The 4th of July activities were up and underway when Liberty Island was evacuated on Wednesday as a woman climbed the base of the Statue of Liberty. In a heroic attempt to protest Immigration And Customs Enforcement (ICE) and reunite children with their families. Therese Patricia Okoumou, a 44-year-old Congolese immigrant activist, risked her own freedom and safety to tell the world how she felt.
On Wednesday, Okoumou told investigators she was part of a group protest organized by Rise and Resist NYC. The group, whose mission statement reads: “We are a direct action group committed to opposing, disrupting, and defeating any government act that threatens democracy, equality, and our civil liberties,” had unfurled a banner on Liberty Island less than an hour before her climb that read: “ABOLISH ICE.”
The standoff lasted for three hours and after she was arrested, authorities transported her to a federal detention center Wednesday night. Her case is being handled by prosecutors in the Southern District of New York.
Organizers, immediately, attempted to denounce Okoumou’s Statue of Liberty stunt as well as distance themselves from her.
Therese Patricia Okoumou climbed the Statue of Liberty on July 4th to demand freedom for the children held by ICE and to uplift the #AbolishICE demand. She was arrested and will be arraigned.
— Black Lives Matter (@Blklivesmatter) July 5, 2018
— Azucena Rasilla (@ChroniclesOfAzu) July 6, 2018
Evidently, Twitter wasn’t having it. The organization was called out instantaneously for its abandonment of activist; soon after, the backpedaling ensued. The organization later admitted that she was, indeed, part of the group.
Members described her on social media as a “total bad ass.”
“She’s very dedicated to the resistance generally, but specifically to the issues surrounding immigration and the treatment immigrants have been receiving from ICE and Customs and Border Control,” said Jay Walker, a Rise and Resist activist. “She’s been an active member for about four or five months.”
Walker explained that Patricia Okoumou assisted with planning the banner demonstration, but she climbed the Statue of Liberty without their involvement.
“She didn’t tell any of us about this plan,” he said. “We were all really shocked.”
The group had announced their Fourth of July protest on social media moments before carrying it out Wednesday. However, they didn’t mention a climb.
“We were all really taken back,” Walker said. “At first, we didn’t realize it was our fellow member. It wasn’t until we were able to see closeup photos of her that we realized it was her.”
“We came through all the security protocols that we needed to when getting onto the Liberty Island ferry,” Walker said, noting how Okoumou made it through the metal detectors.
With heavy criticism looming over the organization’s head, it issued a letter via Medium regarding their “unintentional disassociation” from Patricia Okoumou. The group also stated that it plans to help the fearless woman with her legal representation.