The woman who drew the attention of the public for about three hours when she climbed the Statue of Liberty over the Fourth of July holiday has been identified, according to local reports and The Associated Press.
WLNY reported that U.S. Park Police said Therese Okoumou has been taken into custody. She was charged with federal trespassing, disorderly conduct and other charges and is scheduled to be arraigned Thursday morning in Manhattan Federal Court, The New York Daily News reported.
According to The AP, Okoumou had been protesting U.S. immigration policy. She initially arrived at Liberty Island with the nonprofit advocacy organization Rise and Resist, which held a protest calling for the reunion of immigrant children with their families. Seven people were arrested by the United States Park Police after unrolling a banner that read “Abolish ICE” at the statue, according to WNBC. Police said they will be charged with unlawful protest.
After the protest, Okoumou climbed up the base corridor of the Statue of Liberty and ultimately sat at the base of the statue itself. She occasionally would get up and walk around the base, bracing herself against the statue. At one point, she took off her T-shirt and waved it in the air. It read “rise and resist.”
Rise and Resist protest participant Annette Gaudino later told WNBC that Okoumou is part of the group.
“While the people who were doing the banner were taken and detained by Park Police, we became aware that there was a climber on the statue,” Gaudino said. “We did not know until just now, just a few minutes ago on the ferry when someone showed us a photo and we were able to confirm that it is a Rise and Resist member who took this action on her own.
“She did not discuss it with anybody beforehand, and we were completely unaware. We found this out through the same way everybody else is finding it out, through the news.”
Rise and Resist issued the following statement late Wednesday in response to the news of Okoumou’s arrest:
“In solidarity with Saturday’s nationwide End Family Separation protests, on July 4th Rise and Resist planned and executed a non-violent banner drop and human banner action at the Statue of Liberty. Our message was that ICE must be abolished, families must be reunited now, deportations must be halted, and the policy of detention as deterrent must end.
The person who climbed the Statue of Liberty was one of forty participants in our planned banner action, but her decision to climb the statue was made independently of the group, without consulting any other member of the group. We understand and share her desire to see the immediate release of children from detention and reunion with their parents. We hope that her legal representation will arrange for her release under her own recognizance.
Rise and Resist holds firm in our position that ICE should be abolished. ICE has deported tens of thousands of people who have been raising their families, running businesses, and contributing to their communities for years, some times decades. ICE detainees have been denied medical care and are subject to solitary confinement, sexual assault, and rape. Asylum seekers are often held by ICE without trial or bail.
Rise and Resist is a direct action group committed to opposing, disrupting, and defeating any government act that threatens democracy, equality, and our civil liberties.”
WNBC reported that, according to a source, Okoumou told authorities she would not come down from the statue until “all the children are released.”
She was ultimately coaxed down by personnel close to 7 p.m.
New York City Police Department Emergency Service Unit detective Brian Glacken said at a news conference that Okoumou was unfriendly initially, but the pair were able to build a rapport with her.
“We just tried to get a dialogue with her while she was up there,” Glacken said, adding that she referenced “the children in Texas.”
“I think the turning point was when we got her, she couldn't go any further, and I think she realized her time was up up there.”
“She actually apologized to (Detective Chris Williams) and I for having to go up there to get her,” he said.
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