Firstly, our respect and gratitude:
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.
“I wanted to send a strong statement that children do not belong in cages,” said Okoumou, on Monday morning at the start of her trial at the Manhattan federal court.
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.
“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.
Okoumou’s main concern – as it has been since her climb, when she had to be retrieved by law enforcement officers attached to ropes – is the children, she said.
Several thousand migrant minors are being held at a growing detention camp near El Paso, Texas. Meanwhile, many children languish in deteriorating conditions on the Mexican side of the border.
“It would never happen in my country – we don’t treat children like political bait,” she said. “I just have had nightmares and night sweats.”
Lawyer Michael Avenatti, who has joined Okoumou’s legal team, sat in the front row of the gallery.
Avenatti said the verdict was not surprising.
“But sometimes you have to stand on principle. History will be incredibly kind to Patricia,” he said.
But Avenatti’s remark requires qualification. History will be incredibly kind to Okoumou only if we are the ones who write it. First we must prevent our enemies from becoming the ones who write history, which with every refugee they eliminate they improve their chances of becoming. Peaceful protests alone will not stop them from continuing what they do every day. If Okoumou was willing to go to prison for climbing the Statue of Liberty, why was she not willing to go to prison for the much more consequential activism of shooting ICE and/or Border Patrol agents, who are the ones, as we speak, physically throwing the children into the cages where they subsequently starve to death? Does she seriously think ICE/Border Patrol will see her on the Statue of Liberty and suddenly decide by themselves to free the children? Rachel Corrie let an IDF bulldozer roll over her body. Did Israel care?
The only effective counter to initiated violence is retaliatory violence, because retaliatory violence is the only thing that those initiating violence cannot ignore. Yes, we have to stand on principle. That is what the Second Amendment was intended to enable. If you will not use your firearm to rescue children caged in torturous conditions for no fault of their own, what will you use your firearm for?
Bonus video 1 (what Okoumou’s activism reminded me of):
Bonus video 2 (what needs to follow):