On July 4, Therese Patricia Okoumou staged a protest against the Trump administration’s separation of migrant families at the border—at the base of the Statue of Liberty. For almost three hours, Okoumou walked around the statue, taking time to sit in the folds of Lady Liberty’s robes while she shut down Liberty Island.
— Women's March (@womensmarch) July 5, 2018
All told, seven people were arrested that day as part of the Rise and Resist group’s protest. Okoumou was removed by an emergency rescue team, held overnight and released Thursday after pleading not guilty to all charges.
“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 at a press conference after her release. “Trump has wrecked this country… It is depressing. It is outrageous.” She added that she felt her message had been received: no child belongs in a cage, no child deserves to be separated from their family and such actions will not be tolerated.
Activist Bree Newsome, who received national attention for scaling the South Carolina Capitol Building flagpole to remove the confederate flag in 2015, wished Okoumou a happy independence day on Twitter—adding that “protesting at the Statue of Liberty demanding an end to state violence and the inhumane detention of children seems a fitting way to spend a holiday that’s purportedly about celebrating the end of tyranny.”
Okoumou’s protest is a powerful reminder of the risks women are willing to take to expose the inconsistencies of our nation. In three hours, she showed that even a day established to mark our country’s pride could not, and should not, be a distraction from the issues that matter—or the realities of inequality that continue to define our not-yet-perfect union. In her defiance of celebrating a country that is failing so many of its people, she embodied true patriotism better than any fireworks display ever could.