Woman pleads not guilty over Statue of Liberty protest

New York: A woman appeared in a US court Thursday for attempting to scale the Statue of Liberty to protest President Donald Trump’s administration’s separation of migrant families, a stunt that forced the monument’s evacuation on Independence Day.

Therese Okoumou, 44, herself a first-generation immigrant, pleaded not guilty to charges of trespassing, interference with government agency functions, and disorderly conduct.

Wearing a “Rise and Resist” T-shirt, Okoumou spent nearly four hours on the statue, the fabled symbol of welcome to immigrants in New York harbor, forcing police into a dangerous retrieval mission and causing the evacuation of Liberty Island on Wednesday.

At one point, she told authorities that she would only come down when parents are reunited with all migrant children separated due to a Trump administration policy that was reversed last month in response to domestic and international outrage.

Despite the policy being abandoned, it remains unclear how and when some 2,000 migrant children will be reunited with their parents.

US Park Police said the incident caused disruption to thousands of visitors on the public holiday, one of the busiest days of the year at the statue.

Manhattan US Attorney Geoffrey Berman accused Okoumou of staging “a dangerous stunt that alarmed the public and endangered her own life” and those of police.

“While we must and do respect the rights of the people to peaceable protest, that right does not extend to breaking the law in ways that put others at risk,” he added.

If Okoumou is convicted, she faces a maximum penalty of six months in prison on each of the three counts.

The US president has made cracking down on illegal immigration a cornerstone of his administration.

As a result, distraught children were separated from their families at the US-Mexico border, and, according to widely broadcast pictures, held in chain-link enclosures.