A Staten Island woman in an anti-Donald Trump shirt who scaled the Statue of Liberty on Independence Day surrendered to the NYPD before being arrested Wednesday, lying on her stomach about three hours after she began the climb.
In a spectacle shown live around the world on television and social media, the woman, later identified by a park spokesman as Therese Okoumou, 44, stopped her ascent at the statue’s pedestal — about 175 feet above Liberty Island. She paced around the base and waved a dark T-shirt bearing the slogans “TRUMPCARE MAKES US SICK” and “RISE AND RESIST.”
The climb came after seven protesters were detained and issued criminal summonses there for unfurling a banner calling for the abolition of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, which has come under intense criticism, especially from the political left, since Donald Trump became president and enacted a “zero-tolerance” immigration policy.
Soon after the woman’s ascent, and as the National Park Service evacuated the island boat by boat — about 4,500 tourists were there on one of the island’s busiest days of the year — the NYPD and U.S. Park Police climbed to the pedestal and tried to coax Okoumou down.
NYPD Det. Brian Glacken and his fellow officer Det. Christopher Williams were two of the Emergency Service cops up on the statue, closest to Okoumou, wearing safety harnesses and crawling toward her inch by inch until she could be restrained.
In a news conference after the capture, Glacken said Okoumou had been initially hostile, threatening to “push us off the statue, push us off the ladder.” But the officers were able to establish a “good rapport,” Glacken said. “We told her 'we just want to get you down safely,' ” he said. And in the end, he said, she apologized to them for putting them in danger.
National Park Service spokesman Jerry Willis said the officers from the NYPD’s Emergency Service Unit “approached her very slowly and calmly and took her into custody. She appeared to be very calm, she laid down on her stomach and she was taken into custody. There was no struggle or anything that I saw.”
Okoumou will likely face a criminal trespass charge under federal law, and possibly more, Willis said.
“Certainly, at a minimum, trespass, but I’m sure they’ll be going over the code of federal regulations to see what the appropriate charges will be,” Willis said. He added: “She’ll be processed on Ellis Island and then transported to Lower Manhattan” to the custody of the U.S. Marshals Service to be prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney’s office for the Southern District.
Willis said Okoumou got as high as Lady Liberty’s feet.
“It’s made of granite, and there’s creases and crevices,” he said of where she climbed. “Only someone with some pretty decent climbing skills would have been able to pull this off. It’s a very vertical surface, not one that most people would be able to scale.”
Jay Walker, who is affiliated with Rise and Resist, the activist group claiming responsibility for the banner protest, said the woman had taken part in the unfurling earlier.
“She is a member of the group, she has done actions with us before. She was part of the banner drop,” he said. “We did not know of her intentions to take that separate action.”
The seven protesters who unfurled the sign were in violation of a regulation prohibiting the unlawful attachment of a banner to a national monument, Willis said.
“It was against the monument,” Willis said of the banner, “so, touching the walls of the monument, so that’s illegal. We have a designated area on the island for First Amendment expression.”