Statue of Liberty Protester convicted in July 4 protest
New York — A woman who climbed the base of the Statue of Liberty on July 4 to protest the separation of families at the U.S.-Mexico border has been convicted of misdemeanor charges. Therese Okoumou got choked up as she testified Monday before a federal magistrate judge at her trial.
She said images from the border gave her nightmares. Okoumou testified that she couldn't live with the sight of "children in cages" without bringing the issue to a wider audience.
"Someone has to take a stand and say it's inhumane and cruel," Okoumou testified, according to Courthouse News Service. Judge Gabriel Gorenstein announced the verdict a short time later.
Okoumou's attorney, Ron Kuby, defended the protest as in line with the tradition of nonviolent civil disobedience, reports Courthouse News. But a prosecutor said Okoumou endangered herself, rescuers and thousands of Liberty Island visitors when she climbed to the feet of the statue, prompting authorities to evacuate the island.
Court papers say Okoumou refused to leave her perch, about 100 feet above the ground, during a three-hour standoff. Police had to scale the lower part of the statue to pull her down.
Courthouse News reports Okoumou testified as the sole witness for her defense Monday and made no apologies for her actions. She told a judge that she scaled the statute that day after she had taken part in a demonstration with the group Rise and Resist to protest the actions of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency.
Supporters of Okoumou, many of whom were with the activist group, filled the courtroom to capacity, according to Courthouse News. In their call for supporters to show up in support, the group reportedly described Okoumou as "a true modern-day folk hero who risked her life to call for justice."
The charges include trespassing, interference with government agency functions and disorderly conduct and carry a potential penalty of up to 18 months in prison. Okoumou was released on her own recognizance ahead of her sentencing.