The Morning Jolt

Politics & Policy

How an Anti-ICE Activist Shut Down Liberty Island

Demonstrators listen to the cries of illegal immigrant children held in a U.S. detention facility after being separated from their parents that Venkatraman is playing through her megaphone during a protest against the separation of immigrant families outside the White House, June 22, 2018. (Jim Bourg/Reuters)

Ugh. I know it’s tough to go back to work today. Think of today as starting a two-day workweek.

Making the click-through worthwhile: An anti-ICE activist inadvertently undermines everything she claims to stand for; Brad Thor’s latest novel spotlights a threat we would rather not think about too deeply or often; some extremely ominous news out of the United Kingdom; and President Trump offers a writer the excuse she’s always wanted.

Notice Which Side of the Immigration Debate Is Forcing the Evacuation of Liberty Island

What better way to ensure that a lot of people have their Independence Day ruined than to perform a dangerous political stunt that requires the evacuation of Liberty Island?

A woman wearing an anti-Trump T-shirt climbed the base of the Statue of Liberty on Independence Day, sparking a mass evacuation of Liberty Island and a nearly four-hour standoff with first responders before she was taken into custody, officials said.

The protester, identified as Therese Patricia Okoumou, 44, was seen scaling the base of the statue about 3 p.m., moments after the group Rise and Resist formed a protest against Immigration and Customs Enforcement on Liberty Island.

“We started engaging in a dialogue of why she was up there,” said ESU cop Brian Glacken, one of two officers who ascended the ladder. “She was basically up there about the children in Texas. At first she wasn’t friendly with us, but we took our time to get a dialogue with her, to get her to trust us. That took a while.”

Glacken said she threatened to push the officers’ ladder off the statue’s base.

Okoumou, who immigrated to the U.S. from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, tied herself to one of the copper vents by the feet of Lady Liberty.

“She didn’t realize one of those vents could rip right out,” Glacken said. “Once I explained that could rip right out, she got kind of worried.”

Okoumou faces trespassing and other charges, officials said. She is due to appear in Manhattan Federal Court on Thursday. The charges are expected to be violation of national park regulations or public use limit; trespassing; disorderly conduct, and interfering with government functions. All are federal misdemeanors.

“She broke the law and will be charged federally,” said Willis, who added there was a concern Okoumou could damage the 132-year-old statue.

“She was on the copper of a national icon,” Willis said, adding that the copper is very thin and malleable. “She could do some damage.”

In order to defend liberty, Okoumou risked damaging the Statute of Liberty; to help her country, she concluded she had to disrupt the Fourth of July events at an iconic national park. To demonstrate her commitment to justice, she threatened to push the ladder of law-enforcement officers. To fight back against the stereotype that immigrants are dangerous and have no respect for the law, the Congolese immigrant did something dangerous and against the law.

Brad Thor’s Spymaster and Our Real-World Dangers

Brad Thor’s newest novel, Spymaster, is his best work in several years, keeping me up well past my bedtime Tuesday night, unable to put it down. I say that as someone who enjoyed Use of Force, Foreign Agent, Code of Conduct, and the rest. But Spymaster is a refreshing change of style and pace; if you read Use of Force and Foreign Agent around the same time as you read Daniel Silva’s The Black Widow and House of Spies, you begin to feel like you’ve spent a lot of time hanging around ruthless jihadist master terrorists inspired by ISIS.

Thor’s latest is a modern Cold War 2.0 thriller, with an unnervingly plausible plot about Russia aiming to destabilize NATO with potential Crimea-style military operations looming over the horizon. All of Thor’s novels are realistic and focus on the details of military and intelligence operations, but there are large swathes that are nonfiction, showcasing the lesser-noticed developments in a dangerous world. Back in 2017, there was a bit of coverage of Sweden — not a member of NATO — beefing up their barely existent defenses on the island of Gotland, in the middle of the Baltic Sea.

Last month, the Marine Corps Times wrote about the strategic value of the island, noting that if Russia took over Gotland, it could and likely would immediately deploy anti-air and anti-ship defenses on what is “essentially an unsinkable aircraft carrier in the middle of the Baltic Sea.” That would cut off the Baltic member states of NATO from air-support or reinforcements — and put most of the Nordic states and the eastern members of NATO at much greater risk. Recent wargames projected that Russia could conquer the Baltic states in about three days.

Lurking over Spymaster, and our real world, is the question of how much the United States is really committed to its NATO partners. We say we honor Article Five — which treats an attack on one country as an attack on all NATO members . . . but are we willing to fight a war with nuclear-armed Russia over Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania? What about for just one of those countries? What if Russia just wants one piece of territory from those countries?

For Vladimir Putin, the challenge is to find something that is valuable to him and his country, but not important enough for NATO to risk a war over. The day Moscow finds it can successfully grab a piece of NATO territory without consequence, a clear signal will be sent to every member of the alliance — the mutual-defense agreement isn’t worth paper it’s written upon, and the United States of America can’t be counted on to protect you. Suddenly, every European country will begin to look for ways to placate and appease the Russian bear. (It takes a lot to get me to watch an entire television series with English subtitles, but the Norwegian show Occupied is absolutely fascinating, depicting an in-over-his-head Norwegian Green-party prime minister coping with Russia gradually taking over his country, in a world where the United States withdrew from NATO and the rest of Europe has no interest in fighting a war with Moscow.)

The best way to avoid either nightmare scenario – the gradual conquest of Eastern Europe or an escalating war with Russia — is deterrence; shore up the Baltic defenses and make abundantly clear to Moscow that no act of military aggression would be worth the price. The question is . . . are we sending that clear signal?

Speaking of Russia . . .

A Chilling Tale of Russian Skullduggery Gets Worse

Hey, be careful if you’ve got a summer vacation planned for the United Kingdom this year. The forecast for Salisbury, England, is now cloudy with a chance of Russian nerve agent:

Two British citizens have been critically sickened by the same nerve agent, Novichok, that was used to poison a former Russian spy and his daughter four months ago, the British authorities announced on Wednesday.

The two victims, a man and a woman, both in their 40s, fell ill on Saturday in the southern town of Amesbury, England, after having visited nearby Salisbury, including a spot near where the spy and his daughter were stricken in March, the police said.

The emergence of additional Novichok victims, after four months of meticulous decontamination and public reassurances, presents British authorities with a daunting challenge.

If the nerve agent was left behind by attackers in March, then traces of it may remain in places the authorities did not search, presenting an unpredictable threat to the public. If the agent was deposited more recently, then the March poisoning was not an isolated attack.

The victims, identified locally as Charlie Rowley, 45, and Dawn Sturgess, 44, are British citizens, and the police said there was no indication that they would have been targets.

What, you Russkies can’t use ricin-shooting umbrellas anymore? When did you thugs get so sloppy?

ADDENDA: Bridgid Delany offers fascinating example of how Donald Trump can turn into the universal excuse everyone was looking for in the Guardian. In fall 2016, the owner of her gym predicted that Trump would win the election; she offered to bet $100, and he countered that if Trump won, she would have to double her usual lift on a weight sled. She honored the bet but quit the gym shortly thereafter: “In the spirit of the Donald, I drank more bottles of Diet Coke and ate more McDonald’s. I dropped the gym — embracing Trump’s belief that we are given a certain amount of energy and if we use it then we are depleting a finite resource.”

You hate him so much, you chose to emulate him, huh?

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