Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez describes taking shelter during the Capitol siege: 'I thought I was going to die'

By Eliza Relman

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez opened up about her experience seeking safety in the Capitol buildings during the January 6 insurrection in an emotionally-charged Instagram livestream on Monday night.

Ocasio-Cortez described being inside her congressional office with a single staffer, her legislative director Gerardo Bonilla Chavez, in the early afternoon when they heard "huge, violent bangs" on the door of her office. Bonilla Chavez told her to "run and hide," so Ocasio-Cortez ran into the bathroom. 

"I thought I was going to die," she said. "I have never been quieter in my entire life."

But then she heard Bonilla Chavez, who she calls "G," say that it was safe and she could come out of hiding. When she emerged from the bathroom, she discovered that it was a Capitol Police officer, and not rioters, who'd been banging on her door. The officer directed her to evacuate, unescorted, to a nearby building. Ocasio-Cortez said she and Bonilla Chavez both felt threatened by the officer and weren't sure if he was there to help them. 

"It didn't feel right because he was looking at me with a tremendous amount of anger and hostility," she said. 

Ocasio-Cortez said the officer hadn't identified himself as police when he'd been banging on the door and was unaccompanied. And she said he didn't tell them where specifically they needed to go in the other building or to bring the safety equipment stored in each congressional office.

"Did he not idenfity himself as Capitol Police on purpose? Did he lose himself in that moment?" she said. "Just the very uncertainty that you don't know if this person is trying to protect you or not is very unsettling."

The congresswoman and her staffer ran to the other building, looking for a particular member's office when they stumbled upon Rep. Katie Porter's office and asked to take refuge there.

"We start hearing the yells of these people … and it just feels like it's a matter of seconds when these doors are going to break through and they're going to get in," she said of hearing the mob outside the building. 

Ocasio-Cortez spent several hours with Porter and a few staffers in that office, during which time they braced for an attack. Staffers pushed furniture up against the door.  

"I'm preparing for one of the wings of the building to explode," she said. "We're sheltering and I'm thinking what do we do if the building explodes? ... What do we do if they break in?" 

The two congresswomen later moved to Rep. Ayanna Pressley's office, where Ocasio-Cortez stayed until around 4 am. 

Ocasio-Cortez said she didn't feel safe going to the designated safe room with other lawmakers because she didn't trust the security or some of her GOP colleagues. 

During her hour-long livestream, the congresswoman repeated her calls for the Republican lawmakers, including Sens. Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley, who promoted election misinformation and refused to vote for the certification of results to resign. She argued that Cruz and Hawley are a "danger" to their colleagues because of their lack of regret about having helped promote the misinformation that incited the violence.

"They chose to tell the lie," Ocasio-Cortez said of the GOP leaders. "All of these things were known in advance and then five, six people have lost their lives. Others have lost eyes, limbs, many more have been traumatized. And yet, after all of that … not even an 'I am sorry,' not even an 'I didn't know that me doing his would result or contribute to this violence.'"