UPDATE | Statue of Liberty climber pleads not guilty to trespassing


NEW YORK (AP) — An unrepentant protester who climbed the base of the Statue of Liberty on a busy Fourth of July in what prosecutors called a "dangerous stunt" pleaded not guilty today to misdemeanor trespassing and disorderly conduct.

Activists packed into a Manhattan courtroom cheered when a federal magistrate judge released Therese Okoumou without bail after she had spent the night behind bars. Okoumou responded by raising her fist and blowing kisses to her supporters.

Outside court, the naturalized U.S. citizen from Congo told reporters she climbed the landmark as a spur-of-the moment protest over the Trump administration's zero-tolerance immigration policies that resulted in the separation of immigrant children from parents accused of crossing the U.S.-Mexico border illegally.

"When they go low, we go high and I went as high as I could," Okoumou said, paraphrasing former first lady Michelle Obama. "No children belong in a cage," she added.

Okoumou, who goes by her middle name, Patricia, sported a T-shirt reading "White Supremacy is Terrorism" that she had worn inside-out in court.

Okoumou, 44, of Staten Island, allegedly "staged a dangerous stunt that alarmed the public and endangered her own life and the lives of the [New York Police Department] officers who responded to the scene," U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman said in a statement.

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 above ground. Police were forced to scale the statue to pull her down.

1:47 p.m.

NEW YORK (AP) — A woman was charged today with misdemeanor trespassing and disorderly conduct for climbing the base of the Statue of Liberty on a busy Fourth of July in what prosecutors called a "dangerous stunt."

Court papers also charged Therese Okoumou with resisting arrest by refusing to leave her perch by the bottom of the statue's robes, about 100 feet above ground. Police were forced to scale the statue to pull her down.

Okoumou allegedly "staged a dangerous stunt that alarmed the public and endangered her own life and the lives of the (New York Police Department) officers who responded to the scene," U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman said in a statement.

Okoumou, 44, of Staten Island, was expected to appear in federal court in Manhattan later today. If convicted, she would face up to six months behind bars on each count.

The name of her lawyer wasn't immediately available.

The National Park Service decided to evacuate more than 4,000 visitors from Liberty Island on Wednesday "out of an abundance of caution," said spokesman Jerry Willis. Average attendance for the Fourth of July is 20,000 to 25,000 people, he added.

A federal official said the woman told police she was protesting the separation of immigrant children from parents who cross the U.S.-Mexico border illegally. The official wasn't authorized to discuss it and spoke on the condition of anonymity.

The park service was reviewing security videotape to try to determine how the woman made the climb, Willis said.

10:15 a.m.

NEW YORK (AP) — Authorities say a Fourth of July protester who held police at bay for hours after she climbed the base of the Statue of Liberty, causing an evacuation, will face a judge in New York.

A federal official says the woman told police she was protesting the separation of immigrant children from parents who cross the U.S.-Mexico border illegally.

A court appearance is expected sometime today.

The official identifies the woman as Therese Okoumou. The official wasn't authorized to discuss it and spoke on the condition of anonymity. A message left at a possible phone number for the defendant hasn't been returned.

A group that organized a protest at the statue earlier Wednesday says she also took part in unfurling a banner at the statue's pedestal.

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