Police evacuated New York’s Liberty Island on Wednesday afternoon after a protester climbed onto the Statue of Liberty following a demonstration by activist group Rise and Resist NYC, who unfurled a banner reading, “ABOLISH ICE” at the base of the statue. Police have arrested the woman, CNN reports.
According to the Associated Press, Therese Okoumou managed to climb about 25 feet above the statue’s observation area. Police eventually scaled the monument themselves and arrested her after about three hours of trying to convince her to descend the statue. She reportedly told police that she refused to climb down until “all the children are released.”
U.S. Park Police arrested and charged at least six of the Rise and Resist’s protesters with unlawful protest earlier Wednesday after displaying the banner, NBC New York reported. National Park Service Spokesman Jerry Willis told the AP that federal regulations prohibit banners from being hung from the monument. Willis told the New York Times that about 4,500 people were evacuated from the island after Rise and Resist started their demonstration.
While Okoumou was part of the group’s earlier action, Rise and Resist told reporters and said on Twitter that her climbing the Statue of Liberty was not part of their planned protest. Initially, in a now deleted tweet, Rise and Resist claimed Okoumou had “no association” with the group.
Okoumou began scaling the statue shortly after Rise and Resist unfurled their banner around 3 p.m. From NBC New York:
The woman was seen at various points pacing back and forth on the base of the statue, then lying down and casually kicking her legs. Police officers watched from below as they attempted to coax her down, then brought out a ladder and other climbing gear to physically get to her. NYPD’s highly trained emergency services and aviation units were responding along with U.S. Park Police.
Rise and Resist said in a statement that their action on what is typically the busiest day on Liberty Island (July 4) was in protest of the Trump administration’s (cruel and draconian) immigration policy, which has seen the separation of thousands of children from their families at the U.S.-Mexico border and their detention.
Update, 9:38 p.m. EST: Previously, it had been disputed whether Okoumou was associated with Rise and Resist, but Jay Walker, an organizer with the group, confirmed to the Associated Press that she was among the 40 people who protested Trump’s immigration policy on Wednesday.
“We don’t know whether she had this planned before she ever got to Liberty Island or whether it was a spur-of-the-moment decision,” Walker told the AP.
Additionally, Annette Guadino, who was among the people who unfurled the “ABOLISH ICE” banner, told NBC New York that Okoumou had been part of the day’s action. “She did not discuss it with anybody beforehand, and we were completely unaware,” Guadino told the station. “We found this out through the same way everybody else is finding it out, through the news.”
Update, 9:45 p.m. ET: Okoumou, the New York Times reports, is currently being held in federal custody and is expected to appear in court Thursday. Walker, the Rise and Resist organizer, told the paper that Okoumou, who goes by Patricia, is indeed a current (and regularly active) member of the group. Walker said the group was unaware of her plans to scale the Statue of Liberty.
“I think the choice she made is certainly bringing more attention to the overall protest,” Walker told the Times. “We don’t condemn her for the choice she made, and we’re going to do anything we can to support her.”
This is a developing story and will be updated throughout as more information becomes available.