Still Here: Pandemic, Policing, Protest, and Possibility; and Except For Palestine: The Limits of Progressive Politics. He has also published two edited books: Media, Learning, and Sites of Possibility; and Schooling Hip-Hop: New Directions in Hip-Hop Based Education.
Dr. Hill holds a Ph.D. (with distinction) from the University of Pennsylvania. His research agenda focuses on the intersections between culture, politics, and education in the United States and the Middle East.