NEW YORK (AP) — 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 on July Fourth shortly before a person scaled the statue’s base, forcing its evacuation.
About 100 feet above ground, the climber alternately sat and lay by the bottom edge of the statue’s robes for more than two hours on Wednesday, news helicopter video showed. Police, standing on a ladder and a ledge nearby, tried to talk the climber into descending.
The climber made about a 25-foot ascent from the monument’s observation point, National Park Service spokesman Jerry 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.,” Willis said. The message referred to Immigration and Customs Enforcement, a part of the Department of Homeland Security. ICE officers arrest and deport immigrants who are in the United States illegally, among other duties.
Willis said federal regulations prohibit hanging banners from the monument.
The activist group behind the banner, Rise and Resist, tweeted that the climber wasn’t connected to its demonstration and expressed concern for the climber’s safety.
The New York-based group opposes President Donald Trump’s administration and advocates ending deportations and family separations at the U.S.-Mexico 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, or 14 days in the case of those under age 5.
“Abolish ICE” has become a rallying cry at some protests around the country and for some prominent Democratic officials seeking to boost their progressive credentials.
Trump said on Twitter last week that abolishing ICE will “never happen!”
Protests and evacuations at the Statue of Liberty are rare but not unheard of.
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 with psychological problems was sentenced to time served after calling in a bomb threat. His call forced the evacuation of Liberty Island, sending 3,200 people on boats back to lower Manhattan and New Jersey.
The statue, a gift from France, was dedicated in 1886. It became a welcoming symbol for immigrants and refugees coming to the U.S.
Written by JENNIFER PELTZ and JAKE PEARSON, Associated Press
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