Therese Patricia Okoumou Climbs Statue of Liberty to Protest Detained Children

Migrant families are desperately fleeing violence and poverty at home, and in response, the United States has ripped immigrant children from their parents — either detaining them alone in camps and cages or sending them into foster care with strangers. Despite this injustice, most Americans spent Fourth of July celebrating the anniversary of U.S. independence from Great Britain.

But Therese Patricia Okoumou spent her holiday at the feet of Lady Liberty in protest.

Okoumou, an immigrant from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, is a naturalized U.S. citizen. She put her safety and potentially even her citizen status in jeopardy after climbing the base of the Statue of Liberty on July 4 and remaining there for four hours.

Okoumou’s act of protest caused police to close off Liberty Island for hours “out of an abundance of caution,” a move that authorities claimed impacted as many as 25,000 visitors that day — all of whom were free do go to other areas to celebrate the holiday, unlike the over 2,000 children being detained by the government.

That’s exactly what Okoumou hoped to draw attention to with her action. “Michelle Obama … said when they go low, we go high. And I went as high as I could,” she told reporters after her first court appearance. “No children belong in a cage.”

Okoumou has been working with Rise and Resist, and she has frequently protested against the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” immigration policy before she chose to branch out into her own action.

New York Daily News reports:

She joined the group Rise and Resist, which unfurled an “Abolish ICE” banner at the base of the statue on Wednesday, a few months ago and has been taking part in about one protest a week with the group, according to member Jay Walker. “She’s been an active member of Rise and Resist for four or five months,” Walker said. “She’s participated in quite a few of our actions.”

Rise and Resist officially distanced themselves from Okoumou’s protest, and the group claims they had no idea that she had planned her action.

In an official statement, Rise and Resist explained:

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.

Okoumou’s refusal to leave the feet of the statue until “the children were freed” highlights the ongoing issue of the “zero tolerance” Trump policy — that children removed from their parents’ custody have essentially no hope of eventually being reunited with family. The administration has already taken a hard stance against offering asylum in any circumstances, and government officials did nothing to ensure any sort of documentation was taken to identify families before they were separated.

The New York Times reports:

Faced with a court-imposed deadline to reunite families separated at the southwest border, federal authorities are calling in volunteers to sort through records and resorting to DNA tests to match children with parents. And they acknowledged for the first time Thursday that of the nearly 3,000 children who are still in federal custody, about 100 are under the age of 5. Records linking children to their parents have disappeared, and in some cases have been destroyed, according to two officials of the Department of Homeland Security, leaving the authorities struggling to identify connections between family members.

President Donald Trump, unsurprisingly, was unimpressed by the impassioned protest. Calling Okoumou a “clown,” the president told a Montana rally audience that “I would have said let’s get some nets, we’ll wait ’til she….just get some nets.”

Okoumou has been charged with trespassing, interference with government agency functions and disorderly conduct — each of which carries a fine and six months in jail. But no one should face such a harsh sentence for patriotic, non-violent protest.

Take Action!

If you agree, sign this Care2 petition to drop all charges against Okoumou.

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Photo Credit: Erik Lindgren/Unsplash

119 comments

Paulo R
Paulo R1 months ago

ty

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Latoya Brookins
Latoya Brookins2 months ago

I need to do more than sign petitions. March in protests, fundraise, etc.

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Shelley w
Shelley w2 months ago

So instead of being grateful that she is now living in the United States, she acts disrespectfully and recklessly by climbing the Statue of Liberty. She comes from the Congo where they are actively practicing cannibalism and rape gangs are rampant and made up of government and civilian members. Where is her concern there? She would rather act like an idiot to complain about children temporarily separated from adults who entered the U.S. illegally and may have taken the child to sell to the sex industry. Tens of thousands of illegal immigrants walking across the border and choosing not to enter legally at the designated entry points is an invasion. She has no right to use America's resources where police and rescue workers should be spending time on other situations. She should not be allowed to have her citizenship when she pulls stunts like this and flaunts the laws.

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Georgina M
Georgina Elizab M2 months ago

tyfs

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Brad S
Bradford S2 months ago

Mary Wright
"The Democratic Party never promoted open borders"???
Either you just woke up out of a time capsule, or you definitely need to get back on your medications.

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Janis K
Janis K2 months ago

Thanks for sharing.

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Rhoberta E
Rhoberta E2 months ago

david f
Having your own POV is fine but YOU never leave it at that . ALWAYS comments to members that they have been taken in by the "FAKE NEWS". It's only fake if it is not researched and IS true. You constantly put others down , change stats and information to sui wat YOU believe.
IF prager u WAS credible, why isn't it an accredited organization? I give YOU the courtesy of actually goin to site and making MY own opinion and that's what YOU don't like. . I think what YOU do IS offensive on an animal welfare site and it seems like it's the only thing that hits home with you.
If YOU choose to believe and live by "other" education" then that's on you but don't be surprised by others questioning YOUR source .
You have condemned MOST Canadian systems, called those who are liberal minded "socialists " and worse. Everyone else s wrong except you. Pretty narrow minded don't you think?

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David F
David F2 months ago

Yes Roberta, arguing with some women is pointless and illogical (Brian F). My issue with you is that you are always only offensive (pointless deer comments, race card) and always fail to defend your position (Prager U).

Exposing the other side of stories is not shoving anything down anyone's throat, believe what they want, it's education in extreme need.

https://www.prageru.com/5-minute-ideas

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Chad A
Chad Anderson2 months ago

Nice.

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Toni W
Toni W2 months ago

TYFS

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