On Independence Day, a woman climbed to the base of the Statue of Liberty around 3 p.m., at times waving a t-shirt and both laying on her back along Lady Liberty’s robe, and also crawling on her knees along the edge of the statue’s feet. For over three hours she crossed back and forth on the base of the statue, at times sitting down in the folds of the statue’s dress, and under Lady Liberty’s sandal.
On the other side of the statue, police could be seen scaling the base with a ladder, talking to the woman, who was wearing a “Rise and Resist” t-shirt on one side and ‘Trump-Care Makes Us Sick’ on the other.
In the meantime, visitors were evacuated from Liberty Island via ferry as a precaution as the U.S. Parks workers tried to talk the woman down. The Harbor Unit, Aviation Unit and NYPD’s Emergency Services Unit were all called in to assist the Parks Police, according to NYPD spokeswoman.
“We’ve had two unusual events occur back-to-back,” National Park Service spokesman Jerry Willis told Eyewitness News. “So for the safety and security of our visitors, we decided to evacuate for the day.”
The woman declared that she would not come down until “all the children are released,” a source with the New York Police Department told reporters at the scene.
At first, authorities thought the daredevil was part of an anti-Immigration and Customs Enforcement protest, “Abolish Ice”, that was sponsored by the group Rise and Resist, which had been held earlier today on the island. When members of the group were asked, they said the climber was not part of their protest.
Earlier in the day, protesters deployed a banner that read “Abolish ICE” from the base of the statue.
The group told reporters that the woman who climbed the base of the statue was never involved in the “Abolish ICE” protest.
An organizer of the Rise and Resist, Martin Joseph Quinn told CNN that although the woman was affiliated with the group, that her climb was not part of the planned protest. “She climbed without our knowledge. It was not part of our action. We are deeply concerned for her safety,” Quinn said.
Two officers, tethered with climbing gear and ropes, made their way across the base of the 305-foot-high statue, to reach the woman who seemed to be trying to climb (unsuccessfully) up Lady Liberty’s sandal, not ready to surrender. The officers connected a harness and ropes to help bring her down, walking her back across the base and over to the ladder where she descended and was led inside the base of the statue without incident.
Therese Patricia Okoumou, from Staten Island, was arrested on Wednesday after the three-hour standoff with police, and after being arraigned on three misdemeanour charges, she was released from federal custody at the Federal Bureau of Prisons, by Magistrate Judge Ona Wang, the Wall Street Journal reported.
The 45-year-old protester was charged with interference with governmental administration, disorderly conduct and trespassing. Okoumou exited the courtroom wearing a t-shirt that read “White Supremacy Is Terrorism”, and was met by a group of reporters, waiting for her on the courthouse lawn.
In a statement by U.S. attorney in Manhattan, Geoffrey Berman he called Okoumou’s actions a “dangerous stunt” that endangered lives, “While we must and do respect the rights of the people to peaceable protest, that right does not extend to breaking the law in ways that put others at risk.”
Okoumou thanked the U.S. Park Police outside the court post release for their professionalism and courtesy, but said the government’s “draconian policy” on immigration must end.
“In a democracy we do not put children in cages,” Okoumou told reporters outside the courthouse. “The judge told me not to do it again. But I think the message was sent.”
Okoumou was born and raised in the Democratic Republic of Congo before moving to New York, according to a fellow protester, Jamie Bauer. Okoumou works as a personal trainer and also a physical therapist. This was not her first time being arrested for protesting, having been charged at least once before, in 2017, the New York Daily News reported.
Okoumou’s attorney, Rhidaya Shodhan Trivedi, told reporters:”We are going to keep fighting until family separation is a thing of the past.”
Inside the courtroom’s public gallery, around two dozen people gathered, including some of Okoumou’s fellow protesters from the day before.
“People are learning about ‘Abolish ICE,’ they’re learning that there are other options,” said Martin Quinn, organizer of ‘Rise and Resist’.
The next hearing in Okoumou’s case is set for August 3rd.
Join the conversation!
We have no tolerance for comments containing violence, racism, profanity, vulgarity, doxing, or discourteous behavior. Thank you for partnering with us to maintain fruitful conversation.