Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez opened up about her traumatic experience evacuating from her office during the attack on the US Capitol in an emotional Instagram Live Monday night, saying that in order to heal, the nation needs those who played a role in inciting the violence on Jan. 6 to be held accountable.
Ocasio-Cortez said her story was one of many, but she felt compelled to tell it as some Republicans who have repeated lies that the election was “stolen” from Donald Trump have urged Democrats to move on. In particular, she called for Sens. Josh Hawley and Ted Cruz to resign.
“They’re trying to tell us that it wasn’t a big deal. They’re trying to tell us to move on without any accountability, without any truth-telling,” she continued. “What that tells me is that when given another window of political opportunity for themselves, even if they know that it means, that it will endanger their colleagues, they will do it again.”
In the more than hourlong livestream, the New York Democrat discussed the warnings that she and other members of Congress had in the days leading up to the violent insurrection at the Capitol and provided new details about the “very close encounter” in which she thought she “was going to die,” as she revealed in an Instagram Live weeks ago.
Ocasio-Cortez also revealed that she is a survivor of sexual assault and described how the trauma of one experience can be compounded by another. She also compared the tactics of those who maintained Trump’s lies about the election to those of abusers.
“Why I think it’s important for us to hold this to account is because we know that … when they say ‘Can we just move on?’,” what they’re really saying, she continued, is, “‘Can we just forget this happened so I can do it again without recourse?'”
Nearly a week before the attack, Ocasio-Cortez said she began receiving text messages from other members of Congress telling her that she needed to be prepared for violence on the day of the Electoral College certification. Those warnings were then heightened by her own experiences being out in public in Washington, DC, in the two days leading up to the attack.
On Jan. 6, as Trump supporters began clashing with police outside the Capitol, Ocasio-Cortez was searching on her phone for a place to get lunch for herself and her legislative director when they suddenly heard someone banging on her office door. She said there were no yells and no voices identifying who was there, just the sound of violent knocking, “like someone was trying to break the door down.”
She ran through her office and into the bathroom, hiding against the wall behind the door.
“Then I just start to hear these yells of, ‘Where is she? Where is she?,'” Ocasio-Cortez said. “This was the moment where I thought everything was over.”
She said she believed she would die, reflecting that “if this was the journey that my life was taking, that I felt that things were going to be OK,” she recalled, wiping tears from her eyes. “I had fulfilled my purpose.”
But then she heard her legislative director call for her to come out, and she learned that the man who was banging on the door was a Capitol police officer. In that moment, she wasn’t sure whether he had good intentions, saying that, “the situation did not feel OK.”
“He was looking at me with a tremendous amount of anger and hostility,” she said. “We couldn’t read if this was a good situation or a bad situation.”
The officer ultimately told her to go to another building but failed to provide information on where members of Congress were being held, she said.
Representatives for Capitol police did not immediately respond to BuzzFeed News’ request for comment.
Ocasio-Cortez later described how after arriving at the other building and looking for another place to hide, she spotted Rep. Katie Porter and barricaded in her office with her staff for the remainder of the lockdown.
Speaking to MSNBC Monday night, Porter recounted how her colleague frantically looked for a place to hide inside the office.
“I was saying, ‘Well, don’t worry. I’m a mom. I’m calm. I’ve got everything here we need. We could live here for like a month in this office.’ And she said, ‘I just hope I get to be a mom. I hope I don’t die today,'” Porter said.