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

B.C. poverty reduction strategy unveiled in Surrey

The plan is designed to lift 140,000 people — 50,000 children among them — out of poverty

FOCUS: New arena, more ice in Surrey – but will it be enough for everyone?

With both rinks to close at North Surrey rec, the result is a net gain of one ice sheet this fall

‘Powerful’ Punjabi youth writing contest lauded in Surrey

The Dhahan Prize contest invites B.C. teens to connect to their culture through storytelling

Accused Surrey transit cop shooter’s bail hearing set for April

Daon Gordon Glasgow, 35, is accused of shooting Transit Police Constable Josh Harms, 27

UPDATE: Three to hospital following house fire in South Surrey

Emergency crews knock down blaze at townhome in the 2700-block of 158 Street

VIDEO: RCMP ask kids to help name soon-to-be police dogs

13 German shepherd puppies will be born this year

Kids found playing darts with syringes in Vancouver Island park

Saanich police is urging people to throw out their syringes properly and safely

5 to start your day

IIO BC probe arrest at Surrey vigil for mosque shooting, Maple Ridge closes homeless evacuation centre and more

‘The whole city has changed:’ B.C. woman in New Zealand reacts to mosque attacks

An expatriate and Muslim students at UBC Okanagan deeply affected by white supremacist shooting

Trudeau condemns hateful, ‘toxic segments’ of society after New Zealand shooting

Prime Minister expressed sorrow at the many attacks in recent years

Air Canada grounds its Boeing Max 8s until at least July 1 to provide certainty

Airlines around the world have been working to redeploy their fleets since their Max 8s were grounded last week

Budget to tout Liberal economic record, provide distraction from SNC furor

This is the Liberal government’s fourth and final budget before the election

Horvat scores 16 seconds into OT as Canucks beat Blackhawks 3-2

Pettersson sets rookie scoring record for Vancouver

Vancouver Island overdue for the big one, can also expect mega-thrust tsunami

The last big earthquake was 70 years ago in Courtenay

Most Read