On Monday night, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez recalled her harrowing experience on the day of the Capitol breach on a video broadcast on Instagram Live. She also said she felt that not only was her life under threat on January 6, but also days prior to the incident.
At around 1 pm on January 6, Ocasio-Cortez was in her office when she heard banging at her office door. “I hear these huge violent bangs on my door and then every door going into my office,” she said. “Just ‘bang, bang, bang, bang, bang,’ like someone was trying to break the door down.” She ran into the bathroom in her office and closed the door to hide.
From there, she heard yelling. “I just hear ‘where is she? Where is she?’ And this was the moment where I thought everything was over,” she said. “I thought I was going to die.”
“I really just felt like, if this is the plan for me, then people will be able to take it from here. I had a lot of thoughts, but that was the thought that I had about you all,” she said. “I felt that if this was the journey that my life was taking, that I felt that things were going to be okay, and that I had fulfilled my purpose.”
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It turned out to be a Capitol Police officer and not someone who had broken in, but Ocasio-Cortez still felt unsafe. The officer, she said, was hostile toward her and her legislative director who was in the office with her at the time. He did not identify himself, was alone and looking at her “with a tremendous amount of anger and hostility.” she said. Despite the fact that the police officer was supposedly there to help protect her, the situation felt wrong, she said.
After the fact, she says that her legislative director told her, “I didn’t know if he was there to help us or hurt us either.”
They ran to a building that the officer told them to go to, but he didn’t specify where within the building, other than the street level of the building. Ocasio-Cortez and her legislative director were in an open hallway and could hear the Trump mob yelling, trying to break into the building. She could hear the “hinges cracking,” she said. When she saw Rep. Katie Porter (D-California) walking into her office, she asked Porter if they could shelter together, and Porter let her in.
Porter, on Monday, recalled the incident on MSNBC. “I’m a mom. I’m calm. I’ve got everything here we need. We can live for like a month in this office,” she told Ocasio-Cortez. “And [Ocasio-Cortez] said, ‘I just hope I get to be a mom. I hope I don’t die today.’”
As staffers barricaded the door, the two women found workout clothes in a staffer’s bag to change into as Ocasio-Cortez was wearing heels and workwear. The two congresswomen remained there for five hours. Later, after the House certified the results of the Electoral College, Ocasio-Cortez and Porter went to Rep. Ayanna Pressley’s office to decompress, and that’s where she began to process the trauma of the incident, with Pressley’s help, said Ocasio-Cortez.
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Her trauma was the result of days of tension, Ocasio-Cortez says. Before that Wednesday, she was “getting all of these text messages, all of these people — including other members of Congress — telling me that I need to be careful, lots of people saying that violence is going to happen on the 6th.”
The protesters were in D.C. that Monday, January 4, gathering around the city and attending rallies, according to Ocasio-Cortez. She talked about an incident that occured as she left the Capitol on January 4. Trump militants were standing behind her car when she got there and they pulled out their phones and began recording her, saying “Hey AOC, why do you hate this country?,” she recalled.
By Tuesday, January 5, Ocasio-Cortez stopped wearing the pin that identifies her as a congressmember out of fear, she said. When she went into a grocery store, “it literally felt like people were looking at me in the grocery store deciding what they were going to do. ‘Are we going to do something right now?’ I could see the calculations going on behind their eyes,” she recalled.
That experience in the grocery store convinced her that it was not safe for her to be outside, she said. “It was no longer safe for me to be anywhere in public in Washington D.C.”
However, just days after the incident, Republicans began warping reality around the January 6 riot, baselessly blaming the attacks on the left, and continuing to double down on their claims, without evidence, that the election was rigged, while insisting that saying so was not dangerous and didn’t add fuel to the fire on January 6.
In the aftermath of the Capitol breach, Republicans who stoked the mob, like Senators Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Josh Hawley (R-Missouri), have been facing calls to resign. There has also been a push within Congress for the lawmakers who voted to overturn the election results to be investigated and potentially removed. Ocasio-Cortez said that such recourse is necessary for the country to heal.
“We cannot move on without accountability. We cannot heal without accountability. All of these people who are telling us to move on are doing so at their own convenience,” she said. “What they are asking for when they say ‘Can we just move on?,’ is that what they are asking is ‘Can we just forget this happened so that I can do it again without recourse?’”
“That’s the real reason why I think that Senator Josh Hawley needs to resign, why Senator Ted Cruz needs to resign, along with many others,” she warns. “Because they will do it again.”