Pressley’s chief of staff said her office’s panic buttons ‘had been torn out’ before Capitol riot
Rep. Ayanna Pressley’s (D-Mass.) chief of staff, Sarah Groh, said in a recent interview that panic buttons she had previously used in the congresswoman’s office had been taken out before the violent riot at the U.S. Capitol last week.
Groh revealed the information in a new interview with The Boston Globe published Wednesday, in which she recounted her experience the day of the riot.
Groh said that she, Pressley and her husband, Conan Harris, had arrived at Capitol Hill early that day after the House sergeant-at-arms urged lawmakers to do so to avoid large crowds as hundreds of the president’s supporters had flocked to D.C. to oppose the November election results.
“I was deeply concerned. It felt like the heat was being turned up in terms of the rhetoric and Trump’s aims to incite violence,” she told the Globe.
It wasn’t long after, however, that a pro-Trump mob overtook the U.S. Capitol as Congress was gearing up to certify votes by the Electoral College that affirmed his defeat in the presidential race.
Around that time, Groh said, she discovered the office’s panic buttons had been removed while she and the other staffers were working to secure the office’s entrance using available furniture and water jugs.
“Every panic button in my office had been torn out — the whole unit,” Groh said, despite noting she had previously used the buttons in that same office. Groh said in the interview that she did not know why the buttons had been removed.
In a statement to The Hill later on Wednesday, a spokesperson for Pressley said “the matter has been raised with the relevant agencies and is currently under investigation.” The representative said the “duress buttons” had previously been “installed throughout the Congresswoman’s office suite.”
“Our staff has used these devices before and they are regularly tested and maintained,” they said.
“The safety of the Congresswoman, her family and our staff remain our top priority and at the direction of the Congresswoman, the Sergeant at Arms oversaw the installation of new duress buttons throughout the office following the attack,” they added.
The Hill has reached the House sergeant-at-arms and U.S. Capitol Police.
The revelation adds to a growing list of concerns around the security at the Capitol after the deadly Jan. 6 riot.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) spoke out about the issue on Twitter earlier Wednesday as Groh’s revelation began to pick up traction on social media.
“Even if one assumes this as some totally innocent oversight, how does the department responsible remove ALL the panic buttons from a highly visible member’s office and NOT inform that member or their staff?” she wrote.
Even if one assumes this as some totally innocent oversight, how does the department responsible remove ALL the panic buttons from a highly visible member’s office and NOT inform that member or their staff? https://t.co/yH0uBKJv5P
— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) January 13, 2021
The news also comes as federal and state officials are working to boost law enforcement presence in the nation’s capital as a number of right-wing groups have vowed to target the Capitol next week when President-elect Joe Biden is set to be inaugurated.