You’ve almost certainly seen her picture: a young black woman with a short Afro, wearing pink sneakers, sitting serenely at the back of the Statue of Liberty’s foot while an officer secured in a harness stares up at her in frustration.
Her name is Therese Patricia Okoumou. She’s an immigrant from the Democratic Republic of Congo. She said that she would not come down “… until all of the migrant children being held in detention centers were set free and reunited with their parents.”* She was removed–not rescued–from the base of the Statue by two officers. There were no injuries to Ms. Okoumou or the officers.
I’ve read tweet after tweet by white people outraged by Ms. Okoumou endangered first responders with her “silly stunt.” As the daughter of a retired policewoman, I would like to tell you a couple of things about first responders.
Police officers, firefighters, paramedics, and other first responders know when they take the job that they are putting their lives on the line, and that they will do that every time they go to work. Yes, it’s hard on their families. It was hard on me. It was hard on me when my aunt came to our house when I was 13 and told me that my mom had been injured during a call and taken to the hospital. My mom was attacked by a drunken grown woman who refused to leave her mother’s house, and they had a fairly long physical fight, during which the woman hit my mom in the head with a heavy beer mug. My mom was able finally able to subdue her by sitting on her until backup arrived. She had to have stitches and elbow surgery due to infection in the joint (osteomylitis.)
And she went back to work and continued to work for everyone in the community, regardless of why they needed her help.
Not every first responder shares the same opinion about situations like Ms. Okoumou’s protest on the Statue of Liberty. My mother’s opinion is that Ms. Okoumou is incredibly brave and athletically skilled. My mother also supports her reasons for her protest. So do I. I would feel the same way if my mother had been part of the highly trained team deployed to “rescue” Ms. Okoumou.
First responders and their families are as varied in their politics and opinions of situations they encounter on the job as every other American and their family. People online speaking for first responders usually aren’t first responders. They’re usually trolls with an agenda. Ms. Okoumou’s amazing climb (without climbing equipment!) will be remembered for a long time as one woman courageously showing the world how the majority of Americans feel about trump’s kidnapping and caging of immigrant children.