ST. LOUIS – Fifty-five years ago this week, Percy Green was arrested for climbing up the Gateway Arch while it was still under construction.
On Tuesday, the 83-year-old civil rights activist was welcomed back to the Arch to mark the anniversary of his protest about the lack of minority construction workers on the project.
The US National Park Service said it was pleased to honor Green for his protest. The Arch is hosting a week-long educational program about equality and justice in the past and the present.
On July 14, 1964, Green joined Dick Daly in climbing a construction ladder approximately 125-feet up onto the unfinished north leg of the Arch. Their protest led to more minority contractors hired for the Arch project.
The civil rights activist was meeting the public outside the Arch gift shop and signing commemorative posters honoring his historic protest. One of those getting a poster was Lynne Jackson, the great-great-granddaughter of Dred Scott, the African-American slave who in 1857 unsuccessfully sued for his freedom.
“I think everybody needs to honor people who have gone out on a limb so-to-speak, you know, to help for social justice,” Jackson said.
Like Dred Scott, Green got the nation’s attention in the fight for justice and equality.
“Civil disobedience is like a double-edged sword. As I see it, one is the purposes of educating the observers, the community-at-large, and it also applies pressure to the company or the entity that is responsible for the demonstration in the first place,” Green said.
While Green acknowledges the progress in the fight for job equality for minorities, he said there is still a long way to go.
The National Park Service said it has a diverse workforce at the Arch and said inclusion is central to its mission.