Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) went radio silent during the Capitol riot last week, resurfacing later in the day to tweet, “I’m okay.” Like many others caught in the Capitol when rioters broke in, she was sheltering in place and didn’t want to reveal her location for security reasons. But in an hourlong Instagram Live post on Tuesday night, she revealed some alarming new details about her experience on Jan. 6.
"A pretty traumatizing event happened to me," Ocasio-Cortez said. "And I do not know if I can even disclose the full details of that event due to security concerns. But I can tell you I had a very close encounter where I thought I was going to die."
Ocasio-Cortez is among the most prominent members of Congress and is an obvious target for far-right extremists. That's why so many people were concerned when she wasn't posting on social media during the riot.
One of the most alarming elements of Ocasio-Cortez's Instagram video was her concern about potential threats from fellow elected officials. Some Republican politicians supported the Capitol riot, and Ocasio-Cortez was worried about QAnon sympathizers and "white supremacist members of Congress… who I felt would disclose my location."
Ocasio-Cortez feared these fellow Congress members might intentionally put her in harm's way during an armed uprising, so she avoided entering the building's main "extraction point" alongside them. Other Republican and Democrat congresspeople sheltered together in a safe room, but three have now tested positive for COVID-19 and are blaming it on Republican politicians who refused to wear masks in cramped quarters.
Other members of Congress have echoed similar concerns. Rep. Mikie Sherrill (D-N.J.) claims she saw some members of Congress giving a "reconnaissance" tour of the Capitol on Jan. 5, the day before the riot. She suspects that they were showing future rioters how to navigate the building.
Meanwhile, Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.)'s chief of staff said "every panic button in my office had been torn out" when they tried to shelter there at the start of the break-in. This suggests that someone knew how to find Pressley's office and target the panic buttons specifically.
As a prominent member of the young, left-wing "squad" alongside Ocasio-Cortez, Pressley was also a likely target for attacks.
Gavia Baker-Whitelaw is a staff writer at the Daily Dot, covering geek culture and fandom. Specializing in sci-fi movies and superheroes, she also appears as a film and TV critic on BBC radio. Elsewhere, she co-hosts the pop culture podcast Overinvested. Follow her on Twitter: @Hello_Tailor