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“Lock all the windows.” A Designated “Smoking Room”: Maps and Plans of Protesters Inside Columbia

The students who orchestrated last week’s takeover of Columbia University’s Hamilton Hall left behind a series of charts, maps and supply lists that detail the extensive planning behind the brief occupation.

Photos shared exclusively with Gothamist reveal protesters’ hand-drawn diagrams depicting entire floors of the building, the location of supplies, the doors they wanted to barricade, and the locations of water fountains and fire extinguishers.

A “to-do list” included tasks such as “set up pulley,” “lock all windows,” “security changes,” and “role call (sic).” A hand-drawn plan of the third floor of the building indicated that room 313 had been designated a “smoking room.” Another list was titled “Heavy Equipment Locations” and noted rooms with “tons of books,” “large tables,” “large ladder,” and a “portable podium/table.” In capital letters, the list also included the following note: “3rd floor windows must be blocked.”

Left: A hand-drawn map of the stairs and entrances to Hamilton Hall left by protesters who occupied the building. Right: A list of “heavy supplies” like tables and books, along with the location of the rooms.

Henri Clement

Mayor Eric Adams and NYPD officials said last week that outside agitators had led protests at Columbia and NYU.

“There is definitely a mastermind behind this,” NYPD Deputy Commissioner for Operations Kaz Daughtry said in a video posted to social media on May 3.

But Henry Clemente, a head custodian at Columbia who works nights at the Morningside Heights campus, suggested the operation was much more organic. Clemente, who shared the photos exclusively with Gothamist, has been cleaning and repairing the building since police cleared it on April 30.

The map of the third floor of Hamilton Hall left by student activists included a key and designated a smoking room.

Henri Clement

“They’re smart kids,” he said. “A lot of kids come from different backgrounds, where one might be an engineer and the other might be a politician…And they all came together and did this.”

Several of Clemente’s photos show the rubble left following the protesters’ occupation of the building and the subsequent NYPD raid. The mess included chairs tied together and stacked to block a staircase. Sleeping bags and signs with protest slogans were scattered around the university building. The doors were broken down by NYPD officers who forced their way into each room to check for students.

Left: A bullet hole in a door frame of Hamilton Hall left by a New York Police sergeant who, according to the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office, accidentally fired his weapon upon entering the building. Right: Chairs stacked to form a barricade on a staircase in Hamilton Hall.

Henri Clement

A photo shows the bullet hole left by a New York Police sergeant who accidentally fired his gun as he entered Hamilton Hall, according to the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office. NYPD officials said the sergeant accidentally fired his weapon while trying to use a flashlight.

The shot appears to have hit a glass door. New York police said the bullet hit a wall.

Clemente estimates that repairs to the building — including a decommissioned elevator and boarded-up windows — will cost the university millions of dollars. He said he and his crew are working on those repairs and repairing other damage around the property.

“There’s been a lot of vandalism to buildings around campus, back of campus, you know, and (the) facilities (department) need to clean them up,” he said. “It’s quite dangerous, you don’t know who’s putting things up and how they might react if you take them down,” referring to the graffiti written on the walls.

Henri Clement

Clemente said he watched last Tuesday as police arrived en masse to arrest students who had taken over Hamilton Hall. Although he is a military veteran who once worked as an auxiliary police officer, he said the sheer number of officers is “scary.”

“Just seeing the number of police officers, you know…I didn’t feel safe,” he said.

But Clemente also said he thought the NYPD operation to clear the building was necessary.

“There could have been anyone in there, you know,” he said. “This is not about putting down students or even silencing voices. It’s more about the safety of everyone on campus.

He said he received a call around midnight informing him that protesters had trapped four of his staff inside the building. These workers announced their intention to sue the university for failing to protect them.

“It was pretty scary to hear that they had been taken hostage even for a moment, because a moment can seem like an eternity when you don’t know who’s doing what,” Clemente said.

Transportation Workers Union President John Samuelsen sent a letter to Columbia University President Minouche Shafik on Monday saying the treatment of workers was “appalling.” The union represents faculty on campus.

Protesters used all kinds of equipment to barricade the doors of Hamilton Hall in Columbia.

Henri Clement

“The guards directly informed the occupiers that they wished to leave the building immediately and were informed by at least one dishonest, sanctimonious, elitist occupier…, in direct reference to the Gaza protests and the subsequent occupation of Hamilton Hall, that ‘there was no chance. to leave because “this moment is bigger than you,” Samuelsen wrote.

While Clemente said he has experienced many protests on campus in his 17 years working at Columbia, he said he has never seen anything like the occupation of Hamilton Hall last week.

“Columbia has been promoting and celebrating the 1968 protests for years,” he said.

“But the way things are going today, we are in a post-9/11 period. We have been through so much as a country and as a city. Certain things cannot be tolerated because there are outside influences coming into play… America has many enemies.”

He said he viewed the whole experience as a great learning opportunity for everyone on campus.

“We’re moving forward, trying to bring normalcy and safety to the university, and just making sure that (the occupation) doesn’t happen again,” he said.