Judge releases Statue of Liberty climber

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Therese Okoumou outside federal court in Manhattan, July 5, 2018.

Therese Okoumou, who goes by Patricia, walked out of federal court a free woman the day after scaling the Statue of Liberty to protest President Donald Trump's immigration policy. Her protest forced the evacuation of liberty island on one of its busiest days of the year—the 4th of July holiday.

"Michelle Obama, our beloved First Lady that I care about so much about, said, 'When they go low, we go high,'" Okoumou said. "And I went as high as I could."

Okoumo, a naturalized U.S. citizen originally from the Republic of Congo, pled not guilty to misdemeanor charges of trespassing, disorderly conduct, and interference with government function.

She climbed 25 feet up Lady Liberty from the public observation deck and perched up there for hours as officers tried to talk her down. She said she did it because of the Trump administration's zero-tolerance immigration policy, which has separated thousands of young children from their parents.

"The message was sent—no child belongs in a cage," Okoumou said. "Children shouldn't be separated from their parents, especially on a holiday like this."


Her climb sparked a nearly four-hour standoff with police. The NYPD Emergency Services Unit officers were finally able to get her down. They detailed the complicated effort on Good Day New York.

"I expected when I first got up there, that first ledge we were standing on for I guess a good hour or so was almost a 45-degree angle. Our legs started to get a little bit burned out from that," Det. Brian Glacken said. "Climbing up to that next ledge was basically at my chest height so we didn't want to pull on those vent covers fearing they could rip off."

Okoumou had been on Liberty Island with a group of protesters from Rise and Resist, which earlier in the day hung a large "Abolish ICE" banner from the pedestal of the statue. Members of the group packed into the courtroom Thursday in a show of support. They applauded as Okoumou was released.

"Patricia was trying to convey the words that are on the statue—'Bring us your tired, your poor,'" demonstrator Martin Quinn said, paraphrasing. "That's a representation of what the Statue of Liberty is there for."

But outside court, Okoumou refused to answer questions about what she has to say to the thousands of visitors to the statue, whose 4th of July plans were upended by her actions. Instead, her attorney weighed in.

"Hopefully they know that there are people like Patricia out there trying to protect their civil liberties, which I would have faith that they treasure more than trip to Statue of Liberty," Rhiya Trivedi said.

Okoumou is due back in federal court on August 3. If she is convicted of the charges, she could face up to 18 months behind bars.