Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has alluded to the details of her experience during the Capitol attack before, but on Monday night she shared a harrowing play-by-play on Instagram Live, which included her hiding from people she believed to be rioters actively pursuing her.
Ocasio-Cortez said she opened the door to the bathroom where she was hiding when she heard that someone had gotten inside her office. Realizing that it was no longer an option to find somewhere else to hide, she went back inside the bathroom, at which point she began to hear voices yelling, “Where is she? Where is she?”
She pinned herself against the wall so that when someone opened the bathroom door she was still (barely) hidden. “And this was the moment where I thought everything was over,” Ocasio-Cortez said. “I mean, I thought I was going to die. And I had a lot of thoughts ... I really just felt that, 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 I had about you all.”
At this point in the video, Ocasio-Cortez broke into tears. “I felt that, if this was the journey my life was taking, I felt that things were going to be OK,” she said. “And that, you know, I had fulfilled my purpose.”
The voice yelling, “Where is she?” turned out to be a Capitol police officer, but she wasn’t sure at the time because he was unaccompanied and seemed hostile.
Eventually, Ocasio-Cortez made it to Congresswoman Katie Porter’s office, where the two looked for places to hide. While there, Ocasio-Cortez tried to change into workout clothes so she wouldn’t be recognized by the mob. She ended up sheltering in Porter’s office for roughly five hours—even after she learned of where other members of Congress were being instructed to shelter—because it didn’t feel safe.
Porter later corroborated Ocasio-Cortez’s account of their interaction on MSNBC: “I was saying, don’t worry, I’m a mom... I’ve got everything here we need... and she said, ‘I just hope I get to be a mom. I hope I don’t die today.’”
Ocasio-Cortez described the day’s events as adding to the trauma she experiences as a survivor of sexual assault, the first time she’s identified herself publicly as such. “I’m a survivor of sexual assault,” she said. “And I haven’t told many people that in my life. But when we go through trauma, trauma compounds on each other.”
Ocasio-Cortez ended the video—which was viewed by some 150,000 people—condemning her Republican colleagues who want to “move on” from the Capitol insurrection, an absurd demand that willfully ignores the political circumstances that led to the attack as well as invalidates the immense trauma many members of Congress experienced. She called out lawmakers who continued perpetuating election fraud conspiracy theories for being “craven,” and risking their colleagues’ lives to “score a political point.”
“Thanks for making the space for me, and hope we can all make space for others to tell their stories in the weeks to come,” Ocasio-Cortez wrote on Twitter afterward, referring back to something that she emphasized during the video—that hers was just one of many stories about what happened on Jan. 6.
“And to those who wish to paper over their misdeeds by rushing us to all ‘move on,’—we can move on when the individuals responsible are held to account.”