Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Shared Her Harrowing Experience Surviving the Capitol Riots

Bianca Betancourt
·9-min read
Photo credit: Alex Wroblewski - Getty Images
Photo credit: Alex Wroblewski - Getty Images

From Seventeen

Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is speaking out about the traumatizing event that was last week's Capitol riot.

In an Instagram Live video last night, she shared details about the shocking, chaotic coup attempt by fervent Trump supporters that she experienced firsthand. The congresswoman revealed that she feared not just for her own life but also the lives of her congressional colleagues.

"I can tell you that I had a very close encounter where I thought I was going to die," she said, adding that she couldn't reveal more information for security reasons. "I did not know if I was going to make it to the end of that day alive."

Continuing, Ocasio-Cortez explained that she didn't feel safe for multiple reasons: because of the armed rioters storming the Capitol building; because she was forced to hunker down with some of her Republican colleagues who refused to wear masks in the middle of a pandemic; and because some congresspeople celebrated the rioters' success at breaching the building.

"There were QAnon and white supremacist sympathizers and, frankly, white supremacist members of Congress in that extraction point who I know and who I have felt would disclose my location and would create opportunities to allow me to be hurt, kidnapped, et cetera," explained Ocasio-Cortez. "So I didn't even feel safe around other members of Congress."

During her hour-plus IG Live, which was viewed at one point by more than 100,000 people, the congresswoman didn't name members of Congress or Trump's administration who she found to be complicit in the day's attacks. But she did break down what she believes was the true determination behind last week's riot: that it wasn't just a mob clinging to the lie that the election was "stolen," but rather a group of angry citizens reeling over the diminishing power of white supremacy and resorting to violence as a result.

Below, Ocasio-Cortez's most notable comments, as well as her most harrowing revelations surrounding the January 6 Capitol riot.

AOC says that members of Trump's cabinet resigning following the riots is simply "too late."

"We know that Donald Trump cannot be president," AOC says in the video. "We know that we cannot wait until January 19. We cannot wait until January 20. We cannot wait until Inauguration Day. He cannot be president right now. He should not have been president yesterday. He should not have been president the night of the attack. Because Republicans and the people around him are cowards, they will not [invoke the 25th Amendment].

"When people say, 'How do we get them out? How do we get them out?' There are actually several avenues. So through the House, and congressionally, there's impeachment. Through the president, to the president's cabinet and the vice president, there's the 25th Amendment. And what the 25th Amendment allows for is essentially, a majority of the president's cabinet and a large portion, rather large, larger portion of the president's cabinet and the vice president have to move forward and declare the president essentially unfit and -well, and that he must be deposed. Or rather, he must be removed from office. And, in fact, that's what the 25th amendment does."

She also points to the recent resignations of Elaine Chao (Secretary of Transportation and wife of Senator Mitch McConnell), Betsy DeVos, Acting Secretary of DHS Department of Homeland Security, and others, who are stepping down "rather than fulfilling their duties in enacting the 25th Amendment and removing the president of the United States."

Ocasio-Cortez continues, "I have a message for anyone who is resigning after Wednesday. Too late. Too late. You're not gonna resign after Wednesday and act like you weren't a part of it. Were you Secretary on Wednesday? Yes. You were a part of it. Were you secretary every single step leading up to Wednesday? Yes. Then you were a part of it. You don't get to allow for an attack that kills five people and then afterwards, you say 'I wasn't a part of it.'

"You were. You are a part of it. When you caged kids, you were a part of it. When you repealed Title IX, you were a part of it. When the president committed the first dozen number of crimes that he committed, you are a part of it. When you excused the lawbreaking, you were a part of it. You were a part of it. You were a part of it. Those five people's blood is on your hands. What are you going to do? And they think that resigning is going to clean that blood off their hands. It is always on them. They are forever stained with the deaths of five people, especially when they did not invoke the 25th Amendment to remove this president, when they had the power to do so."

She describes the rioters' "lust for power" and white supremacy as their motivation for last week's attack.

"If [the rioters] actually cared about rule of law, they would speak up when people break the law," AOC also adds. "They would speak up, they would enforce fairness and equity, but they don't give a damn about the law. They don't give a damn about order, they don't give a damn about safety. They give a damn about white supremacy. They care about preserving the social order and the mythology of whiteness, then the new grand door of our democracy—that's what they care about. They lust for power more than they care about democracy. That's what [Republicans] did when they voted to overturn the results of our free and fair elections. And you can barely call them that with the amount of voter suppression that they have engaged in across the country. It is generous, to say the least, to call them that.

"And so, with all of the rules rigged in their favor, the electoral college is built on a compromise with slavers. The Senate is rigged in their favor, gerrymandered districts are rigged in Republicans' favor this presidency, and the lawbreaking and the pardons of people who have betrayed our country, all of it rigged in their favor. And they can't even win with the whole deck stacked with them. They can't even win with the deck stacked in their favor. And so, what they were willing to do is set a match and light our entire democracy on fire so that they can uphold the social order of white supremacy. That's what this is about. Straight up.

"This is about thinking if an election doesn't reinforce your power, then you believe it is fundamentally illegitimate. And why do you think it's illegitimate? And how do you try to delegitimize our elections? By saying Black people shouldn't vote, by saying Latino people shouldn't be full U.S. citizens, by trying to take away—strip citizenship away from people who already have it. Not even. We're not even getting to the denial of citizenship, a full civic personhood that this party engages in. We're talking about them trying to strip the citizenship away from anybody who isn't them, anybody. That's what I mean when I say that their lust for power has driven them away from loyalty to democracy—so it's not just Trump that has to go."

Ocasio-Cortez also addresses the Confederate flag that was flown in the U.S. Capitol building and that some Republicans cheered on the rioters.

"They flew the Confederate flag for the first time in American history in the U.S. Capitol. It didn't even make it in [the building] during the … Civil War," she points out. "There were members cheering them on. Don't get it twisted. Don't let them act like they didn't. … You had a member of Congress from Colorado saying, 'My people are outside.' They flew the Confederate flag when it didn't even make it in during the Civil War. And they said, 'Those are my people.'

"So let me tell you something; let me share this with every member of Congress who voted to overturn the results of our free and fair—again, a generous assessment―election. If you so much—any member of Congress—so much as stutters to say that the Confederacy were traitors to the United States, that the Confederacy is a legion of white supremacists, turn in your pin and get out. Go join them. Why don't you go join them if you are so sympathetic to them? You have no place in the Capitol of the United States of America, in the citadel of democracy, if that's the trash that you believe in."

She says that the only way to move forward is to wholeheartedly believe in and defend a multiracial future for the United States.

"We will never go back," Ocasio-Cortez declares. "The only way forward is a multiracial democracy that fights for the economic rights of all people and the civil rights of all people. Period. And they would rather see our country burn than see them be shoulder-to-shoulder equal to others. That is the tragedy of white supremacy. The tragedy of white supremacy is that it is doomed to fail. White supremacists will never, ever, ever live in a world where they will see their fantasies come true, which is why they rely on violence. That's why they cling to violence so much, because there is no other way for them.

"Every other way is democratic and cooperative, where we all must share our genius with one another. Where our society is not built on supremacy, or on a politics of domination of one another. And they can't live in that world. They can't live in a world without supremacy. Without domination. They can't live in a world where they can just coexist. No, they have to reign supreme. And since a white supremacist world and since supremacy in general is a myth, it will never be true for anybody. Since supremacy is a myth, they have to resort to violence."

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