Civil rights activist Theresa Patricia Okoumou became a hero to many after she scaled the Statue of Liberty on Fourth of July, without any climbing gear, to protest President Donald Trump and his administration’s brutal policy of separating immigrant children from their parents at the U.S. border.
The 44-year-old fitness trainer, who made it to the statue’s pedestal wearing only her sneakers, sat there and refused to move “until all the children are released,” according to the New York Police Department. Okoumou kept her stance for the next three hours, sometimes walking on the pedestal, waving a T-shirt that said, “Trump Care Makes Us Sick” or lying on her stomach.
She eventually agreed to cooperate with the police and was arrested once she was back on the ground. However, she was released the next day and was finally able to speak out about her peaceful protest that was applauded all across the world.
“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,” Okoumou told the reporters outside a court in Manhattan amid loud cheers and applause. “Trump has wrecked this country apart. It is depressing, it is outrageous. I can say a lot of things about this monster but I will stop at this: His draconian, zero-tolerance policy on immigration has to go. In a democracy, we do not put children in cages. Period.”
Okoumou, a U.S. citizen who immigrated from the Democratic Republic of Congo in 1994, pled not guilty to charges of misdemeanor trespassing, interference with government agency functions and disorderly conduct, according to CBS.
When asked if she would do it all again, the activist began by saying “as long as those children are in cages…” but shifted mid-sentence by instead saying, “I would not do it again, the judge told me not to,” causing her lawyer, Rhiya Trivedi, to crack up. The woman added she felt the message had already been sent.
“This zero tolerance policy on immigration has to go,” she added. “We do not put children in cages, nothing you can say to me will justify putting children in cages.”
Okoumou is a member of civil rights group Rise and Resist. Although the group had planned a Fourth of July protest at the Statue of Liberty and even unfurled a banner that read “Abolish ICE” near the base of the monument, climbing the pedestal was apparently not part of their plan.
Banner / Thumbnail : Reuters, Shannon Stapleton