Yesterday, many Americans celebrated the Fourth of July by barbecuing, shooting off fireworks, and honoring the founding of the United States. But some also took the opportunity to exercise their constitutional right to civil disobedience. One woman was arrested after she climbed the Statue of Liberty in protest of the Trump administration’s separation of immigrant families at the border.
NPR reported that the woman, Therese Okoumou, was spotted on the statue’s towering base around 3 p.m. local time. In response, officials shut down Liberty Island, forcing visiting tourists to leave. Two officers from the New York Police Department climbed onto the statue and arrested Okoumou around 6:15 p.m. local time.
An NYPD source told CNN that Okoumou refused to leave her post until “all the children are released.” After her arrest, National Parks Service spokesperson Jerry Willis told CNN that she would be transported to a U.S. Marshals Office in Manhattan. The New York Daily News reported that Okoumou originally immigrated to the U.S. from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. She has lived in N.Y.C. for at least 10 years, and according to the Daily News, she has participated in demonstrations with the group “Rise and Resist,” for several months.
Other members of Rise and Resist also protested at the Statue of Liberty yesterday, according to the New York Times. The seven activists reportedly hung a banner that read “Abolish ICE.” Like Okoumou, they were arrested. Jay Walker, an organizer for the group, told the Times that Okoumou had been part of the day’s protest, but added that the rest of the group hadn’t known she would try to climb Lady Liberty. Nevertheless, he said he felt her actions brought valuable attention to the rest of the protest, and noted that the group continues to support her.
Our country was founded on the premise that citizens should be able to speak out against their government, and the Fourth of July seems like the perfect day to exercise that right. We hope that Okoumou and all the protesters arrested yesterday are released soon.