“I thought I was going to die,” said Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez during an Instagram Live Tuesday night. “You have all of those thoughts where—at the end of your life—all of these thoughts come rushing to you. And that’s what happened to a lot of us on Wednesday.”
Ocasio-Cortez said she couldn’t offer more specifics for security reasons, but details of last week’s attack on the Capitol by pro-Trump insurgents continue to trickle out in increasingly alarming drips and drabs. During a presser on Tuesday, acting U.S. Attorney General Michael Sherwin said, “the gamut of cases and criminal conduct we’re looking at is really mind-blowing.” Additionally, NPR reports that lawmakers were briefed on security concerns, prompting House Democrats to release a statement saying they have “have grave concerns about ongoing and violent threats to our democracy.”
That night, news broke that the panic buttons in the office of congresswoman and fellow “Squad” member Ayanna Pressley had been ripped out.
From the Boston Globe:
As people rushed out of other buildings on the Capitol grounds, staffers in Pressley’s office barricaded the entrance with furniture and water jugs that had piled up during the pandemic. Groh pulled out gas masks and looked for the special panic buttons in the office.
“Every panic button in my office had been torn out — the whole unit,” she said, though they could come up with no rationale as to why. She had used them before and hadn’t switched offices since then.
The fact that the buttons were torn out prior to the riot adds another sinister layer of alarm, one that wasn’t stifled when, during a Facebook Live Tuesday evening, Rep. Mikie Sherrill alleged she saw some members of Congress leading people through the Capitol the day before the attack. She believes it was “reconnaissance,” suggesting that the attempted coup was an inside job of sorts.
“Those members of Congress that incited this violent crowd,” said Sherrill. “Those members of Congress that attempted to help our president undermine our democracy; I’m going to see they are held accountable, and if necessary, ensure that they don’t serve in Congress.”
This, along with reports that the FBI reportedly warned of violence prior to the events of January 6, leaves more questions than answers, and serious concerns for the safety of Democratic lawmakers moving forward.
Of course, threats of violence against Democrats—particularly against progressive Democrats like Ocasio-Cortez and Pressley as well as Rep. Ilhan Omar and Rep. Rashida Tlaib—have been a constant for nearly two years now. These threats have not only been incited by President Trump’s nativist rhetoric but by their Republican colleagues as well, some of whom riled up the attackers moments before their descent on the Capitol.
From the New York Times:
“Today is the day American patriots start taking down names and kicking ass,” said Mr. Brooks, Republican of Alabama [during the Stop the Steal rally on the National Mall]. “Are you willing to do what it takes to fight for America? Louder! Will you fight for America?”
Representatives Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia and Lauren Boebert of Colorado, first-term lawmakers who ran as outspoken defenders of Mr. Trump, referred to the day as Republicans’ “1776 moment.”
Representative Paul Gosar of Arizona, who for weeks promoted the Jan. 6 protest and other “Stop the Steal” events across the country more than a dozen times, repeatedly referred to Mr. Biden as an “illegitimate usurper” and suggested that Mr. Trump was the victim of an attempted “coup.”
“Be ready to defend the Constitution and the White House,” Mr. Gosar wrote in an op-ed titled “Are We Witnessing a Coup d’État?”
January 6 left five people dead. It could have been deadlier, and members of Congress are complicit. But while people like Ocasio-Cortez and Pressley relive the trauma of the day’s events, Republicans are busy bemoaning new security measures put in place in the Capitol.
Rep. Boebert, a Second Amendment diehard who has long vowed to carry a Glock with her at work in D.C., had an altercation with Capitol police Tuesday night after she refused to open her purse after setting off newly installed metal detectors.
“I am legally permitted to carry my firearm in Washington, D.C., and within the Capitol complex,” Boebert tweeted, suggesting that it was, indeed, a gun in her purse. “Metal detectors outside of the House would not have stopped the violence we saw last week — it’s just another political stunt by Speaker Pelosi.”
Meanwhile, several Republican lawmakers bypassed the metal detectors entirely and complained about them on the House floor.
From the Washington Post:
On the House floor, Rep. Greg Steube (R-Fla.) blasted the metal detectors, calling them an “atrocity” and “appalling.”
“Take note, America,” Steube said. “This is what you have to look forward to in the Joe Biden administration.”
Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) also slammed the new security rules, claiming they restricted his constitutional rights.
Some GOP lawmakers also turned their ire on new rules that level fines against members who fail to wear a mask.
Rep. Tom McClintock (R-N.Y.) and Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) wore masks with protest messages, with McClintock’s reading “This Mask Is USELESS” and Greene’s bearing the phrase “MOLON LABE,” a Greek term that translates to “come and take [them].” The phrase is known to be a rallying cry for the far right.
Whether this is security theater or not, this wouldn’t have occurred in the first place were it not for the denial and violent paranoia that many of them encouraged. This is a new security state of Republicans’ own making. It’s a point Rep. Tlaib made on Twitter: “Now they know how HS students in my district feel. Suck it up buttercups. Y’all brought this on yourselves.”
More galling than their whinging is the fact that several of them are still allowed to remain members of Congress at all. If collusion occurred—whether between cops and the insurrectionists, members of Congress and those who disabled security measures prior to the Capitol attack—then there must be consequences. The fact that lawmakers do not feel safe in the same room as their colleagues, concerned that they were complicit in their potential assassination, should lead to the expulsion of the Republicans implicated.
But that’s too much like making sense. Instead, Americans who are watching the details roll out in horror will be told that unity is the only way forward and that we must move on from last week’s saga. Try telling that to Ocasio-Cortez.
“I did not know if I was going to make it to the end of that day alive,” she said during her Instagram Live.
How does a woman, let alone a nation, move on from that?