Protest Shuts Down Statue of Liberty on July 4th

An idiot climbed the monument, wasting police resources and ruining the day for hundreds of visitors.


AP (“Protester’s climb shuts down Statue of Liberty on July 4“):

A protest against U.S. immigration policy forced the evacuation of the Statue of Liberty on the Fourth of July, with a group unfurling a banner from the pedestal and a woman holding police at bay for hours after she climbed the base and sat by the statue’s robes.

The woman and at least a half-dozen demonstrators who displayed the banner were arrested, while the climb forced thousands of visitors to leave the iconic American symbol on the nation’s birthday.

About 100 feet (30 meters) aboveground, the woman engaged in a four-hour standoff with police before two officers climbed up to the base and went over to her. With the dramatic scene unfolding on live television, she and the officers edged carefully around the statue toward a ladder, and she climbed down about 25 feet (8 meters) to the monument’s observation point and was taken into custody.

The woman, Therese Okoumou, told police she was protesting the separation of immigrant children from parents who cross the U.S.-Mexico border illegally, according to a federal official who was briefed on what happened but wasn’t authorized to discuss it and spoke on the condition of anonymity. A message left at a possible phone number for Okoumou wasn’t immediately returned.

The climber was among about 40 demonstrators who earlier unfurled a banner calling for abolishing the federal government’s chief immigration enforcement agency, said Jay W. Walker, an organizer with Rise and Resist, which arranged the demonstration.

Walker said the other demonstrators had no idea the woman would make the ascent, which wasn’t part of the planned protest.

“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 said.

Regardless, he said he felt the publicity would help the group’s cause.

A spokesman for the National Park Service, which runs the monument, saw it differently.

“I feel really sorry for those visitors today” who had to leave or couldn’t come, spokesman Jerry Willis said. “People have the right to speak out. I don’t think they have the right to co-opt the Statue of Liberty to do it.”

The climber ascended from the observation point, Willis said. Visitors were forced to leave Liberty Island hours before its normal 6:15 p.m. closing time, he said.

New York’s NBC4 (“Woman Scales Lady Liberty After ‘Abolish ICE’ Banner Unfurled at Statue“) adds:

Okoumou 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 responded along with U.S. Park Police.

Hours after the response began, two ESU officers, Detectives Brian Glacken and Chris Williams were able to make it onto the base where Okoumou was.

“We just tried to get a dialogue with her while she was up there,” Glacken told reporters at an evening briefing, saying the woman was talking about “the children in Texas.”

She was combative and unfriendly at first, threatening to push the officers and the ladder off, Glacken said. But the officers were persistent and continued speaking with her, and were able to establish a rapport with her.

[…]

The rescue was also highly technical because of the slopes and angles around the base of the statue: “There was nothing for Chris and I to grab onto,” said Glacken. “So that high point, and trusting the equipment that we have and trusting the guys behind us, is what made it work.”

Sixteen ESU officers in total were staked out at the statue during the response.

Earlier, seven people were arrested by the United States Park Police after unrolling a banner that read “Abolish I.C.E.,” at the statue. The banner was organized by the group Rise and Resist NYC, which said on Facebook it was at the Statue of Liberty to demand President Donald Trump abolish the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency and “reunite families, halt deportations and end detention as a deterrent.”

The group initially denied any connection to the climber, saying in a tweet, “The climber on the Statue of Liberty has no connection to our #abolishice action earlier today.”

But a Rise and Resist member named Annette Guadino who participated in the banner unfurling later confirmed to News 4 that the person on the statue had been part of their protest.

[…]

The seven protesters will be charged with unlawful protest, U.S. Park Police said.

Like Jerry Willis, I think “People have the right to speak out. I don’t think they have the right to co-opt the Statue of Liberty to do it.” Or, at least, not for long.  The Statue, with its symbolic attachment to immigration, is a natural place for this sort of protest. As the AP report notes,

The Statue of Liberty has long been a welcoming symbol for immigrants and refugees coming to the U.S. It also has been a setting for protests and other actions that forced evacuations.

Last February, someone hung a banner reading “Refugees Welcome” from the observation deck. The sign was taken down about an hour after being discovered.

A year earlier, a West Virginia man was sentenced to time served after calling in a bomb threat that forced the evacuation of Liberty Island, sending 3,200 people on boats back to lower Manhattan and New Jersey.

In 2000, 12 people protesting the Navy’s use of the Puerto Rican Island of Vieques for bombing exercises were arrested after a man climbed out on the spires of the statue’s crown and attached flags and banners to it.

While the right to protest grievances against our government is among our fundamental rights, we’ve long recognized the need to balance that against the rights of our fellow citizens. Some four and a half million people visit the Statue annually, which works out to some 12,300 daily. One imagines the number would be higher on Independence Day.

It’s one thing to string up a banner and then submit peacefully to arrest. It’s quite another to put the lives of first responders in jeopardy and ruin the holiday of thousands of people, some significant percentage of whom may never get another opportunity to visit the monument.

One presumes the folks who hung the banner will spend a few hours in jail and pay a rather small fine for their illegal protest. One presumes—and I certainly hope—the woman who climbed the statue and refused to come down for hours will face much steeper penalties.

