A Congolese woman who scaled the Statue of Liberty to protest President Trump’s immigration policies said in a Thursday press conference she was inspired by Michelle Obama.
“Michelle Obama … said when they go low, we go high. And I went as high as I could,” Statue of Liberty climber Therese Patricia Okoumou told reporters outside Manhattan Federal Courthouse Thursday as quoted by U.S. News.
Okoumou, who came to the United States in 1994 from the Democratic Republic of Congo, pleaded not guilty to misdemeanor trespassing and disorderly conduct Thursday before a judge released her on her own recognizance. After emerging from the courthouse, Okoumou took the opportunity to bash the President and his “zero-tolerance” policy on immigration.
“Trump has ripped this country apart. It is depressing. It is outrageous,” she said. “His Draconian zero-tolerance policy on immigration has to go.”
Despite some left-wing activists hailing her climb as an act of resistance, law enforcement officers and prosecutors said that her stunt “endangered” her life and the lives of others.
“(This) alarmed the public and endangered her own life and the lives of the NYPD officers who responded to the scene,” U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman said. “While we must and do respect the rights of the people to peaceably protest, that right does not extend to breaking the law in ways that put others at risk.”
NYPD Detective Brian Glacken said that Okoumou was initially hostile towards the officers trying to rescue her, threatening to kick down the ladder the officers were standing on.
“She basically threatened to push us off, push the ladder off. But we were persistent, stayed up there,” Glacken told reporters.
The left-wing activist group Rise and Resist released a statement in part about Okoumou’s climb, stating that her decision to scale the statue was her own and not representative of the group:
“The person who climbed the Statue of Liberty was one of forty participants in our planned banner action, but her decision to climb the statue was made independently of the group, without consulting any other member of the group. We understand and share her desire to see the immediate release of children from detention and reunion with their parents. We hope that her legal representation will arrange for her release under her own recognizance.”
President Donald Trump, during a campaign rally in Montana, called her a “clown.”
“You saw that clown yesterday on the Statue of Liberty. You see that guys that went up there. I wouldn’t have done it. I would have said, ‘Let’s gets some nets, and let’s wait till she comes down. Just get some nets,” the Republican President said Thursday night, praising the bravery of police officers who ascended the statue’s base and persuaded her to climb down.
Court papers also charged Okoumou with resisting arrest by refusing to leave her perch by the bottom of the statue’s robes, about 100 feet (30 meters) aboveground. Police were forced to scale the statue to pull her down. Okoumou is due back in court for a status conference on August 3. If convicted on both charges, she faces up to a year behind bars.