Synopsis for
"The Defenders" The Non-Violent (1964)

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The Reverend Harris Bonham and Alton Pell are with a group protesting the refusal of a contractor to hire black workers at a public housing construction site. When a cement truck tries to enter the site, Bonham and Pell kneel in front of it and refuse to move. They are arrested for obstructing traffic. Pell is the son of a wealthy man who can't understand why he is doing this and he refuses to allow his father to pull strings to get him out of jail. The Prestons meet with the attorney for Bonham and he is willing to allow his client to stay in jail if it will achieve the goal of forcing the city to pass an ordinance requiring the hiring of minority workers on all public projects. The younger Preston is all for it but the elder Preston is very uncomfortable with leaving Pell in jail to achieve a higher goal. Bonham's attorney and the younger Preston work on a constitutional challenge to their clients' arrest: their act was protected free speech in the light of the refusal of the city to respond to numerous other protests which did not involve stopping traffic. The trial is before a city magistrate who usually deals with drunks and traffic infractions. When the elder Preston states his constitutional challenge and hands him a 100-page memorandum of law to review, the magistrate is not happy but promises to to look at it. The next morning the magistrate tells the Prestons he is not about to dismiss the case on constitutional grounds but the elder Preston included another argument in the Memorandum that the magistrate feels comfortable dismissing the case for - obstructing traffic means hindering the passage of traffic on a public street, not obstructing the entrance of traffic from the street onto property. The magistrate gives the Prestons a choice - they can keep the language denying violation of the obstructing traffic law or drop it and he can find Pell guilty and let them appeal. Pell is dead set against having the case dismissed but Bonham's attorney reveals that the city may be ready to pass the ordinance the protesters want and a constitutional challenge may make the city dig in its heels. Bonham convinces Pell that it is better to settle for achieving their immediate goal than try to change the world.
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