Karen Fratti
February 22, 2017 5:41 pm
D Dipasupil/Getty Images

It’s no secret that President Trump’s controversial immigration and travel ban has many Americans nervous, scared, and fearful. In an attempt to remind immigrants and refugees that they’re not totally alone, some brave New Yorkers hung a “refugees welcome” banner on the Statue of Liberty, just in case anyone forgot that that’s kind of the whole point of the statue, and one of the founding principles of the country.

The 20-foot banner was unfurled on Tuesday over the statue’s observation desk, which means that some stealthy group of people (a banner that big had to be the work of a group; it’s hard enough just “unfurling” a bed sheet alone) entered just like any other tourist, dropped the banner, and booked it. Can we get a round of applause, if only for having the agility and coordination to hang something that big, so high up in the air, so fast? (Seriously, we are still trying to make our beds.)

National Park Service officials removed the banner about an hour later, but not before images of the statue with the red “refugees welcome” banner had made its way around social media.

According to NBC News, hanging anything on park property is “strictly prohibited,” and the National Park Service is hard at work to find the culprits. But the hunt might already be over, since a group running a Twitter account under the handle @AltLadyLiberty has taken responsibility for the banner. They said in an email to NBC, “We have no formal group — just private citizens who felt like we needed to say something about the America we believe in.”

The a spokesperson for the group told NBC, “My grandparents met in a refugee camp after WWII, and my mother immigrated. So this touches close to home. But almost every American knows an immigrant or a refugee. We wanted to send a reminder about America when we’re at our best — the country that’s a beacon of freedom to the world,  built by immigrants. Walling off countries or entire religions is against our values.”

While hanging banners or vandalizing a national monument is never a good idea (hey, it’s illegal!), there are a lot of comments on social media about how it’s a teeny bit ironic that the people who hung the banner are being investigated, since, well, the Statue of Liberty was created as a giant “refugees welcome” banner. Really. It says it right on the plaque on the statue:

That’s a fancy, 19th-century way of saying, “Refugees welcome.”

The banner was apparently intended as a reminder to Americans and legislators this week, as Trump is planning to release an updated version of his immigration ban this week. The first travel and immigration ban was struck down by the courts, but the administration intends to come back with a revised, “tighter, more streamlined version of the first executive order,” according to Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly.

Let’s hope the streamlined version takes Lady Liberty’s message into consideration, if only so no one has to risk getting caught by the National Park Service for hanging another banner.