Demonstrators (l-r) Lonnie King, Marilyn Pryce (according to a source) and Martin Luther King Jr. are taken to a police car after being arrested for a sit-in protest at Rich’s. Their actions will be marked on Oct. 19, 2016 with a plaque at the location of the Rich’s Department Store protests. (Charles Jackson/AJC staff) 1960.

GSA plaque to mark rise of Atlanta Student Movement, King’s 1st arrest

Marking the date when local college students rose up against discrimination, and the first time Martin Luther King Jr. was arrested, the U.S. General Services Administration will unveil a plaque commemorating the Atlanta Student Movement’s Oct. 19, 1960, protest to desegregate the Rich’s Department Store in downtown Atlanta.

The GSA will mark the occasion during a 10 a.m. ceremony Wednesday at the site, which is now part of the Sam Nunn Atlanta Federal Center.

Lonnie C. King, the founding president of the Atlanta Student Movement, is expected to be on hand for the unveiling.

“It gives us a great sense of pride to honor those who helped make democracy a reality for all,” said GSA Administrator Denise Turner-Roth. “Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the heroes of the Atlanta Student Movement helped pave the way for the America we know and appreciate today.”

An iconic clock from the former Rich's Department store remains on the building that is now part of the Sam Nunn Federal Center in downtown Atlanta. A new plaque will commemorate an October 1960 sit-in at a Rich's lunch counter to protest segregation.
Photo: AJC File

The GSA, which is the real estate and procurement arm of the federal government, regularly installs interpretive plaques for artwork within courthouses and federal buildings around the country as part of the agency’s Fine Arts Program.

The “Right to Sit” interpretive plaque is designed to commemorate the historic connection between the events surrounding the Atlanta Student Movement and the Rich’s Department Store in October 1960.

The Oct. 19, 1960 protest at Rich’s marked Martin Luther King Jr.’s first arrest for an act of civil disobedience.

“This plaque commemorates an important moment in history when young men and women chose to defy the odds and fight for what is right,” said Atlanta City Council President Ceasar Mitchell. “Their actions opened new doors for all of us in Atlanta and nationwide. We must never forget that we stand on the shoulders of giants.”

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