Therese Patricia Okoumou Climbs Southwest Key Headquarters to Protest Child Detention


Actual hero and climber of structural injustice, Therese Patricia Okoumou was arrested on Wednesday for scaling the Austin headquarters of an organization that operates 24 detention centers that detain undocumented migrant children in Arizona, California, and Texas.

As with her famous Statue of Liberty ascension on the Fourth of July, her civil disobedience targeted abuse of immigrants by private and government interests in the United States (over the summer she hung a banner that read “Abolish ICE”). This time her summit, the top of non-profit organization Southwest Key’s four-story Austin head quarters, was easier to reach.

Texas Monthy reported in June that Southwest Key “earns a larger cut of the federal funding to house unaccompanied immigrant minors than any other organization in the country.” A New York Times investigation from December reported that Southwest Key has reaped $1.7 billion in federal grants over the past decade, $626 million of which was collected in the past year. The organization is also shady and mismanaged as fuck, which is terrifying considering it’s entrusted with the care of children. The Times put it this way:

“[A]s it has grown, tripling its revenue in three years, the organization has left a record of sloppy management and possible financial improprieties, according to dozens of interviews and an examination of documents. It has stockpiled tens of millions of taxpayer dollars with little government oversight and possibly engaged in self-dealing with top executives.”

Austin police reports that Okoumou stood on a three-foot beam at the top of the building for eight hours on Wednesday. CBS reports that following her Southwest Key climb Okoumou was taken to a hospital and is expected to be charged with trespassing.

In December, Okoumou was found guilty of several federal charges stemming from her Lady Liberty protest, for which she will be sentenced on March 5. At her court appearance Okoumou said, “I wanted to send a strong statement that children do not belong in cages. Unfortunately, as long as our children are placed in cages, my moral values cause me to do something about it.” You can read Jezebel’s interview with Okoumou here.

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