I am trying, and failing, to find an appropriate and succinct way of describing an individual's action in occupying a secure building to the exclusion of all others as a protest.

I could say 'he besieges himself' in the building. 'Takes-over' and 'occupies' come close, but do not really explain that he has locked everyone else, including the authorities out.

My usual online sources have failed me, and I feel like there is some word or phrasing that I am missing here. Any ideas?

  • 24
    I don't believe what you're asking for is an antonym: the antonym of beseige is relieve. Perhaps there's a question to ask about what sort of "opposite" this is.
    – Andrew Leach
    Mar 11, 2022 at 11:34
  • Yes, that is a good point. It is not really the antonym, I will have a think about how to better phrase the question title - if an editor does not beat me to it! Thanks.
    – echo3
    Mar 11, 2022 at 11:52
  • If they're secure in their occupation legally (as opposed to via the threat of force) that's tree hugging.
    – Mazura
    Mar 11, 2022 at 22:15
  • Describing an individual's action in occupying a secure building to the exclusion of all others as a protest?
    – Mazura
    Mar 11, 2022 at 22:15
  • "besiege" is used with regard to war. Not occupied buildings. To lay siege to/besieged.
    – Lambie
    Mar 13, 2022 at 15:17

10 Answers 10


A customary usage is to barricade oneself in:

barricade yourself in/inside (something)
​to build a barricade in front of you in order to prevent anyone from coming in

He had barricaded himself in his room.


A police standoff with an armed man who has barricaded himself in his home with his eight-year-old son has entered its fourth day [Guardian]

A 59-year-old man is in custody after police say he barricaded himself inside an apartment Tuesday morning [ClickOnDetroit]

Police: Lone gunman has barricaded himself in room after shooting [WaPo via Twitter]

A major police operation is ongoing in a Fife village after a man barricaded himself inside a house. [Scotsman]


Occupy is a common verb for this. It has an older association with the military occupation of a country, but movements such as Occupy Wall Street and the wider Occupy movement strengthened the link of "occupy" as a protest tactic in the 2010s (what was called staging a sit-in in the 1960s). Wikipedia has an article on occupation as a protesting tactic, which goes back to the Bonus Army in the Great Depression (1930s) but is largely from the late 1960s and after.

If someone is doing it to avoid the police, you might talk of them barricading themselves in - you see this in a lot of news reports, and it might apply to some protests, but typically involves blocking doors and windows or building actual barricades.


To fortify oneself in a secure position that is difficult to assault but also difficult to leave is to entrench oneself.

entrench in American English (enˈtrentʃ) TRANSITIVE VERB

  1. to place in a position of strength; establish firmly or solidly

Collins dictionary

It can both mean to literally place oneself in a physically dug-out trench, but also in a metaphorical sense in that they have placed themselves in an immoveable position at great effort.


The modern term for it is a sit-in - so the verbal form would be he stages a sit-in, I suppose.

  • 3
    I hadn't thought of that one. The first image that comes to mind when I hear sit-in, is a group activity though (probably a hark back to my student days in the 90s), rather than an individual commandeering an entire public building.
    – echo3
    Mar 11, 2022 at 9:20
  • I also don't think you can realistically have a sit-in with just one person.
    – Barmar
    Mar 12, 2022 at 17:51
  • The question directly asks for a verb, "sit-in" is a noun; "stages a sit-in" is a bit circumlocutory.
    – smci
    Mar 13, 2022 at 3:02


1.1 Take forcible possession of.
‘army rebels seized an air force

He (single-handedly) seized the apartment building.

Here's another example of usage taken from The Guardian about student protesters in 1969.

Building seized by LSE group

Militant students from the London School of Economics last night seized control of the students union building at the University of London.

  • I'd say that seizing is more about the process of the taking possession of the building, rather than locking other people out of it once you take it.
    – nick012000
    Mar 14, 2022 at 11:28

If the connotation of violent occupation and civil disobedience is not essential to your meaning, you could use sequester or cloister. Both have the connotation of removing oneself from the outside world, with the desire and expectation that the outside world will "leave you alone".

Sequester means (OED)

To seclude (a person, thing, or place) from general access or intercourse; to keep apart from society.

Its most familiar usage is in a legal setting; in some court cases, the jury may be sequestered, i.e., isolated from the outside world, to avoid outside influence. However, it is possible to "sequester one's self" as well:

This poem illustrates how intoxicating the natural world was to Dickinson. Luckily the house she chose to sequester herself inside, in the latter part of her life, was set on large grounds. (Publishers Weekly)

“It’s the first time I’ve been anywhere all by myself,” says Slate, who is 36. “I typically have a pretty hard time being alone.” But she needed to sequester herself to get the book done. (Boston Globe)

Cloister means (OED)

To shut up in any seclusion or retirement.

It has a strong religious connotation, as it can also mean (as a noun) any place of religious seclusion such as a monastery or convent. Again, one can cloister one's self:

... carrying us into the present day, as Bechdel and her partner, the painter Holly Rae Taylor, cloister themselves in Vermont during the pandemic. She depicts them as tonsured monks, “ascetic and contemplative,” working on the book together, Taylor helping Bechdel with the color. (New York Times)

Known as liquid-liquid phase separation, the process allows some molecules within a cell to cloister themselves into membraneless organelles in order to carry out certain duties without interruption from other molecules. (Science Daily)


hold-out, as in Japanese holdout which describes individual or groups of Japanese soldiers who continued their fight past the Japanese surrender.


He has occupied the building to the exclusion of everybody else.One could define who is excluded. For example: excluding his family; excluding the police; to the exclusion of the authorities, and so on.The reader may want to know in what way he excludes others: by barricade, by a locked door, by using a firearm. One ccould consider using."He took violent possession of the building"


"Barricade" or "Barricaded"? But those words are probably better suited to a smaller building. E.g. "A man on the south side has barricaded himself in his home, but as he is alone and unarmed no one is paying any attention!" (Part of a George Carlin comedy routine.)

  • "Barricaded" has already been given as the highest rated answer. Mar 17, 2022 at 18:03

Impound, (a : to shut up in or as if in a pound : confine, b : to seize and hold in the custody of the law, c : to take possession of). "He impounded himself in".

Incarcerate, (1 : to put in prison, 2 : to subject to confinement). "He incarcerated himself in".

The above two sentences have an element of protest, have the element of buildings, have the element of exclusion of others, but lacks in the element of seizure of the building.

"Castlejack" is not an actual word, and may mean taking possession of a building without any reference to either protest or profit.

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