After Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, or AOC as we so fondly call her, shared a video on Instagram Live recounting the unbelievable events of Jan. 6 at the Capitol Building, she unsurprisingly got a huge amount of backlash from the GOP. As AOC shared her terrifying experience at the Capitol, many GOP leaders and supporters alike have decided to disregard her terror and instead focus on the semantics of if she was actually in the Capitol Building.
However, AOC’s exact whereabouts aren’t what is important in her retelling of that fateful day at the Capitol. Whether or not AOC was actually in the Capitol Building isn’t as important as the fact that she was indeed in danger. She also never claims to have been in the Capitol dome — she just shares that she was frightened and in danger. So, where exactly was she?
AOC was not in the Capitol dome part of the building, but she was on Capitol grounds.
As AOC recounted the traumatic experience on Instagram Live this past Monday, Feb. 1, she shared that she began the day in her office. Her office is located in the Cannon House Building, which is accessible by tunnel from the Capitol Building, so it’s not very far at all. As per reports, the rioters placed pipe bombs in various locations on the Capitol grounds, so no building was safe.
As AOC hid in her office, she heard loud knocks at the door, with no voice announcing who they were. Based on what she saw going on outside and the threats she’s received on social media, AOC believed the knocks on her door were rioters coming to get her. Not only that, but when they forcefully entered her office, all she heard were men’s voices asking, “Where is she?”
It luckily turned out that the knocking man was a Capitol police officer, but AOC and her staffer both agreed that his demeanor was aggressive, and that they “weren’t sure whether he was going to help or hurt [them].” He instructed them to go to another building with very little direction. AOC, her staffer, and her legislative director barricaded themselves into Rep. Katie Porter’s office in the Longworth House Building on Capitol grounds.
AOC decided to share what her experience was at the Capitol to call attention to abusive behavior.
The reason AOC decided to share her story of Jan. 6 at the Capitol was because of the shared trauma that many people experienced, and how many Republican party leaders are trying to minimize this trauma. She recognized that GOP members are using terminology like “Move on,” “It’s not a big deal,” and “We should just forget what happened.” This terminology is similar to that used to diminish the experience of sexual assault survivors.
Because of this link to sexual assault, AOC revealed for the first time that she was also a sexual assault survivor. Not only does this trauma link the perpetrators to post-traumatic gaslighting and other forms of abuse, but it also shows how trauma compounds onto itself. Past traumas can make new ones feel more imminent and more intense for survivors, so AOC’s experience at the Capitol can hopefully teach us how important accountability is for survivors going forward.
GOP members tried to discredit AOC by claiming she was not in the Capitol Building.
Because of the point that AOC was making in her Instagram Live video, it’s truly ironic the way that many GOP members and right-leaning news outlets have reacted to her vulnerability. Instead of understanding her perspective, they decided to try to discredit her by saying that AOC was not in the Capitol Building. Rep. Nancy Mace tweeted that, “My office is 2 doors down. Insurrectionists never stormed our hallway.”
However, a Twitter user, CheckItOut, was quick to reply that, “As I recall from your words that day, you nearly s--t your pants, so lets [sic] not play down the threat of terror that day.”
In addition, from AOC’s recount of her day at the Capitol Building, she thought her office was being stormed by the mob, but it did turn out to be a (somewhat hostile-seeming) Capitol police officer. AOC has also been quick to clap back.
AOC reiterates that just because they were not in the Capitol dome part of the Capitol does not mean she was not on Capitol grounds and that she was not in danger. And AOC goes as far to say that, “It is also very damning and revealing that the GOP is now digging both heels in a discrediting campaign,” which only further proves her point. Until inciters of trauma hold their own accountability, it will be very challenging for all of us to move forward.