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          size="-2"><a class="domain reader-domain"
href="https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2018/dec/17/statue-of-liberty-climber-trial-us-immigration">https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2018/dec/17/statue-of-liberty-climber-trial-us-immigration</a></font>
        <h1 class="reader-title">Woman who climbed Statue of Liberty in
          immigration protest found guilty</h1>
        <div class="credits reader-credits">Victoria Bekiempis -
          December 17, 2018<br>
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              <p>An activist has been found guilty of a series of
                federal crimes after she climbed on to the base of the
                Statue of Liberty this summer to protest against the US
                policy of separating migrant families and holding
                children in detention.</p>
              <p>Magistrate judge Gabriel Gorenstein convicted Therese
                Patricia Okoumou, who goes by Patricia, on Monday
                afternoon after a one-day bench trial in <a
                  href="https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/new-york"
                  data-link-name="auto-linked-tag"
                  data-component="auto-linked-tag">New York</a>,
                asserting that the protester’s political and moral
                motivations did not trump the law.</p>
              <p>Okoumou had grown teary on Monday as she told a judge
                in New York about how the treatment of children at the
                US-Mexico border prompted her to scale the statue in a
                high-profile <a
href="https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2018/jul/07/statue-of-liberty-protester-patricia-okoumou-interview"
                  data-link-name="in body link">protest</a> on the
                Fourth of July this year.</p>
              <p>“I wanted to send a strong statement that children do
                not belong in cages,” said Okoumou, on Monday morning at
                the start of her trial at the Manhattan federal court.</p>
              <p>But in convicting her, Gorenstein wasn’t swayed, saying
                upon his guilty verdict that if he didn’t uphold the law
                simply because of a lawbreaker’s motivation, than it
                would undermine law in general.</p>
              <p>“I would violate the oath of my office,” he said.</p>
              <p>After the trial, Okoumou stood outside the courthouse,
                thanking friends, her fellow members of the activist
                group Rise and Resist and supporters in an upbeat tone.</p>
              <p>“We stand on the right side of the history. I am not
                discouraged,” she said.</p>
              <p>“While migrant children who simply came to this
                country, like our ancestors did, to seek happiness,
                freedom and liberation. Instead of welcoming them like
                Lady Liberty symbolizes, instead of treating them with
                kindness, what we showed them is cages. So if I go in a
                cage with them, I am on the right side of history.”</p>
              <p>Okoumou, a Congo-born naturalized US citizen who lives
                in Staten Island, was found guilty on <a
href="https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2018/jul/05/statue-of-liberty-climber-therese-okoumou-pleads-not-guilty"
                  data-link-name="in body link">charges</a> of
                trespassing and interfering with government agency
                functions, as well as disorderly conduct, in relation to
                her climb. She pleaded not guilty.</p>
              <p>The charges collectively carry punishment of up to 18
                months behind bars. She will be sentenced at a later
                date.</p>
              <p>Okoumou’s main concern – as it has been since her
                climb, when she had to be retrieved by law enforcement
                officers attached to ropes – is the children, she said.</p>
              <p>Although an executive order last summer reversed the
                policy of separating children from their parents upon
                crossing the border unlawfully, the Trump administration
                reportedly <a
                  href="https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/usimmigration"
                  data-link-name="in body link">continues</a> to do so
                by various means, also detaining children who have
                crossed the border unaccompanied, in hopes of claiming
                asylum or joining relatives already in the US.</p>
              <p>Several thousand migrant minors are being <a
href="https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2018/oct/02/texas-detention-camp-swells-fivefold-with-migrant-children"
                  data-link-name="in body link">held</a> at a growing
                detention camp near El Paso, Texas. Meanwhile, many
                children languish in deteriorating conditions on the
                Mexican side of the border.</p>
              <p>And as Trump clamps down on asylum applications, many
                migrants find themselves in an administrative – and
                humanitarian – limbo.</p>
              <p> “It would never happen in my country – we don’t treat
                children like political bait,” she said. “I just have
                had nightmares and night sweats.”</p>
              <p>One of Okoumou’s lawyers, civil rights litigator Ron
                Kuby, asked Okoumou whether she would make the climb
                again.</p>
              <p> “Yes,” Okoumou replied.</p>
              <p>Kalikow did not ask Okoumou – who wore a cobalt dress
                with the words “Seeking Asylum is NOT a Crime” for her
                court appearance – any questions.</p>
              <p>Earlier in the day, opening statements foreshadowed the
                tenor of the trial – while prosecutors would focus on
                rules, Okoumou’s supporters would focus on conscience.</p>
              <p>“She knew that what she was doing was wrong and
                illegal,” Kalikow said in his opening statement.
                “Whether one sympathizes with the defendant politically
                and morally is not at issue in this case.”</p>
              <p>Kuby responded in his opening that the family
                separation policy “created in her an imperative to act”.</p>
              <p>“She did so on America’s most important day on
                America’s most important symbol.”</p>
              <p>Lawyer <a
href="https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2018/may/06/stormy-daniels-lawyer-michael-avenatti-donald-trump"
                  data-link-name="in body link">Mich</a><a
href="https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2018/may/06/stormy-daniels-lawyer-michael-avenatti-donald-trump"
                  data-link-name="in body link">ael Avenatti</a>, who <a
href="https://twitter.com/MichaelAvenatti/status/1070786480497295360?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw%7Ctwcamp%5Etweetembed%7Ctwterm%5E1070786480497295360&ref_url=https%3A%2F%2Fpix11.com%2F2018%2F12%2F17%2Ftrial-begins-for-protester-who-climbed-statue-of-liberty%2F"
                  data-link-name="in body link">has joined</a> Okoumou’s
                legal team, sat in the front row of the gallery.</p>
              <p>The prosecution lauded Gorenstein’s verdict, calling
                Okoumou’s protest a “dangerous stunt … that endangered
                herself and the NYPD and US Park Police officers who
                rescued and apprehended her”.</p>
              <p>Kalikow said: “The act of climbing the base of the
                Statue of Liberty went well beyond peaceable protest, a
                right we certainly respect. It was a crime that put
                people at grave risk. We commend Judge Gorenstein’s
                decision to hold Therese Okoumou accountable for her
                dangerous and reckless conduct.”</p>
              <p>After the verdict, Hawk Newsome, who heads Black Lives
                Matter NYC, said: “It’s the government versus Patricia –
                it wasn’t the people. If it was the people, she would be
                free.”</p>
              <p>Avenatti said the verdict was not surprising.</p>
              <p>“But sometimes you have to stand on principle. History
                will be incredibly kind to Patricia,” he said.</p>
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