The Black woman who was arrested for climbing the Statue of Liberty on July 4th says that she was inspired to take action by former First Lady Michelle Obama.
Police apprehended Therese Patricia Okoumou, who climbed up to the feet of the Statue of Liberty to protest the separation of illegal immigrant families.
“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 said Thursday outside the Manhattan federal courthouse after her arraignment. She wore a black t-shirt with the words “white supremacy is terrorism” printed on it.
According to the New York Daily News, the Congolese immigrant pleaded not guilty to her federal misdemeanors of trespassing, interference with government agency functions, and disorderly conduct.
Okoumou took part in an earlier protest on Wednesday with a group called Rise and Resist before she started climbing the statue. According to police, she told them she was protesting the Trump administration’s zero-tolerance immigration policy that, until recently, separated illegal immigrant children from their families.
Outside the courthouse, she also spoke out against President Donald Trump and his policies: “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,” Okoumou said. “In a democracy, we do not put children in cages. Period.”
The National Park Service decided to evacuate more than 4,000 visitors from Liberty Island on Wednesday “out of an abundance of caution,” said spokesman Jerry Willis. Average attendance for the Fourth of July is 20,000 to 25,000 people, he added.