Statue of Liberty climber sentenced to probation, community service

NEW YORK — She climbed the Statue of Liberty last Fourth of July to protest the Trump Administration policy of separating migrant family members at the border.

On Tuesday, Patricia Okoumou, 44, received her sentence for the offense.

While she did avoid jail time in this case, she could still end up behind bars, depending on a variety of factors.

The U.S. citizen who immigrated here from the Democratic Republic of Congo has become known for protesting, and she began her day in court in silent protest.

She placed clear packing tape over her mouth, and then the rest of her face, as between one and two dozen fellow protesters stood in support.

In the courtroom, having removed the tape, she hugged supporters, and then held up her right fist in a silent after she’d walked up to the defense table.

Minutes later, Judge Gabriel Gorenstein sentenced Okoumou to five years probation and 200 hours of community service for the July 4, 2018 incident that caught the attention of the whole country.

She climbed up to the statue’s feet in her act of protest. It caused the evacuation of thousands of people on Liberty Island's busiest day of the year. It also put first responders' health and safety at risk by forcing them to come retrieve her, according to the judge.

After the hearing, outside of the federal courthouse here, Okoumou responded to the judge’s claim.

“First responders are trained,” Okoumou said. “They did not express any sense of danger. So to state [otherwise] is to say something that is not real.”

Okoumou’s sentence is contingent upon her not getting arrested again during her five years’ probation. Whether or not that will happen is an open question.

“To the extent that the government is concerned about Patricia Okoumou re-offending,” said her attorney, Ron Kuby, “it would be a really good idea [for the administration] to reunify those families as quickly as possible.”

Okoumou has also climbed the Eiffel Tower and two buildings in Texas since last summer in protest. She said it’s all part of an overall message.

“Use my story as an inspiration,” she told supporters, as well as “people at home.”

“Because we cannot be complicit in a society that is caging children and babies,” she continued. “That is not normal, guys. I don't know what else you want me to say.”

Okoumou still faces charges related to her building climbs in Texas. She could face jail times in those cases.

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