Victoria Bekiempis, Guardian, December 17, 2018
Magistrate judge Gabriel Gorenstein convicted Therese Patricia Okoumou, who goes by Patricia, on Monday afternoon after a one-day bench trial in New York, asserting that the protester’s political and moral motivations did not trump the law.
Okoumou had grown teary on Monday as she told a judge in New York about how the treatment of children at the US-Mexico border prompted her to scale the statue in a high-profile protest on the Fourth of July this year.
But in convicting her, Gorenstein wasn’t swayed, saying upon his guilty verdict that if he didn’t uphold the law simply because of a lawbreaker’s motivation, than it would undermine law in general.
After the trial, Okoumou stood outside the courthouse, thanking friends, her fellow members of the activist group Rise and Resist and supporters in an upbeat tone.
Victoria Bekiempis (@vicbekiempis)
Speaking outside after her verdict: pic.twitter.com/DA4xy5yKod
December 17, 2018
“We stand on the right side of the history. I am not discouraged,” she said.
“While migrant children who simply came to this country, like our ancestors did, to seek happiness, freedom and liberation. Instead of welcoming them like Lady Liberty symbolizes, instead of treating them with kindness, what we showed them is cages. So if I go in a cage with them, I am on the right side of history.”
Okoumou, a Congo-born naturalized US citizen who lives in Staten Island, was found guilty on charges of trespassing and interfering with government agency functions, as well as disorderly conduct, in relation to her climb. She pleaded not guilty.
The charges collectively carry punishment of up to 18 months behind bars. She will be sentenced at a later date.
One of Okoumou’s lawyers, civil rights litigator Ron Kuby, asked Okoumou whether she would make the climb again.
“Yes,” Okoumou replied.
“She knew that what she was doing was wrong and illegal,” Kalikow said in his opening statement. “Whether one sympathizes with the defendant politically and morally is not at issue in this case.”
Kalikow said: “The act of climbing the base of the Statue of Liberty went well beyond peaceable protest, a right we certainly respect. It was a crime that put people at grave risk. We commend Judge Gorenstein’s decision to hold Therese Okoumou accountable for her dangerous and reckless conduct.”
After the verdict, Hawk Newsome, who heads Black Lives Matter NYC, said: “It’s the government versus Patricia – it wasn’t the people. If it was the people, she would be free.”