On the day the Erasmus building was occupied, four activists, including the student, climbed the concrete façade of the Theil building, where they put up three banners that read ‘Smash fossil capitalism’. After climbing back down using the window cleaning ladder, they attempted to escape via a narrow ledge. The ledge, which is roughly 40 centimetres wide, plummets to a sharp drop of approximately 4 meters on one side.
The security guard, who was standing in the courtyard at the end of the ledge, initially tried to get the first activist to change his mind. “I told him, ‘Stay there!’ There’s a door to the Theil Hall there, too, and he could have safely left through there. As security guards, we’re responsible for everyone’s safety on campus at all times.”
The activist failed to follow the repeated instructions of the security guard and attempted to walk towards him using the ledge. The student told EM that he believed the door to be locked. “There were rumours that the police were on their way, so I thought that they intended to keep me there until police officers arrived to arrest me.” The ledge offered an opportunity of immediate escape without the risk of being arrested.
Nose to nose
Eventually, the two found themselves toe-to-toe in an increasingly hostile atmosphere. The activist was still perched on the wet and slippery ledge with the security guard blocking access to the courtyard with his body. The security guard continued asking him to return to the door, even though this meant another perilous walk along the ledge. The versions of the security guard and the activist differ on what was subsequently said.
The security guard: “That activist really wanted his 5 minutes of fame. I heard a whole lot of profanity, and then all of a sudden, he spoke into my ear in a low voice and said: ‘if you won’t let me pass, I’ll pull you off the ledge.’” The security guard also claims the student shoved him. “And that’s when you’ve pushed me to the limit.”
By contrast, the student says that it was the security guard who first laid hands on him. “I won’t deny the fact that I swore at him – but I didn’t threaten him. I wasn’t afraid of walking the ledge, but when the security guard stopped me, I did become afraid I’d fall. So I said to him: ‘if I fall down now, I’ve got nothing to hold on to except you, and then we’ll go down together.’”
Whatever was said exactly, it evidently disturbed the security guard to such an extent that his colleagues saw him freeze and eventually take a step aside. “I have a family and kids I want to get home to. This wasn’t worth it”, the security guard explained the next day. The remaining three activists then also left the grounds via the ledge and fled.
The security guard has now requested an appointment with the police to report the incident.
Both the security guard and the activist wish to remain anonymous. Their names are known to the editors.