NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — The woman that scaled the Statue of Liberty on the Fourth of July and refused to come down for three hours stood by the stunt Thursday.
Therese “Patricia” Okoumou, 44, of Staten Island, pleaded not guilty to federal misdemeanor charges of trespassing, interference with government agency functions and disorderly conduct.
She was released on her own recognizance and greeted by a crowd of cheering supporters outside court.
“When they go low, we go high, and I went as high as I could,” she said.
The climb prompted a massive police response on a night when resources were needed to keep the city’s Fourth of July celebrations secure.
“(Okoumou) staged a dangerous stunt that alarmed the public and endangered her own life and the lives of the (New York Police Department) officers who responded to the scene,” U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman said in a statement.
Thousands of visitors were escorted off Liberty Island during the drama.
“Hopefully, they know that there are people, like Patricia, out there trying to protect their civil liberties,” Okoumou’s attorney Rhiya Trivedi said Thursday.
Police said Okoumou, a naturalized citizen from the Republic of the Congo, was protesting the separation of immigrant families who cross the southern border illegally.
She said she did not regret the stunt or the standoff, but she would not do it again.
“I think the message was sent: No child belongs in a cage,” she said.
Okoumou is part of the organization Rise and Resist NYC, which staged a separate protest Wednesday on Liberty Island, calling for the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, known as ICE, to be abolished.
Other members of the group, however, said they had no idea what Okoumou had planned.
“That took a lot of courage and was a very daring action. I understand why she didn’t let us know that she was doing, because if this was an action brought forth to the group for the decision, we probably would have voted it down as being way too risky,” said fellow activist Annette Gaudino.
“She loves fighting for other people. All members of Rise and Resist do. And I think she took joy in protesting, in knowing that she had an effect in making other people’s lives better,” fellow activist Martin Quinn said.
During a rally Thursday night in Montana, President Donald Trump called her a “clown.”
“You saw that clown yesterday on the Statue of Liberty. You see the guys that went up there. I wouldn’t have done it,” he said. “I would have said, ‘Let’s gets some nets and let’s wait ’til she comes down.’ Just get some nets.'”
“We protect ICE,” he added. “They protect us, and we protect them.”
Okoumou has two prior arrests – one from last August when she was taken into custody during a protest outside the New York Department of Labor.