Statue of Liberty Climber Therese Okoumou Says She Took Michelle Obama's Advice and 'Went as High as I Could'


Therese Patricia Okoumou, who was arrested yesterday, July 4, after heroically climbing and occupying the base of the Statue of Liberty, gave a press conference outside a Manhattan court on Thursday. She had just exited the courthouse after pleading not guilty to charges of federal misdemeanor trespassing, interference with government agency functions, and disorderly conduct, CBS reports. Okoumou, 44, is a naturalized United States citizen who emigrated from the Democratic Republic of Congo in 1994.

Okoumou and NYPD officers responding to the scene on Wednesday remained in a standoff for three hours, ending with cops following in her footsteps and pulling her down off the statue. Earlier that day, Okoumou had joined in with fellow Rise and Resist members who hung a banner from the statue proclaiming “Abolish I.C.E.” to protest the administration’s unjust immigration policies. Okoumou apparently climbed the statue in a continuation of the protest (Rise and Resist has said that her “decision to climb the statue was made independently of the group”). Okoumou said she would not come down until “all the children are released.”

At Thursday’s press conference, Okoumou proclaimed, “Trump has ripped this country apart. It is depressing. It is outrageous. His draconian zero-tolerance policy on immigration has to go.”

The line that drew the biggest cheers was one of her first, when Okoumou cheekily exclaimed, “Michelle Obama, our beloved First Lady that I care about so much, said when they go low, we go high. And I went as high as I could.” Okoumou repeated several times that children do not belong in cages and she most certainly did not apologize for temporarily shutting down Lady Liberty.

Later on, a reporter asked Okoumou if she’d do it all again, to which she responded, “as long as those children are in cages,” then paused, shifted course, “I would not do it again, the judge told me not to.” That last line really cracked up Okoumou’s lawyer, Rhiya Trivedi, who stood beside her.

The Guardian reports that Okoumou faces six months in prison if convicted. She will return to court on August 3.

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