Decision in the Streets shows the tumultuous beginnings of the Bay Area civil rights and peace protest movement from 1960 to 1965. Street demonstrations in the Bay Area during the first half of the 1960’s grew out of the peace movement and the support for the southern civil rights fight against legal racial segregation.
Since there was no legal (only de facto) racial segregation in the Bay Area, the fight against racial discrimination focused on corporate hiring practices that prevented African Americans and other minorities from working outside menial occupations traditionally reserved for them. Groups like the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) and the Student Non Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) led demonstrations to support the southern movement to end segregation which led to a national movement to end discrimination. The Ad Hoc Committee to End Discrimination to end de facto segregation in hiring was part of this national movement.
Decision in the Streets Target
The first target of the Ad Hoc Committee was Mel’s Drive Restaurants in Berkeley and San Francisco and then the famed Sheraton Palace Hotel in downtown San Francisco. The owner of Mel’s Drive In was Harold Dobbs who was running for Mayor at the time. The notoriety of mass protests at his restaurants very likely cost Dobbs the election, won by John Shelley in 1964. Sit-ins and picketing of posh downtown hotels led to mass arrests and eventually to an agreement to end discriminatory racial hiring practices at most big city hotels. Harvey Richards filmed these demonstrations, including the mass arrests inside the lobby of the Sheraton Palace Hotel, which appear in Decision in the Streets.
Segments include 1960’s anti-HUAC demonstrations; Hands-off-Cuba demonstrations during the Bay of Pigs invasion and Cuban missile crisis in 1962 and 1963; the 1963 march of 15,000 church and union people protesting the Birmingham, Alabama, church bombings; mass arrests of protesters sitting in at the Sheraton Palace Hotel over racist hiring; the 1964 anti-Goldwater Republican convention protests; the Free Speech Movement at U.C. Berkeley, and others. PBS LearningMedia featured Decision in the Streets in one of their segments which is available here.