Workers Recall the Night Protesters Occupied Hamilton Hall

On a chilly night in November, a group of protesters gathered outside Hamilton Hall on the campus of Columbia University. What started as a peaceful demonstration quickly escalated into a tense standoff as a group of workers recalled the night protesters occupied the iconic building.

The protest was organized by a coalition of student and community groups who were demanding divestment from fossil fuels and an end to the university’s ties with corporations involved in the prison-industrial complex. As the protesters marched towards Hamilton Hall, workers who were inside the building preparing for the next day’s events were caught off guard.

“I remember hearing the chanting and the banging on the doors,” said Maria, a custodian who has worked at Columbia for over 10 years. “We didn’t know what was happening at first, but then we saw the protesters trying to force their way inside.”

As the protesters occupied the building, tensions rose between the demonstrators and the workers who were caught in the middle. Some workers, like Maria, sympathized with the protesters’ cause and even joined in their chants. Others were more concerned about the potential damage to the building and the disruption to their work.

“It was a chaotic scene,” recalled Javier, a maintenance worker who was also present that night. “We were just trying to do our jobs, but it felt like we were caught in the middle of a war zone.”

Despite the tense atmosphere, some workers saw the occupation as an opportunity to speak out about their own grievances. “We work hard to keep this campus running, but we often feel like our voices are not heard,” said Juan, a security guard who has worked at Columbia for over 20 years. “The protesters were demanding change, and we felt like we needed to demand change too.”

After several hours, the protesters eventually left the building, but the impact of that night lingered for the workers who were there. “It was a night I will never forget,” said Maria. “It showed me that we all have a voice, and sometimes we need to use it to make a difference.”

The night protesters occupied Hamilton Hall was a powerful reminder of the complexities of activism and the ways in which different groups can come together to demand change. For the workers who were caught in the middle, it was a night that brought both tension and solidarity, and a reminder that their voices matter too.