Political protester Therese Patricia Okoumou made headlines on Wednesday when she mounted and began to climb the base of Statue of Liberty on our nation’s 242nd birthday.
Okoumou, a naturalized citizen who immigrated to the U.S. from the Republic of Congo in 1994, insisted she wouldn’t come down until “all the children are released” (a reference to the horrific separation of families at the U.S.-Mexico border as a result of Donald Trump’s "zero tolerance" policy).
The protester held to her promise for several hours, but the 16 law enforcement officers tasked with her removal eventually coaxed Okoumou down from the literal ledge.
Ahead of her climb, standing at the far left of an “Abolish I.C.E.” banner erected at the base of the statue (below), Okoumou raises her left arm in the air.
Following her show of resistance, the 44-year-old Staten Island resident was charged with trespassing and two other misdemeanors. After pleading not guilty during a federal court hearing in Manhattan, Okoumou delivered a brief and powerful speech to the press outside the courthouse in which she cited the iconic words of former First Lady Michelle Obama originally delivered at the 2016 Democratic National Convention:
"Michelle Obama, our beloved First Lady that I care so much about, said 'When they go low, we go high,' and I went as high as I could," she said. "I would not do it again," she continued, referencing her decision to single-handedly climb a national monument. "The judge told me not to—but I think the message was sent. No child belongs in a cage; children should not be separated from their parents, especially on a holiday like this. It is not OK."
No word (yet) from Obama on Okoumou's actions, but—along with the other three living former first ladies—she did condemn Trump's separation policy. Though Trump eventually ended the practice with an Executive Order, a majority of the children have yet to be reunited with their parents.