Statue of Liberty climber pleads not guilty in court


Associated Press

NEW YORK

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 Thursday 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 that 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.

Okoumou, 44, of Staten Island, who goes by her middle name, Patricia, “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.

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.

If convicted, Okoumou, would face up to six months behind bars on each count.

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