Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s (D-NY) incredibly raw and emotional Instagram live video is possibly the most vivid and terrifying account yet of last month’s Trumpist insurrection at the U.S. Capitol building.
Most reports on the video have focused on the congresswoman speaking out for the first time about her experience of sexual assault, and how she feels that GOP lawmakers are deploying “tactics of abusers” by denying their own responsibility for the Jan. 6 violence and telling her to move on.
But the whole video is necessary viewing to understand the sheer panic of lawmakers inside the building who thought they were going to be killed at the hands of pro-Trump rioters who burst into the building.
Holding back tears, Ocasio-Cortez talked about hiding in a bathroom and accepting the fact that she was about to die as an unidentified person hammered on her office door, and said she felt the need to change her clothes to disguise herself in case she needed to flee. She said she had to decide whether to hide in an office of a lawmaker with “a white-sounding name,” which she felt would be safer as the insurrectionists stalked the building.
In the video Monday night, which attracted some 150,000 viewers at its peak, she said she heard screams of “Where is she? Where is she?” as she hid behind her office bathroom door, adding, “This was the moment where I thought everything was over.” The person turned out to be a Capitol Police officer, who urged the congresswoman to leave her office and go to a more secure location—but there were hours of terror still to come.
Ocasio-Cortez said that when she was told that her office was no longer a safe place, she left—but wasn’t told where she should go. As she desperately searched for a safe place, she said she could hear rioters trying to break into the building and screaming at officers, recalling that it “felt like a zombie movie or something.” AOC then happened to pass by her colleague Rep. Katie Porter’s (D-CA) office and decided to hide out there.
AOC says she ripped through Porter’s office looking for a closet to hide in, helped push sofas up against the doors, and changed out of her heels into a Porter aide’s sneakers in case she later had to run for her life. She also put on Porter’s puffy jacket to hide her outfit, which she thought would make her stick out if she had to escape through a crowd of rioters.
Rep. Porter gave her own account of AOC’s panicked arrival at her office that day, telling MSNBC on Monday night, “The thing that will always stay with me... I was saying, ‘Don’t worry, I’m a mom, I’m calm, I’ve got everything here we need, we can live 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.’”
In her Instagram video, AOC said that, while she was hiding in her bathroom, she began to accept that she was going to be killed—a feeling that didn’t leave her until several hours after the rioters had been removed from the building. The congresswoman confessed to viewers, “I felt that if this was the journey that my life was taking, that, I felt that things were going to be OK, and that, you know, I had fulfilled my purpose.”
Ocasio-Cortez then moved on to what consequences she wants to see for those who incited the deadly riot, including her fellow lawmakers in Congress. “I’m a survivor of sexual assault,” she said, for the first time publicly. “And I haven’t told many people in my life. But when we go through trauma, trauma compounds on each other.”
She then said Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and other pro-Trump lawmakers have been using “tactics of abusers” by denying their own responsibility for the attack that left her believing that she was about to be killed.
“They are now telling me to apologize for saying and speaking truth to what happened,” she said, and she warned those lawmakers that she is “not going to let this happen again.”