Woman Who Climbed Statue of Liberty to Protest Family Separation Found Guilty

By Kimberly Truong, The Cut

Therese Patricia Okoumou, the woman who climbed the Statue of Liberty on July 4 in protest of Trump’s immigration policies, has been found guilty on charges of disorderly conduct, trespassing, and interfering with government agency functions.

At a Manhattan federal court on Monday, Judge Gabriel Gorenstein convicted Okoumou on all three charges, which collectively could send her to jail for up to 18 months. As ABC7 New York reports, she will be sentenced on March 5. She pleaded not guilty.

Okoumou had made the climb up the Statue of Liberty on the Fourth of July to protest President Trump’s “zero tolerance” immigration policy. She came to Liberty Island as part of the organization Rise and Resist, which hung up a banner that read “Abolish ICE.” Okoumou was arrested after a three-hour standoff with police.

“Trump has wrecked this country apart. It is depressing, it is outrageous,” she said after being released on her own recognizance in July. “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.”

According to the Guardian, Gorenstein said that he would be violating the oath of his office if he didn’t uphold the law, no matter what Okoumou’s motivations were.

Speaking after her trial, however, Okoumou said that she was “not discouraged,” and thanked her friends, supporters, and fellow Rise and Resist members.

Statue of Liberty Protester Found Guilty on All Charges, Stands Strong: ‘I Am on the Right Side of History’ By Anne Branigin, The Root

Therese “Patricia” Okoumou, the New Yorker who protested U.S. immigration policy on July 4 by climbing up the Statue of Liberty, now faces up to 18 months in federal prison after being found guilty on all three misdemeanor charges brought against her.

Okoumou was found guilty of trespassing, interference with government agency functions, and disorderly conduct on Monday at Manhattan Federal Court, reports the New York Daily News (h/t Huffington Post). She pleaded not guilty, defending her protest in front of Federal Magistrate Judge Gabriel Gorenstein.

“Unfortunately, as long as our children are being placed in cages my moral values call for me to do something about it,” Okoumou testified before the court.

Okoumou, a Congo-born naturalized U.S. citizen who now lives on Staten Island, has been vocal about her opposition to Donald Trump’s “zero-tolerance” immigration policy since her high-profile protest—and arrest—at the feet of Lady Liberty.

While the Trump administration has ostensibly backed down from their policy of forcibly separating migrant parents and guardians from their children at the U.S./Mexico border, many of the most horrific facets of the White House’s hardline policy against Latinx migrants still exist.

Almost 15,000 children are now being housed in detention centers—some of them tent cities—which are at or near capacity. And conditions at these centers have alarmed many immigrant rights and civil rights advocates, especially following the death of a 7-year-old Guatemalan girl, Jakelin Caal Maquin, of dehydration and shock under Border Patrol custody.

The prosecution argued that Okoumou’s intentions were inconsequential to the case, no matter how noble they were.

“She knew that what she was doing was wrong and illegal,” argued Assistant United States Attorney Brett Kalikow in his opening statement, stating further that Okoumou’s actions put people, including first-responders, at risk.

But Okoumou told reporters after the hearing that she has no regrets about her protest.

“While migrant children who simply came to this country, like our ancestors did, to seek happiness, freedom and liberation. Instead of welcoming them like Lady Liberty symbolizes, instead of treating them with kindness, what we showed them is cages. So if I go in a cage with them, I am on the right side of history,” Okoumou said outside the courthouse, according to the Guardian.
Okoumou is scheduled to be sentenced on March 5.

A Black Woman in Handcuffs For Climbing The Statue of Liberty on Independence Day is a Perfect Metaphor For America By Michael Harriot 

The Statue of Liberty is a metaphor.

One cannot carve a statue out of liberty any more than one can take a photograph of freedom or hold a jarful of justice. Liberty is not a thing, it is a concept. And, while it is the bedrock foundation upon on which white America as always rested, for black people, liberty has always been an invisible, untouchable illusion. For us, liberty is whimsy. Like freedom. Like Justice. Like America.

Therese Patricia Okoumou is a metaphor.

When Okoumou was arrested for climbing the base of the Statue of Liberty on the 4th of July, she wasn’t just a metaphor scaling a metaphor on a holiday celebrating America’s metaphorical independence. She was liberty enlightening the world. She was just another black woman shoving a mirror in America’s face, forcing this country to see itself as it truly is...

