By Robert Pozarycki
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Bronx/Queens Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez stunned viewers of her Instagram live broadcast Monday night about her perspective of the Jan. 6 Capitol attack when she admitted that she was a survivor of previous sexual abuse.
The two-term Congresswoman did not name her attacker or go into details about what happened, but mentioned her previous trauma in reliving last month’s violent coup attempt by an angry mob of Trump supporters seeking to stop the Congressional certification of Joe Biden’s victory over former President Donald Trump in last year’s presidential election.
Specifically, Ocasio-Cortez likened the post-coup statements and behavior of prominent Republicans such as Missouri Senator Josh Hawley and Texas Senator Ted Cruz to the actions of abusers. She said that Hawley and Cruz — who have faced calls from Democrats for their resignation or expulsion for helping to foment the Jan. 6 attack — and other Republican counterparts have downplayed the severity of the incident in seeking to simply “move on.”
“We cannot move on without accountability. We cannot heal without accountability,” AOC said, while becoming emotional at times during the chat. “These folks who tell us to move on, that it’s not a big deal, or have been telling us to apologize, these are the same tactics of abusers. I’m a survivor of sexual assault. And I haven’t told many people that in my life but when we go through trauma, that trauma compounds on each other.”
The congresswoman said she was particularly infuriated by Cruz and other Republican lawmakers suggesting that she apologize “for saying and speaking truth to what happened.” She rebuffed those calls, in part, because she doesn’t want a repeat of the Jan. 6 attack to happen in the future.
“I’m not going to let this happen again. I’m not going to let it happen to me again, or to others who have been victimized, and I’m not going to let this happen to our country,” Ocasio-Cortez added.
Here are some other takeaways from her Instagram live chat of Feb. 1.
Attack wasn’t a surprise
Thousands of Trump supporters converged upon the Capitol on Jan. 6 initially for what was billed as the “Stop the Steal” rally. The then-outgoing president himself had addressed the crowd and peddled the same lies about election rigging that he and his closest supporters had parroted for weeks leading up to the putsch.
But no one should conclude, Ocasio-Cortez said Monday night, that the attack was a complete surprise. She spoke of receiving text message a week before the Jan. 6 coup from people warning her to be careful. She also heard the same from Congressional colleagues also warned of the coming assault on the heart of American democracy.
That prompted the Congresswoman to meet with her staff and hammer out a security plan in the event there was trouble.
AOC spoke of driving down to Washington for her swearing-in on Jan. 3, and observing hundreds of Trump supporters already in the city.
‘Where is she?! Where is she?!’
As the invaders stormed through the Capitol, Ocasio-Cortez recalled hearing loud, violent bangs on the door to her office. She sought refuge in a nearby bathroom and recalled fearing for her life while standing in silence hoping to avoid attack.
“I hear that someone got into my office and hear these yells, ‘Where is she?! Where is she?!’ And I just thought to myself, They got inside,” AOC said. “And this was the moment where I thought everything was over. I mean, I thought I was going to die.”
Peeking through the hinge, she witnessed a white man in a black hat “open the door of my personal office and come inside my personal office and yell again, ‘Where is she?!'”
A few moments later, after the man had passed, AOC said she was prompted out of hiding and was met by an irate Capitol police officer, who instructed her to head to another building. She would wind up in the office of Congresswoman Katie Porter, a Democrat from California, where she would remain in hiding for the next few hours.
Talking it out with colleagues
Still in her workwear and high heels, AOC said, she asked Porter if her staff had left any gym clothes to change to in case she needed to escape from the Capitol invaders; the office building has a gym used by Members of Congress and staffers.
Meanwhile, AOC’s staff members worked to barricade the door to Porter’s office to prevent intruders from storming through. It reminded the Congresswoman of the many lockdown drills today’s school students and teachers endure to protect themselves from active shooters.
AOC also recalled tearing open the doors throughout Porter’s office looking for places to hide if needed.
Porter recalled the encounter during an interview with MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell on Monday night, after AOC’s Instagram broadcast. The California Congresswoman said she tried to calm her frantic colleague in that desperate moment.
“I said, ‘Well don’t worry, I’m a mom, I’m calm, I’ve got everything we need. We could 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,” Porter said.
Porter also said that AOC told her she regretted wearing heels to work that day, which prompted them to look for sneakers for her to wear.
“We went and we found a pair of sneakers for her to wear from one of my staffers, so that she could run if she needed to literally run for her life,” Porter added.
AOC and Porter remained in the office for hours until the Capitol was deemed secure. Later, Ocasio-Cortez had dinner with Massachusetts Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley, who AOC said encouraged her to speak out about her experiences during the coup attempt rather than keep it hidden.
Window for an apology
Hours after the Capitol attack, Congress pressed on with its Constitutional duties and formally certified Biden’s electoral victory over Trump. Despite the day’s events, Trump-supporting Republicans pressed on with objecting to the electoral votes of certain swing states where Trump and his acolytes had made their baseless voting fraud claims.
Ocasio-Cortez was aghast that the lawmakers had not realized their own roles in provoking the Capitol coup by objecting to the electoral votes and giving credence to Trump’s allegations.
In the weeks since, AOC said she “felt it was important to give a window” for those with roles in instigating the insurrection a chance to admit wrongdoing.
“But no. They’ve had almost a month, and they haven’t” so much as apologized for the unrest, the Congresswoman said. “They have double down and they said, ‘I did the right thing, and if I could go back I would do it all over again.'”
“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 added. “If I heard that the last three weeks, my response would be far different.”
Fearful of the future
AOC dismissed the opposition that Cruz, Hawley and other Republicans have expressed toward the post-presidential impeachment of Trump and punitive actions to hold others accountable for the riot. If Trump and other inciters are not held to account, she believes they will strike again in the future.
“That tells me that these people remain a present danger because what that tells me is that then given another window of political opportunism for themselves, even if they know it means it will endanger their colleagues, they will do it again,” Ocasio-Cortez said. “That’s the real reason I think Hawley and Cruz should resign, along with many others, because they will do it again.”
Ocasio-Cortez said the actions aren’t a matter of extracting political revenge, but rather safeguarding democracy.
“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,” she added.