Over the summer, a woman climbed one of the most iconic American landmarks to protest the separation and detention of migrant children at the U.S.-Mexico border. On Monday, a judge ruled the activist who climbed the Statue of Liberty guilty on three counts, and now Therese Patricia Okoumou faces up to 18 months in prison for a series of federal crimes.
Magistrate judge Gabriel Gorenstein convicted Okoumou after a one-day bench trial, The Guardian reports. She was convicted of trespassing, interfering with government agency functions, and disorderly conduct.
"We stand on the right side of history," Okoumou told reporters outside of the courthouse after being issued her verdict, according to amNY. "I am not ... discouraged. Today our laws sometimes lack morality and this is a perfect example of that."
Okoumou was unapologetic in the courtroom, according to multiple reports, telling the court that, if given the opportunity to climb the statue in protest of child separations again, she would, in fact, take it. “I wanted to send a strong statement that children do not belong in cages," she said, according to amNY.
Okoumou's sentencing will take place on March 5. Although she could potentially face up to one and a half years in prison, it's not clear how heavy her sentencing will be.
Okoumou was reportedly at the Statue of Liberty that day in order to participate in a demonstration organized by a group called Rise and Resist, according to Business Insider's reporting from the time. That demonstration centered around hanging a banner from the statue, reading "Abolish ICE." Organizers told reporters that they did not know Okoumou was planning to scale the Statue of Liberty while they were on the island to hang the banner.
Although some initially criticized the group for allegedly distancing itself from Okoumou's demonstration, they tweeted their support for her shortly thereafter. "Patricia is our friend, our comrade, our sister," they wrote, writing that their main concerns were for her safety and for her finding adequate legal representation.
In the days following her ascent up the Statue of Liberty, Okoumou credited former First Lady Michelle Obama with inspiring her demonstration. "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," she told reporters outside of the courthouse back in July.
She also said, at the time, that "Trump has wrecked this country apart" and that "in a democracy, we do not put children in cages. Period. There is no debating it. Nothing you can say to me will justify putting children in cages."
In the time since her arrest, her beliefs do not appear to have wavered. “Unfortunately, as long as our children are placed in cages, my moral values cause me to do something about it,” Okoumou told the court on Monday, according to multiple reports.
Okoumou's conviction comes as the Trump administration remains embroiled in a battle to fund a new U.S.-Mexico border wall, indicating that, although much time has passed since her July arrest, the president and his team remain as focused as ever on who, exactly, is allowed to come into the country.