FILED UNDER: Crime
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. CarolDuhart2 says:

    Idiot, for protesting the separation of children from parents on a day that is only happening because long ago, some folks did more than just protest? I swear, some of you people would have been Tories back then…oh the idiocy of even thinking we could do without the King. And how dare those other folks tear down those statues and burn British flags and inconvenience us during our daily tea.

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  2. Lounsbury says:

    Yes an idiot for protesting with some idiot banner ‘abolish ICE’ which is something only hard Left activists will really support.

    Own goal really, an idiotic protest idiotically timed.

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  3. CarolDuhart2 says:

    Well, call me an idiot and far left now. Once I would have supported just reforming the thing, but now it needs to be abolished. In fact, I’m ready to tear up the dysfunctional, expensive, and clunky immigration system we have, and start over with something new. That something new would treat Canada and Mexico as the neighbors they are. We would stop talking about walls instead we would have bridges between them and their peoples. We would end the quotas that mean nothing except another way to keep brown people out who aren’t Christian. We would streamline the system so that people of good character and will don’t spend thousands and years for a green card or months for a visa.

    Nobody is proposing that there be no border controls at all,there needs to be some just for the orderly entry and exit for people and some security measures. But when the practice means taking kids away from desperate parents, it’s too late for the reform. People who are willing to do that need to be unemployed.

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  4. Bob@Youngstown says:

    Would the “day at the Statue” been ruined for thousands if the woman were just ignored and subsequently been arrested after she came down voluntarily? IOW, why were “first responders” needed?

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  5. James Pearce says:

    Regardless, he said he felt the publicity would help the group’s cause.

    Publicity is the group’s cause.

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  6. James Joyner says:

    @CarolDuhart2: While I agree with @Lounsbury that we’re simply not going to abolish the functions that ICE performs, I’m sympathetic with the notion that the agency’s image is forever tarnished and it probably ought be broken up and nothing left with that name. Moreover, I find the Trump administration’s policy of separating children from their parents as a signaling device appalling.

    Yet, while I’m sympathetic to the cause here, the protest exceeds the reasonable time, place, and manner constraints necessary to balance the right to protest with the rights of others. I don’t care what your cause, you simply don’t have the right to commit criminal mischief, tie up law enforcement resources for hours, and cause the mass evacuation of a national resource.

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  7. OzarkHillbilly says:

    It’s quite another to put the lives of first responders in jeopardy and ruin the holiday of thousands of people, some significant percentage of whom may never get another opportunity to visit the monument.

    First off, if the lives of first responders were ever in jeopardy it was because of their own stupidity in proceeding in a dangerous and unnecessary manner. Personally, I would have taken more time to rig the rescue ropes properly (looking at the video it appears they did do some minimal rigging) because a first responders first job is (as per my own FR training) Don’t Be a Victim.

    As for “ruining the holiday of thousands of people, some significant percentage of whom may never get another opportunity to visit the monument” here’s the worlds tiniest violin playing for the people so inconvenienced because compared to the pain and suffering of the thousands of families being ripped apart just because of the moral vacuum that resides at the heart of the GOP, some percentage of whom will in all likelihood never be reunited, well let’s just say it rather pales in comparison.

    (let’s not forget that a protest that inconveniences no one is ignored)

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  8. James Joyner says:

    @Bob@Youngstown:

    Would the “day at the Statue” been ruined for thousands if the woman were just ignored and subsequently been arrested after she came down voluntarily? IOW, why were “first responders” needed?

    Aside from breaking the law, she was potentially a danger to herself and others. Of course first responders were going to have to get her down.

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  9. Lounsbury says:

    @CarolDuhart2:
    And I am sure you’re also ready for a magical pony.

    that does not make magical ponies or anything you wrote in the least bit feasible or even vaguely plausible.

    And as a protest in timing and choice it was bloody idiotic and it’s bloody idiotic to applaud it.

    Not going to generate sympathy except among the hard Left activist fringes and rather more likely to generate the opposite of sympathy for the cause (of course abolishing Immigration & Customs Enforcement service over one idiotic policy is a ridiculous over-reach and an idiotic positoning of extreme over-reaction that merely plays into the opposition’s AgitProp for no real gain).

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  10. Bob@Youngstown says:

    @James Joyner: Ok, I get that she was breaking the law. But “putting others” (meaning innocent visitors) in danger, I’m just not convinced. Access to the pedestal is limited, and I’m not even sure that the walkway at the top of the pedestal (where the NYPD placed ladders) is open to ticket holders. (and in any event that walkway could have been cordoned off temporarily).
    Evacuation of the entire island was completely unnecessary.

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  11. Lounsbury says:

    @James Joyner:
    Well ‘right’ is rather besides the point – sometimes protesting in a fashion that is against the law and disruptive is a necessary thing. Sometimes.

    However, to avoid pointless Own Goals that hurts one’s cause more than it helps, said protests should be well-targetted and aimed to generate more sympathy gained than lost.

    It is very difficult to see that this action meets that analysis – anyone other than the Lefties and the knee jerkers are unlikely to be moved to sympathy and the persons effected (negatively) rather vanishingly unlikely to be moved to action or sympathetic political support for action for this particular cause.

