Ocasio-Cortez’s story of Capitol riot earns praise, raises questions

Greg Nash

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) took to Instagram on Monday night to, for the first time, describe her personal experience during Jan. 6 Capitol riot.

Her public statements about her most intimate and at times desperate thoughts during the chaos have earned praise from some colleagues and pundits, and chiding from some critics.

Revealing that she is a survivor of sexual assault, Ocasio-Cortez said after locking herself inside a bathroom at the Capitol during the rioting, she had a similar feeling to that at the time of her assault. 

“How I felt was, ‘Not again. I’m not going to let this happen again,’ ” Ocasio-Cortez said during the livestream. “I’m not gonna let it happen to me again. I’m not going to let it happen to the other people who’ve been victimized by this situation again. And I’m not gonna let this happen to our country.”

The congresswoman said lawmakers who have called on Americans to “move on” from the insurrection are using the same strategies as abusers and their enablers.

“These are the tactics that abusers use,” she said. “The folks who are saying, ‘We should move on,’ ‘We shouldn’t have accountability,’ etc., are saying, ‘Can you just forget about this so we can do it again?’ ” 

Ocasio-Cortez’s revelation earned praise from allies and some in the media, with many calling it vulnerable and applauding her “courage” in sharing the traumatic story.  


Others seized on a portion of Ocasio-Cortez’s remarks in which she told her followers a more pointed moment of fear during the mayhem was when she heard a man banging on the doors repeatedly asking: “Where is she?” 

“This was the moment where I thought everything was over,” she said. “In retrospect, maybe it was four seconds. Maybe it was five seconds. Maybe it was 10 seconds. Maybe it was one second. I don’t know. It felt like my brain was able to have so many thoughts in that moment between these screams and these yells of ‘Where is she? Where is she?’ “

The man turned out to be a Capitol Police officer, who Ocasio-Cortez said was acting “aggressive” and suspicious. 

She continued: “You have a lot of thoughts, I think, when you’re in a situation like that. And like also one of those thoughts that I have is … I really just felt like if this is the plan for me, then people will be able to take it from here.”

The comment earned backlash from those who interpreted her account as a dig at Capitol Police. 

Some also criticized members of the news media who retold Ocasio-Cortez’s account incorrectly, as some shared she hid in the bathroom from rioters without noting that it was actually an officer who was banging on the door.

Ocasio-Cortez said the Capitol Police officer eventually told her and a staffer to go to another building but did not provide additional direction or accompany them to a safe location. She eventually met with Rep. Katie Porter (D-Calif.) and the two hid in Porter’s office for most of the afternoon.

Porter on Tuesday also backed up Ocasio-Cortez’s account shared in her livestream, noting she was shaken by how upset the progressive New York lawmaker was when she arrived at her office.

“Alex is really usually like unfailingly polite and very personable, and she wasn’t even really talking to me. She was opening up doors and I was like ‘Can I help you? Like what are you looking for?’ And she said, ‘I’m looking for where I’m going to hide,’ ” Porter said, telling Ocasio-Cortez: “Well don’t worry, I’m a mom … [and] I’ve got everything here we need to live for like, a month in this office.”

Ocasio-Cortez has blamed congressional Republicans for the violent outburst by Trump supporters, saying those who contested President Biden’s Electoral College victory should resign or be removed. 

Tags Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Capitol riot Ilhan Omar Joe Biden Members of the United States Congress Sexual assault

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