Therese Patricia Okoumou has been named as the woman who climbed the Statue of Liberty on July 4. CNN’s Brynn Gingras reports that Okoumou, 45, will face federal charges for her actions. Gingras says that Okoumou, who goes by Patricia, was protesting against Donald Trump’s immigration policies. Okoumou scaled the famous statue at around 3:30 p.m. on Independence Day and came down around two hours later. The New York Times reports that officials had been worried that Okoumou may damage the monument due to the thinness of the area where she had been walking. A CNN report on the protest says that Okoumou told authorities during the standoff that she would not come down until “all the children are released.”
Here’s what you need to know:
1. An Arresting Officer Said that Okoumou Eventually Apologized for Her Protest
The New York Daily News reports that Okoumou, a native of the Democratic Republic of Congo, is a resident of the St. George neighborhood of Staten Island. She has lived in the borough for the last ten years. A neighbor told the tabloid, “She can be very nice and she can be a bitch. When I vacuum, she bangs on the wall. I bang back, and she put a dent in my door.” The pair’s beef ended over Okoumou’s love of her neighbor’s dog. An NYPD spokesman, Officer Brian Glacken, told CNN that, “At first, she wasn’t friendly with us, but we took the time to get a rapport with her so that took a while… She just kind of mentioned the kids in Texas. I guess the whole debate that’s going on about that. In the beginning, she threatened to push us off, push the ladder off, but we stayed with her… At first she was being a little combative, then she was willing to cooperate with us. She actually apologized to us for having to go up and get her.”
2. Okoumou Is a Member of the Group Rise & Resist
Earlier on America’s Independence Day, a group was arrested for unfurling a banner reading, “Abolish I.C.E.” on Liberty Island, reported NBC New York. In total, ten people were taken into custody. The station said in their report that Okoumou made it as far as the middle of the statue. A member of Rise and Resist, Jay Walker, told the Daily News that Okoumou is also a member of the group. Walker said that Okoumou participated in one protest a week since joining the group around January. Walker added, “No one in the group knew this was going to happen. We don’t know if she did it on the spur of the moment or if she had been planning it beforehand.”
The group Rise and Resist New York claimed responsibility for the banner. The group said on their Facebook page, “Rise and Resist was at the Statue of Liberty demanding Trump and the GOP #AbolishICE, reunite families now, halt deportations, and end detention as a deterrent. Activists were arrested. #EndFamilySeparation #AbolishCBP #FreeOurFuture #HereToStay.” The group said in a tweet that the woman climbing the statue is not related to their protest. Rise and Resist New York said, “The Climber on the Statue of Liberty has no connection to our #abolishice action earlier today.”
Okoumou was quoted in an Observer story from February 2017 about a protest outside the Manhattan offices of Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer. She told the newspaper, “Chuck Schumer is coming out and having a voice for us who cannot be seen on TV or newspaper to reflect what we are doing on our end on the street. So he’s putting a lot of pressure and we are putting a lot of pressure on him. But I think it’s about time that the Republicans act bipartisan sometimes because they are issues, they’re not about parties.”
3. Okoumou Was Last Arrested in August 2017 for a Protest Outside of the Dept. of Labor
The Daily News reports that Okoumou was arrested in August 2017 during a protest outside the Department of Labor in Lower Manhattan. Okoumou was arrested and later charged with misdemeanor assault for allegedly injuring an officer while she was flailing during her arrest. The same Daily News report adds that in 2007, Okoumou was filed a human rights complaint against a Staten Island group home after alleging racial discrimination.
In 2009, Okoumou sued a car towing company, accusing an employee of calling her a “n*****.” Okoumou accused an employee, Pat, of, “She was talking about me being shipped back to Africa. She spoke of Africa as a dirty place. She clearly told me she doesn’t like foreigners. She told me I wasn’t a customer. And she just refused to help me. She did not even process my papers, my driver’s license. I had the cash money with me, she did not really care. She wanted to let me know she was an Italian, and I was a piece [of] s***. She said that I was a n*****, I was really worth nothing. I shouldn’t even be in front of her.” Okoumou also said that Pat said that she was not a racist but that she didn’t like foreigners. Okoumou admitted to calling Pat a “redneck” during their interaction.
4. Okoumou Works as a Personal Trainer
The New York Post reported in August 2011 that Okoumou was forced to pay $4,500 in fines after she put ads for her personal trainer business on utility poles. Okoumou told the Post at the time, “This is ridiculous. How can I pay this?” The Post reports that Okoumou worked between New York City and the Catskills as a physical therapist. In her 2009 lawsuit, Okoumou said that most of her clients are white.
5. Okoumou Is Facing Charges of Trespassing & Interfering With Government Functions
The New York Times reports that Okoumou will appear in federal court in Manhattan on July 5. Her charges will include trespassing, disorderly conduct and interfering with government functions. A spokesman for the National Park Service, Jerry Willis, told the Times that Okoumou’s actions ruined the holiday plans of many tourists. Willis said, “It is their one and only chance to come here. Unfortunately, we had to clear the island.” CNN reports that July 4 is traditionally one of the biggest days of the year for the statue with 22,000 visitors usually on site.
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