In this image made from television news video by PIX11, a person, right, lies under the right foot of New York’s Statue of Liberty as police officers, left, work to convince the climber to descend, Wednesday, July 4, 2018. Shortly before the climber scaled the statue’s base, forcing its evacuation on the Fourth of July, several people who hung a banner from the Statue of Liberty’s pedestal calling for abolishing the federal government’s chief immigration enforcement agency were arrested. (PIX11 via AP)

Protester’s climb shuts down Statue of Liberty on July 4

A woman was protesting the separation of immigrant children from parents who cross the U.S.-Mexico border illegally

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 metres) 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 metres) to the monument’s observation point and was taken into custody.

RELATED: Family separation policy starts dividing Republicans

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.”

RELATED: Separated families must be reunited within 30 days

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.

Earlier and farther below, at least six people were taken into custody after unfurling a banner that read “Abolish I.C.E.,” referring to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, whose officers arrest and deport immigrants who are in the U.S. illegally, among other duties.

Willis said federal regulations prohibit hanging banners from the monument.

Rise and Resist opposes President Donald Trump’s administration and advocates ending deportations and family separations at the border.

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has said the president’s immigration policy is a step forward for public safety.

Under Trump’s zero-tolerance policy, the government has begun requiring border agents to arrest and prosecute anyone caught entering the country illegally. That resulted in more than 2,000 children being separated from their parents within six weeks this spring.

Under public pressure, Trump later halted his policy of taking children from their detained parents. A federal judge in California ordered the Trump administration late last month to reunite the more than 2,000 children with their parents in 30 days.

“Abolish ICE” has become a rallying cry at protests around the country and for some Democratic officeholders seeking to boost their progressive credentials. But Trump, a Republican, said on Twitter last week that abolishing ICE will “never happen!”

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.

And Jake Pearson, The Associated Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

West Shore residents hold forum to voice frustration with Goldstream Park homeless camp

Some 200 residents fill local pub pointing fingers, claiming crime on the rise, safety at risk

North Island Tour De Rock rider Benjamin Leah leads team to Port Hardy

“You don’t have issues and problems when you look at these kids and how much they’re going through.”

City stamps rezoning approval for Merridale Cidery expansion in Victoria

Owner expects doors open by fall 2019 in Dockside Green neighbourhood

Two to hospital after University of Victoria sailing mishap

Wind gusts capsize boat of recreational club sailors

Greater Victoria favourite Pendray Corn Maze opens today

Pendray Farms Corn Maze raises food and funds Sept. 29

Environment Canada confirms Ottawa area hit by two tornadoes Friday

At one point more than 200,000 hydro customers were blacked out

5 things to do this weekend in and around Greater Victoria

Sooke Apple Fest returns, Saanich lights up with lantern festival and anarchists unite for downtown book fair

Whitecaps see playoff dreams fade after 2-1 loss to FC Dallas

Goal in 87th minute seals Vancouver’s fate

B.C. students send books to displaced students of Hornby Island school fire

Maple Ridge elementary school teacher says students learned about acts of kindness

Trump drains oxygen from Trudeau foreign policy with PM, Freeland bound for UN

A lot has changed since the Liberals came to power in Canada in 2015

Emergency crews investigate small sulphuric acid spill in Kootenays

IRM states a small volume of less than one cup and three dime-sized drips were leaked from carrier

Victoria resident barred from trading securities for fraud

Larry Keith Davis used money from an investor to pay personal bills

Family, friends of B.C murder victim want killer sent back to max security facility

Group wants convicted murderer Walter Ramsay sent back to a maximum security facility

Most Read