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NEW YORK— A protest against US 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 six 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 30 me­ters (100 feet) 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 8 me­ters (25 feet) to the mon­u­ment’s ob­ser­va­tion point and was taken into cus­tody.

As­cent wasn’t planned

The woman, Therese Ok­oumou, told po­lice she was protest­ing the sep­a­ra­tion of im­mi­grant chil­dren from par­ents who cross the US-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.

The climber was among 40 demon­stra­tors who ear­lier un­furled a ban­ner call­ing for the abo­li­tion of the fed­eral gov­ern­ment’s chief im­mi­gra­tion en- force­ment agency, ac­cord­ing to 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-the­mo­ment de­ci­sion,” Walker said.

Re­gard­less, he said he felt the pub­lic­ity would help the group’s cause.

‘Abol­ish I.C.E.’

A spokesper­son 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, said spokesper­son Jerry Wil­lis.

“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,” he added.

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.

Ear­lier and far­ther be­low, at least six peo­ple were taken into cus­tody af­ter un­furl­ing a ban­ner that read “Abol­ish I.C.E.,” re­fer­ring to US Im­mi­gra­tion and Cus­toms En­force­ment, whose of­fi­cers ar­rest and de­port im­mi­grants who are in the US il­le­gally, among other du­ties.

Ac­cord­ing to Wil­lis, 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.

US At­tor­ney Gen­eral Jeff Ses­sions has said the pres­i­dent’s im­mi­gra­tion pol­icy is a step for­ward for pub­lic safety.

Zero-tol­er­ance pol­icy

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 de- tained 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 would “never hap­pen!”

Wel­com­ing sym­bol

The Statue of Lib­erty has long been a wel­com­ing sym­bol for im­mi­grants and refugees com­ing to Amer­ica. It also has been a set­ting for protests and other ac­tions that forced evac­u­a­tions.

In 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.

 ??  ?? gal­ing! para s’yang si spider-man!
gal­ing! para s’yang si spider-man!
 ?? —REUTERS ?? SYM­BOLIC SET­TING The Statue of Lib­erty, which has long been a wel­com­ing sym­bol for im­mi­grants and refugees com­ing to Amer­ica, is the set­ting for protesters against US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s im­mi­gra­tion pol­icy.
—REUTERS SYM­BOLIC SET­TING The Statue of Lib­erty, which has long been a wel­com­ing sym­bol for im­mi­grants and refugees com­ing to Amer­ica, is the set­ting for protesters against US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s im­mi­gra­tion pol­icy.

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