Like black women have always done.

Haven’t black women always served as America’s conscience? Haven’t they always been the foot in this country’s ass telling it to get its shit together? Hasn’t the black woman always carried the torch for freedom and justice in America?

On July 5th, 1852, Frederick Douglass adorned himself in his finest clothes and gave his infamous speech: “What to the Slave, is the Fourth of July.” Douglass told the white audience, in prose that bordered on poetry:

The existence of slavery in this country brands your republicanism as a sham, your humanity as a base pretence, and your Christianity as a lie ... Oh! be warned! be warned! a horrible reptile is coiled up in your nation’s bosom; the venomous creature is nursing at the tender breast of your youthful republic; for the love of God, tear away, and fling from you the hideous monster, and let the weight of twenty millions crush and destroy it forever!

Douglass’ words were beautiful. I imagine him in his starched white shirt, standing at the dais, enunciating his truth so clearly. He was a symbol of eloquence, intelligence and strength.

And as he was saying those words, I imagine Harriett Tubman was likely laying face-down in the mud, shotgun in hand, following the drinking gourd, escorting escaped slaves to freedom land.

Black women have always been America’s statues of Liberty.

Before Thurgood Marshall became a Supreme Court Justice sitting on the bench in the highest court in the land, Ida B. Wells was the loudest voice in America fighting lynching and segregation in the 1800s. She was a feminist before there was a word for it. Twelve years before the NAACP, she launched the National Association of Colored Women. She was a founding member of the NAACP, then she left because she felt they weren’t doing enough.

When people think of the civil rights movement, they think of the famous male names. Martin Luther King, Jr. was 15 years old when Rosa Parks was investigating the rape of Recy Taylor, long before Parks prompted the most famous economic boycott in American history. The iconic photo of Bloody Sunday on Selma, Ala.’s Edmund Pettus Bridge is of Amelia Boynton, who was beaten unconscious by state troopers. It took nine students to desegregate schools in Little Rock, Arkansas.

Ruby Bridges did it by herself.

While it is remarkable that Therese Patricia Okoumou climbed the base of the Statue of Liberty to protest the inhumane treatment of immigrants, the extraordinary part is how she did it. She sat calmly with her legs crossed as cops begged her to come down. She looked nonplussed. Unmoved. Like a black woman. Like a statue...

Of liberty.

The loveliest, blackest part of it all is when she held up the shirt because it either means that Okoumou either brought a change of clothes, or she brought merchandise to stage her infamous protest, both of which are peak black.

I have been fascinated with this story, not because of the incredible audacity of Okoumou’s feat, but because every photograph looks like an illustration of a black woman. Tell me if this picture of Okoumou eluding the law on the symbol of freedom and justice isn’t a metaphor for Harriet Tubman:

Ain’t this Angela Davis? Or Rosa Parks? Or Claudette Colvin? Or Assata Shakur?

Isn’t this a metaphor for every black woman ever who finally got a chance to sit down for a minute after beating her knuckles bloody fighting for a place in this country?

There is no Statue of Liberty.

It is a metaphor.

Rosa Parks’ refusal to move to the back of the bus was a symbolic act of defiance that shed a light on inequality. The Brown vs Board of Education Supreme Court decision desegregated schools, but the photo of Ruby Bridges walking into William Franz Elementary proved to the city of New Orleans that it was possible. Had Amelia Boynton made it across the Edmund Pettus Bridge unscathed, she wouldn’t have won a free bag of voting rights. Her bloodied image simply served as an illustrated reminder of the brutality of inequality.

She was a metaphor. Like Rosa. Like Ruby. Like Therese. Like black women, their liberty constantly enlightening the world.

And at the base of the metaphor of liberty, it describes her:

A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name

Sounds like a black woman to me. 

Beware of falling chocolates. Shake this blog up and candy will fall out. Random hidden codes throughout. Words may have two meanings but a picture can tell a thousand words. And yet the learned are not wise and the wise are not learned. In our own busy society we try to save time but in reality no one can save time. You can only spend time. So then the only real question is do you spend your time wisely or foolishly? Welcome to the Underground, we don't chase rabbits around, we are the rabbit hole. 


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