The woman who scaled part of the Statue of Liberty on the Fourth of July to protest the separation of families at the border said she wouldn't do it again, but thinks her message got across after being released from custody Thursday.
A resident of Staten Island and an immigrant from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Therese Patricia Okoumou was charged Wednesday with violation of National Park Service regulations, trespassing, disorderly conduct, and interference with governmental administration, according to Jerry Willis, a spokesperson for the National Park Service.
Specifically, Okoumou “climbed the base of the Statue of Liberty without the consent of the Superintendent of the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island National Monuments,” subsequently “refused to climb down,” and "requir[ed] law enforcement to retrieve her and to evacuate Liberty Island,” according to charging documents.
She was held overnight at the Manhattan Metropolitan Correctional Center and released on her own recognizance Thursday after pleading not guilty to all charges, according to her attorney Rhiya Trivedi.
Supporters protested on her behalf outside the courthouse throughout the day Thursday and cheered as she walked out of the building.
"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," Okoumou said during a press conference on the courthouse steps.
When asked if she would do it again, Okoumou said with a smile, that she wouldn't because "the judge told me not to."
"But I think the message was sent," she continued. "No child belongs in a cage. Children should not be separated from their parents, especially on a holiday like this. It is not OK. It’s unacceptable."
Okoumou is due back in court on Aug. 3.
Her protest shut down Liberty Island Wednesday and led to the evacuation of several thousand people as Okoumou sat in the folds of the statue's robes and engaged in a face-off with law enforcement.
Earlier in the day, Okoumou and members of activist group Rise and Resist also unfurled a banner that read "Abolish ICE," calling for the dismantling of the agency of Immigrations and Customs Enforcement, which is responsible for enforcing the "zero tolerance" policy at the border and deporting undocumented immigrants.
Willis said federal regulations prohibit hanging banners from the monument.
Over the course of four hours on Wednesday, Okoumo climbed the base of the icon of American freedom and held her ground before two officers ascended the foundation and brought her down.
Following careful maneuvering away from the edge, the three descended about 25 feet via a ladder, and Okoumo was taken into custody. The events unfolded on live television.
Okoumou later apologized to the two officers who brought her down for "having to go up there and get her," they said at a press conference.
Bree Newsome, an activist who scaled the statehouse flagpole in South Carolina to tear down the Confederate Flag, expressed solidarity with Okoumou on Twitter Thursday, calling the protests "brilliant."
In a statement, US Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman called Okoumou's protest "a dangerous stunt that alarmed the public and endangered her own life and the lives of the NYPD officers who responded to the scene."
"While we must and do respect the rights of the people to peaceable protest that right does not extend to breaking the law in ways that put others at risk," he said.
Berman also commended park police and the NYPD.
Under the existing zero tolerance immigration policy, the Trump administration has required border agents to arrest and prosecute migrants and asylum-seekers entering the country and has separated more than 2,300 children from their parents.
Following a decision to end the policy, a federal judge in California ordered the federal government to reunite the children with their parents within 30 days.