Statue of Liberty climber found guilty after protesting Trump immigrant family separation

She vowed to perform same protest if children continue to be separated from families at border

Clark Mindock
New York
Tuesday 18 December 2018 02:05 GMT
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(REUTERS)

The activist who climbed onto the base of the Statue of Liberty this summer to protest the Trump administration’s policy of separating immigrant families at the US-Mexico border, has been found guilty on charges that carry with them up to 18 months in jail.

Therese Patricia Okoumou had told the judge overseeing her case, she had been moved to scale the lower portion of the statue after learning about policies that led to thousands of children being separated from their parents after crossing into the US.

“I wanted to send a strong statement that children do not belong in cages,” Okoumou said on Monday, during an teary-eyed appearance in Manhattan.

She continued, noting that she did not climb to the top of the statue because she feared for her life: “I went as high as I could”.

But judge Gabriel Gorenstein ultimately convicted her, saying that the political and moral convictions that led her to perform the high-profile protest on the Fourth of July did not supersede the law.

Okoumou said in court that she was motivated primarily by the children who were separated from their parents as a result of the Trump administration’s, and that led her to protest and eventual retrieval by police strapped into harnesses and ropes.

“I’m sorry that I’m crying,” Okoumou said in court. “I couldn’t live with it”.

She continued: “It would never happen in my country – we don’t treat children like political bait. I just have had nightmares and night sweats”.

She later refused to promise not to climb the statue again, saying that she would act on her conscience as long as there are wrongs being committed.

President Donald Trump signed an executive order last summer after controversy swelled around the child separation policy, promising to end the harsh practice that had been met with swift condemnation from critics across the political spectrum.

But, reports show that the administration has continued to detain some children through a variety of strategies, and there is a growing encampment in El Paso, Texas, where thousands of children are reportedly being detained as they await the outcome of their immigration cases.

While Okoumou and her attorney focused on the purpose behind her protest, prosecutors instead focus on the structures and rules she had disregarded.

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“She knew that what she was doing was wrong and illegal”, the federal prosecutor on the case said. “Whether one sympathises with the defendant politically and morally is not at issue in this case."

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