Therese Patricia Okoumou climbed the Statue of Liberty on July 4th as part of a protest against the separation of families at the United States border. She is a Congolese native who has lived and worked in New York City for more than fifteen years.
The climber caused Liberty Island and access to the statue to be closed while authorities attempted to get her off of the statue.
She had attended an anti-immigration enforcement rally near the base of the statue early in the day as part of the group Rise and Resist, then followed that action by climbing the base of the statue and then onto the lower portions of the robe.
Rise and Resist at first claimed no association with her, then recognized her as one of their members after she displayed one of their t-shirts.
Rise and Resist planned a banner drop today at the Statue of Liberty. This action did not include the climber on the statue. Our action was completed earlier. While it was not part of our action, our first priority and concern is for the safety of the climber.
— Rise and Resist (@riseandresistny) July 4, 2018
Okoumou claimed she would not leave the statue until the immigrant families were reunited. She was arrested by police without a struggle after three hours of conversation, during which time her demeanor reportedly changed from belligerent to apologetic due to the danger to which she was exposing the police. (NBC)
“(T)his operation was difficult because “there was nothing for us to grab” for stability”, said Detective Brian Glacken, one of two officers who first made contact with Okoumou.
“She actually apologized to Chris and I for having to go up there to get her,” he added, referring to Detective Chris Williams, the other officer who first contacted the demonstrator.
The climber has a history of legal issues. From the New York Daily News:
In 2003, she filed a wrongful-termination lawsuit, charging racial discrimination after being fired from a job as a staffer at a battered women’s home called Safe Horizons. Okoumou’s boss complained that she was rude to other staffers and clients at the shelter, according to court records. Her lawyer eventually withdrew from the case and she represented herself, unsuccessfully for the remainder of the case.
She won $1,500 in a 2009 racial discrimination lawsuit against a Staten Island towing company, County Recovery.
She unsuccessfully filed a human rights complaint in 2007 against a group home in Staten Island for racial discrimination.
And more from the New York Post:
In 2011, Okoumou made headlines after she was hit with an astounding 60 violations for illegally posting ads for her services as a personal trainer.
The Department of Sanitation slapped her with $4,500 in fines that year after she spent five hours one Sunday posting the fliers on Manhattan utility poles.
In 2017, she was arrested and charged with obstructing governmental administration, unlawful assembly and trespassing during a demonstration at the Department of Labor building on Varick Street. She had allegedly covered her mouth with tape and refused to respond to police demands.
She is being held in police custody, and is facing a court hearing today where misdemeanor charges – including trespassing, disorderly conduct and violating national park regulations – will be considered. (ABC News)