Therese Patricia Okoumou, who climbed the base of the Statue of Liberty on July 4 to protest President Donald J. Trump's “zero tolerance” immigration policy and detention of migrant children, was found guilty of a series of federal crimes.
At the hearing in a Manhattan federal court on December 17, Okoumou pleaded not guilty. However Judge Gabriel Gorenstein convicted her of trespassing, disorderly conduct and interfering with government agency functions. Okoumou will be sentenced on March 5, 2019 and is likely to go to prison for up to 18 months.
Okoumou was taken into custody after a standoff with the police in a three-hour demonstration on the statue. She visited the island as part of Rise and Resist, an activist organisation it says is “committed to opposing, disrupting, and defeating any government act that threatens democracy, equality, and our civil liberties.” Local authorities evacuated Liberty Island during the protest.
Wearing a t-shirt that read “seeking asylum is not a crime” on Monday outside the court, Okoumou said she was happy because people are “still talking about the children in concentration camps”.
“We stand on the right side of the history. I am not discouraged,” she said, according to The Guardian.
Despite Okoumou's intentions, Judge Gorenstein said he could not “violate the oath of my office” in the sentencing, and committed to upholding the law.
Illegal immigration was a key policy in Trump’s presidential campaign. He has been ruthless with implementing restrictive laws, such as visa bans on people from seven majority-Muslim countries.
His immigration policy has been criticised for leading to the separation of migrant families. Children have been separated from their parents at the United States-Mexico border, with hundreds of minors being held in detention centres.