The woman who was arrested for climbing the base of the Statue of Liberty on Wednesday to protest the United States’ immigration policy is an activist and an immigrant with a history of legal battles, The New York Daily News reported.
Therese Patricia Okoumou, 44, lives in Staten Island. She has lived in the New York borough since 1998, according to records obtained by the Staten Island Advance.
She was born and attended school in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Daily News reported, and has actively protested President Donald Trump’s immigration stance.
Okoumou joined the group Rise and Resist “for four or five months,” member Jay Walker told the Daily News.
Walker told The New York Times that he and other members of the group, who paraded an “Abolish ICE” banner at the base of the federal monument on Wednesday, did not know about Okoumou’s plans,
“She’s a free citizen in the world -- it’s a choice she made,” Walker told the Times. “I think the choice she made is certainly bringing more attention to the overall protest.
“We don’t condemn her for the choice she made, and we’re going to do anything we can to support her.”
According to a 2009 article in the Staten Island Advance, Okoumou worked as a personal trainer and was a physical therapist in New York City and in the Catskill Mountains.
Okoumou has a history of legal battles, the Daily News reported.
She was arrested in August 2017 on charges of trespassing, obstruction of government administration and misdemeanor assault during a demonstration against the New York Department of Labor, the Daily News reported.
In 2009, Okoumou won $1,500 in a racial discrimination lawsuit against County Recovery, a towing company in Staten Island. Two years earlier, she lost a human rights complaint against a Staten Island group home, the newspaper reported.
In 2003, she filed a wrongful-termination lawsuit against Safe Horizons, a home for battered women. Okoumou charged racial discrimination in her complaint.
The Statue of Liberty has been a magnet for protest since it opened in 1886. That year, suffragists protested at the monument’s unveiling, circling the island in a boat, the Times reported. More recently, members of the Vietnam Veterans Against the War barricaded themselves inside the statue to protest cuts in education benefits. Last year, a group unfurled a banner that read “refugees welcome,” the Times reported.
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