The Fourth of July demonstration at the Statue of Liberty by a woman protesting President Donald Trump’s immigration policy has drawn the ire of U.S. Rep. Dan Donovan.
Donovan (R-Southwest Brooklyn-Staten Island) said the protest by Therese Patricia Okoumou, 44, who climbed onto the pedestal of the statue and caused the authorities to order the evacuation of Liberty Island on the day Americans celebrate the nation’s birthday was deeply troubling.
“Regardless of the protestor’s motivations, her actions endangered her life and the safety of first responders. There are many avenues to peacefully protest, but those rights don’t extend to illegal actions, breaching security perimeters, and threatening police officers,” Donovan said in a statement.
Okoumou, a Staten Island resident who was born in the Republic of Congo, was protesting the policy of separating children from their parent at the U.S.-Mexico border. Okoumou also called for the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency to be abolished. After a tense standoff that lasted four hours, she was taken into custody on trespassing and other federal charges.
Donovan, chairperson of the House Subcommittee on Emergency Preparedness, Response, and Communications, has written a letter to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke requesting that measures be put in place to provide better security for the Statue of Liberty.
Donovan also wants the Interior Department, which has jurisdiction over national monuments like the Statue of Liberty, to assess the monument’s vulnerabilities and support preparedness efforts made by the National Parks Service and the New York Police Department.
“Ensuring the safety and security of our monuments and infrastructure is critical to protecting our communities and the American people. The brave NYPD and NPS officers handled the situation with precision, and I hope by addressing certain vulnerabilities we can prevent future incidents and better secure Liberty Island,” said Donovan, who added that the Statue of Liberty’s status as a highly-visited monument makes it a top terrorist target.
“Additionally, I would like to know how much the rescue efforts cost hardworking taxpayers,” Donovan wrote in his letter.
Geoffrey S. Berman, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced that Okoumou was charged with trespassing, interference with government agency functions, and disorderly conduct.
Okoumou could face six months in prison if she is convicted.
Calling Okoumou’s actions “a dangerous stunt,” Berman charged that she “alarmed the public and endangered her own life and the lives of the NYPD officers who responded to the scene.”
The right to protest “does not extend to breaking the law in ways that put others at risk,” Berman added.
The protest took place on a day when thousands of tourists have traditionally made a pilgrimage to the Statue of Liberty, according to U.S. Park Police Maj. Pamela Smith.
“This incident caused disruption to thousands of visitors on one of the busiest days of the year at the Statue of Liberty. We are grateful that the matter was resolved with no one sustaining injuries or causing major damage to the monument,” Smith said in a statement.