    Going on aboutas Mr Ozarkwhatever did “ here’s the worlds tiniest violin playing for the people so inconvenienced because compared to the pain and suffering of the thousands of families being ripped apart just because of the moral vacuum that resides at the heart of the GOP” is bloody stupid – it’s “Oh think of the children” posturing.

    Were that protest at a GOP event that inconvenienced principally GOPers, well then such statement could be relevant.

    But it wasn’t so in fact it is a poorly targetted type of Activist political-action masturbation that achieves f-all for actually moving a needle.

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  12. CarolDuhart2 says:

    @Lounsbury: If it’s Far Left to oppose a cruel cludge of an agency existing, call me Communist. ICE, founded in 2003, is not needed to enforce immigration law. We have the Border Patrol and can come up with an even more humane agency. We can come up with less racist, less expensive and more inclusive immigration laws. We can stop treating our near neighbors like pariahs and make it easier for border towns on both sides to do commerce, take day trips between the two. We can demilitarize down to a reasonable degree of security, tear down the Great Wall of America to our South.

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  13. I am with @Lounsbury and James here. It doesn’t even appear she had much of a plan in regards to her climb. The banner would have made international news as it was, and would not have cause the island to be shut down.

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  14. James Joyner says:

    @OzarkHillbilly:

    As for “ruining the holiday of thousands of people, some significant percentage of whom may never get another opportunity to visit the monument” here’s the worlds tiniest violin playing for the people so inconvenienced because compared to the pain and suffering of the thousands of families being ripped apart just because of the moral vacuum that resides at the heart of the GOP, some percentage of whom will in all likelihood never be reunited, well let’s just say it rather pales in comparison.

    So? The people who had their holiday ruined aren’t responsible for the policies in question. They should not have to pay a price for some idiots breaking the law to make a point.

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  15. Wr says:

    @James Joyner: At least she didn’t throw tea into the harbor. That would definitely have defied civility.

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  16. Tyrell says:

    @James Joyner: I am in agreement. If I had traveled to NYC I would be in total disgust and angered if some nut had closed down the Statue of Liberty or any other attractions. She should get a stiff penalty.

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  17. James Joyner says:

    @Wr:

    At least she didn’t throw tea into the harbor. That would definitely have defied civility.

    The Sons of Liberty was a terrorist organization and the Tea Party a terrorist act. But it was at least directed at the right target.

    If you’re going to engage in criminal conduct to get support for this cause, then do it at the White House or Capitol Hill. Or chain yourself to one of the detention facilities. Blockade the ICE headquarters. Don’t go after a tourist destination.

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  18. Lounsbury says:

    @CarolDuhart2:
    Your magical thinking and ignorance are somewhat impressive.
    A cruel cludge of an agency?
    All the 2003 reorganizaiton did was move your INS to a new umbrella.

    The border agency is not an immigration agency.

    While one can question whether customs as an agency responsability makes functional sense, it doesn’t per se lead to one treatment or another.

    Cruel cludge of an agency… empty headed activist twaddle.

    What you need to do is change an actual policy and impelmentation, not engage in idiotic abolishing of one name to be replaced inevitably with another. As bad as your righty twits ranting against Obamacare while supporting ACA features.

  19. lounsbury says:

    @Tyrell:
    A stiff drink and talking to about how to be effective and not a self-harming git.

  20. Liberal Capitalist says:

    @James Joyner:

    Aside from breaking the law, she was potentially a danger to herself and others. Of course first responders were going to have to get her down.

    That doesn’t sound very Libertarian. Was she harming herself or others?

    If she goes up, and observation shows that she has no weapons or explosives, then let her be until she decides that it is time to use the bathroom or get a tasty July 4th hotdog. Then charge her with trespassing.

    Responses are overblown.

  21. Gustopher says:

    One presumes the folks who hung the banner will spend a few hours in jail and pay a rather small fine for their illegal protest.

    When you marginalize and criminalize peaceful protest, don’t be surprised when people begin protesting in increasingly loud and perhaps even violent ways.

    There’s a balance that has to be drawn between accommodating free speech and not having to deal with protesters, but we’ve grown increasingly intolerant of mild disorder, and I think that’s a dangerous thing long term.

    Sometimes, the only free speech we seem to be in favor of is corporate speech.

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  22. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Lounsbury: You sit on your high horse where nothing can touch you and expound on how other people should behave.

    Get over yourself.

  23. James Joyner says:

    @Gustopher:

    There’s a balance that has to be drawn between accommodating free speech and not having to deal with protesters, but we’ve grown increasingly intolerant of mild disorder, and I think that’s a dangerous thing long term.

    So far as I’m aware, we don’t arrest those annoying Code Pink ninnies who show up to disrupt events. We just escort them out. But we’ve long recognized time, place, and manner restrictions on protest. People don’t have an infinite right to disrupt their fellow citizens’ rights in order to make their pet points.

  24. gVOR08 says:

    Serendipitous rather than planned, one suspects, but her protest does resonate nicely with last week’s New Yorker cover.