The woman who climbed the base of the Statue of Liberty in New York on Independence Day last year to protest against the separation of migrant families at the US-Mexico border has been sentenced to five years’ probation and 200 hours of community service.

Therese Patricia Okoumou, who is known as Patricia, was sentenced in a NEw York court on Tuesday after being convicted last December of trespass for attempting to climb the outside of the Statue of Liberty last 4 July, then refusing to come down, as police helicopters circled and the monument was evacuated.

Okoumou arrived at court with clear tape across her mouth, to protest against what she said are restrictions to her freedom of expression in relation to her determination to carry out direct action-style protest over immigration rights.

The judge in the case ordered her to remove the tape before she could be sentenced, and Okoumou complied. She had also written on her face the words “I care” and turned up in court with fellow activists in support.

She had been facing up to 18 months in prison and had lately been under house arrest for breaking her bail conditions after carrying out a direct action protest in Texas, while her New York sentencing was pending.

“I do not need probation, and I do not belong in prison. I am not a criminal,” Okoumou told the judge, Gabriel Gorenstein.

Okoumou captured the attention of the world on live TV after she broke away from a protest over harsh US immigration policy, organized at the Statue of Liberty by the activism group Rise and Resist, and, alone, began climbing the base of the statue. She had aimed to climb all the way up to the top of the figure, but was unable to ascend the slippery metal and huddled at the base of “Lady Liberty” as law enforcement officers closed in.