Second-term Congresswoman Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez (AOC) is well-known for her intimacy in interacting with her base, particularly via social media, but the New Yorker reached a new level of openness and vulnerability last night (Feb. 1) on Instagram Live. She recounted in harrowing detail her experience during the Jan. 6 siege of the Capitol by Trump supporters who claimed his loss to Joe Biden in the presidential election was fraudulent.
We’ve compiled five important takeaways from her IG Live, because not only did AOC offer insight about her personal story, but also she provided details many haven’t yet heard, read or understood. These details raise questions about the preparedness of Capitol Police and add weight to the culpability of politicians who supported the election fraud theory. Ocasio-Cortez also explained why letting this go–i.e., moving on from what happened, as Sen. Ted Cruz has suggested we all do–simply isn’t an option.
Violence on the 6th of January Was Expected; It Was Not a Surprise.
Having already received text messages of concern from fellow congresspeople the Thursday prior, AOC says that other members knew, or at least expected, some kind of violence the following Wednesday. She was told to be careful.
A standard rules package voting on Monday, because of contestations by Republicans about its language being gender-neutral, required two trips to Capitol Hill rather than one. She saw crowds run to the Capitol as votes were called to see members of congress walk in, and all that separated them from entry was a flimsy, waist-high fence. “These people [had] huge flag poles with the spear tips and I remember seeing this and being like, ‘This is weird. That’s suspicious.’”
When she returned from voting, a crowd of “Republican, kind of like Trump people,” she says, “had crowded behind my car.” Separating them was the flimsy fence as they shouted in a style she describes as schoolyard bullying. They yelled, “Why do you hate this country?” She explained that she works every day for this country, that she loves this country. They begin to tease the known environmentalist about her car, which she now drives to work instead of taking public transport because of COVID-19, until they realize it’s an electric vehicle. She joked and blew kisses at them “to create enough space for me to hit drive and skrrt, get out of there.”
“Anyone who tells you that we couldn’t have seen this coming is lying to you. Anyone who’s gone on the record and said there was no indication of violence has lied,” AOC says in her live. “There were so many indications of this leading up to that moment. They were there on Monday.”
Two separate encounters at the same grocery store–an abnormal amount of people in MAGA hats staring her down–between Monday and Tuesday led AOC to believe that things were “not right.” At this point, she did not feel safe being in public in D.C., she says.
She Recounted Her Experience During the Insurrection, and It Includes Doubt and Fear of Capitol Police
AOC hid behind the door of a bathroom at the back of her office Wednesday afternoon after hearing repeated loud booms, like someone trying to break into her office. She feared for her life.
It turns out that the person attempting to enter her office was a capitol police officer. But “things weren’t adding up,” she says. Why was the officer without a partner? He looked very angry and hostile. Why hadn’t he announced his presence and position? AOC’s legislative director, who was there, agreed: he also couldn’t tell if he was there “to help us or hurt us.”
The officer yelled directions to go into another building, but did not specify where in that building they should go. He did not escort the two. They did not realize the vagueness of his instruction until they arrived. Eventually, AOC found Representative Katie Porter entering her office, seemingly unaware of the rioters clashing with police at the entry to the Capitol. They hunkered down together. AOC borrowed sneakers and a puffy jacket in case she had to jump out a window or run elsewhere–so that she might better blend into the crowd. She and Porter were “fully bracing for impact,” AOC says.
Hers Is Only One Story; AOC Encourages More To Share
The New York Congresswoman repeats this more than once during her live, that her story isn’t the only one, and that it’s not the central story. Her perspective is her own, and there are many more stories to share.
“There were food service workers that were afraid for their lives. There were custodial workers that had to clean up after the wreckage of white supremacism. Many of those workers were black and brown and immigrant,” she says. “[And had] to clean up after the mess of white supremacists. There were other members of congress, there were staffers, there were children. All of this is to say my story is just one story.”
Republicans continue to downplay the events of January 6, and many continue to espouse support for what happened. One way for those affected to combat this, AOC says, is by sharing their stories.
“Together we have 435 stories. We need to tell them. Because every time a republican gets on television and tries to say we need to move on and forget about it, they need to be reminded of what they’re trying to absolve and excuse. And our stories can do that,” she says.
Her Own Experience Tells Her That Cruz and Others Are Employing the Tactics of Abusers
Early in the live, AOC issues a disclaimer to family and friends who may learn things about her that they didn’t know before.
“The reason I say this and the reason I’m getting emotional in this moment is because these folks who tell us to move on…that we should forget…or even telling us to apologize: these are the same tactics as abusers,” she says. “And I’m a survivor of sexual assault.”
Why reveal this now? Because “trauma compounds on each other,” she says. “[If you] experience any sort of trauma in your life, small to large, these episodes compound on one another.”
AOC stressed the importance of calling out this manipulation. Allowing people like Sen. Ted Cruz, who was a leader in promoting the election fraud theory that led to the attack, to usher the insurrection out of the world’s consciousness helps absolve them of their responsibility in its creation. As AOC explains it, the violence of the 6th was “predicated on someone telling the big lie about our elections.”
“And these senators, Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley, knew that it was the lie, and they knew that these violent people needed the lie,” she adds. “And…because they thought it would be politically advantageous to them, they chose to tell the lie. All of these things were known in advance. And then five, six people have lost their lives. Others have lost eyes, limbs. Many more have been traumatized. And yet, after all of that, after they perpetuated that lie, amplified that lie, knowing that that violence needed that lie, after they told that lie, after they saw people lose their life on the steps of the capitol, and afterwards not even an ‘I’m sorry.’ Not even a ‘I didn’t know that me doing this would result or contribute to this violence. And if I had known, I wouldn’t do it, and I’m sorry.’”
She Won’t Let This Happen Again
“How I feel, and how I felt, was not again. I’m not going to let this happen again,” she told viewers. “I’m not going to let it happen to me again, I’m not going to let it happen to the other people who’ve been victimized by this situation again and I’m not going to let it happen to our country. Ever. I’m not going to let it happen.”
Holding those responsible–including those who egged on the insurrection–will be key.
“[It’s] not about revenge,” she says. “It’s about creating safety. And we are not safe with people who hold positions of power who are willing to endanger the lives of others if they think it will score them a political point.”