Up on the Roof: A Moment of Protest

protestBy Kendall Helen Berents

Poised on the second story ledge of the handicapped elevator of Dodge Hall at Columbia University, an unidentified man on Thursday afternoon shouts “Fuck Trump” at the top of his lungs.  His rooftop protest attracted security personnel and a crowd of students, many of them cheering as they captured his anger on their cell phones from down below. Holding a sign that reads “Not My President,” he has made it clear that he is not going anywhere.

To get up on this spot, this coatless man had to jump onto a miniature metal roof and scale the side of a brick building, pulling himself onto the final ledge and lifting his legs over the metal spikes that prevent entry, and prevent students from doing exactly what he is doing: protesting.

Not more than 10 minutes into his protest, public safety officers climbed the stairwell of Dodge Hall to crouch at the windows of the writing classrooms and gain his attention.

“Sir, can you do me a favor and come off there so we can have a conversation?” said an officer. The protester didn’t respond. “Sir, can you hear me? Sir.”

They tried various tactics, even told him that the rest of his clothes could be retrieved from their office. The man was clad in a blue Columbia t-shirt and jeans, with a baseball cap that he used intermittently, noticeably over-heated in the early-evening chill. He didn’t need his coat.

“Sir, can you do me a favor and come off there so we can have a conversation?”  an officer asked.

“He’s non-responsive,” the officer mumbled into his walkie-talkie. He turned to some of the school’s administrative representatives chosen to respond. “Why don’t we just keep somebody out here and wait for him to come down?”

One of the personnel admitted that there have been a series of protests across campus over the last couple of days. “The night of the election there were people here until sundown. But this is the first one like this,” he said, pointing towards the man outside. He shook his head and walked away.

He may be the first protester standing on the roof of a campus elevator, but he is certainly not the first protester on Columbia’s campus. Students below shouted too and one threw him a water bottle. He drank it quickly and returned to his slogans.

“He’s racist, sexist, anti-gay. Donald Trump go away!” he yelled. “You deserve better, America! The world is looking for leadership, not some fucking pedophile TV star.”

The university personnel kept telling him that he had a right to speak and voice his opinion. They said they were merely worried for his safety.

After 30 minutes of protest, the man eventually climbed down. Students clapped. He was escorted away, still carrying the water bottle. No one could take their eyes off him, absorbed in his every step, his every word.