Therese Patricia Okoumou, a Congolese immigrant, is being described as a hero after she climbed the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty in a July 4th protest against the Trump administration’s policy that separated migrant children from their parents.
The 44-year-old engaged the police in a four-hour standoff before two officers were able to climb up to the base and apprehend her.
Okoumou was part of a group called “Rise and Resist” who were protesting the Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s behaviour with “Abolish ICE” banners at the statue.
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She, however, decided to climb the foot of the Statue and declared that she would not come down until all the children were released.
A quote on the statue welcomes immigrants, reading: “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,” and many believe Okoumou found that iconic structure as the ideal place to bring to the fore the plight of immigrant children being held away from their jailed parents.
Okoumou has since been arrested and charged with federal trespassing and disorderly conduct. She is expected to be arraigned in Manhattan Federal Court on Thursday.
Police earlier indicated that seven other protesters from her group may have encouraged Okoumou to climb the statue, but her colleagues have said that they were not aware of her decision.
Okoumou, of Staten Island, was born and educated in the Democratic Republic of Congo, but she has lived in New York for at least 10 years now, records have indicated.
She joined “Rise and Resist” a few months ago and has since been taking part in about one protest a week with the group.
Okoumou works as a personal trainer by profession and often doubles as a physical therapist as well.
She was arrested in August last year for trespassing, obstruction of government administration and misdemeanour assault during a demonstration against the state Department of Labor on Varick Street, news site Daily News reports.
In 2003, she filed a lawsuit against her employer, charging racial discrimination after being fired from a job as a staffer at a battered women’s home called Safe Horizons.
She represented herself, though unsuccessfully, throughout the remainder of the case after her lawyer withdrew.
In 2009, she also won a racial discrimination lawsuit against a Staten Island towing company, County Recovery.
Her neighbours have told Daily News that they were not surprised at the latest development, considering how outspoken she is about the Trump administration.