Statue of Liberty climber Therese Patricia Okoumou was found guilty of trespassing, disorderly conduct and interfering with government functions in federal court Monday for partially ascending the monument on July 4.
She faces up to 18 months in prison after slipping away from a Liberty Island protest organized by the Rise and Resist activist group against the Trump administration’s policy of separating immigrant children from their families at the border, and climbing the base of Lady Liberty, where she spent three hours some 140 feet above the ground.
"We stand on the right side of history," Okoumou said outside of the courthouse after Judge Gabriel W. Gorenstein issued his verdict. "I am not … discouraged. Today our laws sometimes lack morality and this is a perfect example of that."
In the one-day trial, the government argued that Okoumou’s actions were "wrong and illegal," while her attorneys argued she "refocused the nation’s attention on the plight of the children."
Assistant United States Attorney Brett Kalikow said over 4,000 people were evacuated from the island as Okoumou climbed the monument.
As Okoumou took the stand, dozens in the packed 15th-floor courtroom waved "jazz hands" in support.
The Staten Island activist, 45, spoke of arriving in the United States from her native Congo in 1994. She got a green card in 2010 and was naturalized as a citizen in 2016. She found the Statue of Liberty a welcoming venue to get her message out.
“I wanted to send a strong statement that children do not belong in cages,” she told the court while choking up.
“Donald J. Trump came up with this zero-tolerance policy (of separation). I have had nightmares and night sweats,” she added.
Asked by one of her attorneys, Ron Kuby, if, given the chance, she would do it again, she simply added, “Yes.”
Okoumou will be sentenced on March 5.