Outrage over images of migrant children detained in cages and descriptions of families being ripped apart at the border has, in recent weeks, spurred a variety of protests across the United States. There were the hundreds of "Families Belong Together" marches and the church that erected a caged nativity scene in silent condemnation of the president's policy of separating families. Yet this photo of a woman climbing the Statue of Liberty shows just how far people are willing to go to protest the Trump administration's "zero tolerance" immigration policy.
Police arrested 44-year-old Therese Patricia Okoumou after an hours-long standoff Wednesday. The woman had climbed up onto the base of the State of Liberty to sit among the folds of Lady Liberty's dress as a means of protesting the Trump administration's "zero tolerance" immigration policy. She later moved around the base of the statue to shelter under one of Lady Liberty's shoes. The New York Police Department told CNN the woman had initially refused to come down until "all the children are released," which was likely a reference to the more than two thousand separated migrant children believed to still be held by immigration authorities.
According to reports, Okoumou arrived at Liberty Island earlier in the day as part of the protest group Rise and Resist. An organizer of the group, however, told CNN that Okoumou had separated from the group after they'd dropped an "Abolish ICE" banner and that her climb was not a part of their protest plans.
"Rise and Resist planned a banner drop today at the Statue of Liberty," the group said in a brief statement released via Twitter Wednesday. "This action did not include the climber on the statue. Our action was completed earlier." The group later released a more in-depth statement in which they clarified that they had no intention of distancing themselves from Okoumou. "Patricia is our friend, our comrade, our sister," the group's statement read, adding that they had been concerned with finding her "the best legal representation" they could. "We unequivocally support Patricia."
Law enforcement authorities evacuated Liberty Island as they sought to negotiate with Okoumou and coax her down from the Statue of Liberty. According to New York Magazine, the Fourth of July holiday can be one of the monument's busiest days, often bringing some 20,000 tourists. The National Park Service, which controls access to the monument, appeared frustrated at the day's events.
"I feel really sorry for those visitors today," Jerry Willis, a spokesman for the National Park Service, told the Associated Press. "People have the right to speak out. I don’t think they have the right to co-opt the Statue of Liberty to do it."
An organizer with Rise and Resist told CNN the group had chosen to unfurl a banner protesting ICE and Trump's immigration policy at the Statue of Liberty due to what the monument represents. They told CNN the protest's theme had been that "Lady Liberty is weeping over the unconstitutional excesses of ICE under the Trump administration."
"We thought we wanted to do something on our Independence Day, a day that obviously is meant for reflection on the ideals on which this nation was founded," Rise and Resist member Jay W. Walker told CNN. "This country has posited itself as a beacon. Right now, we have a government that is actively turning its back on those ideals."
According to CBS News, Okoumou was taken into police custody after she climbed down from the State of Liberty and was held overnight at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Manhattan. She is expected to be charged with trespassing, disorderly conduct, and interference with national park regulations.