Filmmaker: Harvey Richards • Publisher: Estuary Press
Decision in the Streets shows the tumultuous beginnings of the Bay Area civil rights and peace movements from 1960 to 1965. 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 protest segregation and discrimination nationally and in the Bay Area. This led to the formation of the Ad Hoc Committee to End Discrimination to fight de facto segregation in hiring. 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. Other segments include Hands-off-Cuba demonstrations in l962 & 1963; the 1963 march of 15,000 people in support of the Birmingham, Alabama civil rights movement led by Martin Luther King, Jr.; the story of how the picketing of Mel's Drive Ins for racial discimination in hiring impacted the San Francisco mayoral election; mass arrests of protesters sitting in at the Sheraton Palace Hotel over racist hiring practices; the l964 anti-Goldwater Republican convention protests; the Free Speech Movement at Berkeley, California, and more.