Attorneys for Therese Okoumou, who scaled the Statue of Liberty on the Fourth of July, said their client was drawing attention to family separations at the border and to the White House’s “zero tolerance” immigration policies.
“We will defend to the teeth her right to protest family separations,” said Rhiya Trivedi, an associate at the Law Office of Ronald L. Kuby, in an interview.
Okoumou, 44, of Staten Island, climbed the base of the Statue of Liberty on Wednesday and resisted orders to come down, causing the evacuation of Liberty Island on the Fourth of July and “posing substantial danger to NYPD officers who were required to retrieve her,” federal prosecutors in Manhattan said.
Okoumou was arrested and charged with three misdemeanors, including trespassing, interference with agency functions and disorderly conduct. Each charge carries a maximum penalty of six months in prison.
Appearing before Magistrate Judge Ona Wang of the Southern District of New York, Okoumou pleaded not guilty Thursday and was released on her own recognizance, her attorney said. Her next court date is scheduled for Aug. 3. Assistant U.S. Attorney Brett Kalikow is prosecuting the case.
“Sometimes the pursuit of justice demands that we transcend the law,” Trivedi said Thursday.
In a statement, Southern District U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman said Okoumou “staged 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.”