A woman who climbed onto the base of the Statue of Liberty in protest against U.S. immigration policy was found guilty in federal court this week of trespassing.
Therese Patricia Okoumou, 44, a native of the Democratic Republic of Congo who reportedly became a U.S. citizen in 2016, says she would do it again to call attention to the plight of families separated at the border. “As long as our children are being placed in cages, my moral values call for me to do something about it,” she reportedly said while defending herself in court.
Okoumou began her climb during a demonstration on July 4, after other members of the activist group Rise and Resist New York displayed a banner that read “Abolish ICE” at the base of the iconic statue in New York Harbor. She initiated her ascent from the observation deck, which is publicly accessible, ascending to around 150 feet above the ground before authorities decided to evacuate more than 4,000 people from Liberty Island amid the security breach.
The ensuing standoff between Okoumou and police lasted several hours, with Okoumou informing officers she was protesting the Trump administration’s “zero-tolerance” immigration policy which had resulted in the separations of thousands of migrants from their children as they were detained for illegally crossing the southern U.S. border. The policy was ended in June after images of separated youngsters held in cage-like detention facilities sparked a furor both at home and abroad, but at the time of Okoumou’s protest, many children remained separated from their families.
Okoumou was also convicted of interfering with governmental administration and disorderly conduct before a U.S. magistrate judge in New York City. Each misdemeanor carries a maximum sentence of six months, according to a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in New York, for a total of 18 months in jail. Okoumou remains free pending her sentencing on March 5.
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