While most of the country was munching on barbecue and awaiting firework displays, one brave activist perched at the feet of Lady Liberty on the Fourth of July.
Therese Patricia Okoumou climbed the statue on Wednesday afternoon, resulting in an evacuation of the grounds. Law enforcement brought her down about three hours later. The 44-year-old personal trainer climbed the statue without gear about an hour after activist group Rise and Resist dropped a banner near the statue's base calling for the abolition of ICE. According to reports, Okoumou said she wouldn't come down until separated families were reunited.
The group initially denied any affiliation with Okoumou, but after being identified, they said she was a member of the group.
“She’s very dedicated to the resistance generally, but specifically to the issues surrounding immigration and the treatment immigrants have been receiving from ICE and Customs and Border Control,” Rise and Resist activist Jay Walker told The New York Post. “She’s been an active member for about four or five months.”
Walker says Okoumou’s climb wasn’t a planned action.
“We were all really taken back,” Walker said. “At first, we didn’t realize it was our fellow member. It wasn’t until we were able to see closeup photos of her that we realized it was her.”
Walker said the group is working to get Okoumou released from federal custody. She appeared in court on Thursday, July 5, and is facing charges of trespassing, disorderly conduct and interfering with government functions reports The New York Times.
Okoumou's climb has garnered a lot of support:
Once again a Black woman comes through to try and save y’all. Folks better have her back this time during the ongoing legal issues.— His Royal Highness Prince S’Kylar Ezell of Wakanda (@Skylar_Writer) July 5, 2018
Thanks to @IamGMJohnson @jermainedesign and others who insist that y’all know this Black woman’s name too. #TheresePatriciaOkoumou https://t.co/JJA2c7iGpK
If found guilty of all three counts, she could face up to a year and a half in prison.
Supporters cheered her on as she left the courtroom on Thursday after pleading not guilty to all counts.
After her court appearance, Okoumou spoke briefly to the press and reiterated her reasons for scaling the monument. "It is depressing. It is outrageous. I can say a lot of things about this monster, but I will stop at this: His draconian zero-tolerance policy on immigration has to go. In a democracy, we do not put children in cages, period."
"'When they go low, we go high," Okoumou said, quoting our FLOTUS Michelle Obama. "I went as high as I could."
The activist added, "Only a stupid, unintelligent coward and insecure maniac would rip a tender-aged child from its mother."
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