The Importance and Impact of AOC’s Most Recent Live Stream

TW\/CW: This article mentions topics of sexual assault. 

 

On February 1st, 2021, U.S Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, commonly known by her initials— AOC, took to Instagram live to discuss her detailed experience on January 6th, 2021— the day of the insurrection at the Capitol. 

AOC had previously gone live earlier this year on January 12th, to discuss the aftermath of the attack, citing that the situation was black and white— one is either with the American people or with the mob who acted out in violence— adding that without accountability for everyone involved, including Congresspeople such as Senator Josh Hawley and Senator Ted Cruz who incited the violence, there was no moving forward. In that live stream, she said she wasn’t going to share details of her experience due to security concerns. 

After said security concerns were hashed out and resolved, AOC took to Instagram to share that she was ready to explain her story. 

She discussed how her day started with the excitement of Jon Ossof and Raphel Warnock being confirmed as the senator-elects for Georgia, but then as she was getting ready for lunch with her legislative director Geraldo Bonilla-Chavez, whom she refers to as ‘G, they heard banging on the door. There were no words or identifying voices, she recalled, but instead just the sound of violent knocking, as if someone was trying to tear down the door. She then ran into the bathroom and hid against the wall behind the door. 

AOC recalls that she then heard yelling, shouting ‘where is she?’ multiple times, and this was the moment where she believed she was going to die, adding that she had never been more silent in her life. Getting emotional, she explained that she believed she had fulfilled her purpose and if her life was going in this direction, things would turn out all right. 

However, G then called for her to come out, and she learned that the face behind the yelling and violent knocking was a Capitol police officer. AOC explained that both she and G knew something didn’t feel right, as he was looking at her “with a tremendous amount of anger and hostility,” adding that he did not identify himself and simply directed her to an undisclosed location. He did not mention that she needed to take her protective equipment as other members were told (as she had learned later), nor did he disclose where they were being held. 

After having trouble trying to figure out where to go, she eventually spotted U.S Representative Katie Porter right as the voices of the mob just outside the building were getting closer and louder. AOC, G, Porter, and her staff barricaded together in her office for approximately six hours.

As she finished recalling the details of her personal experience, AOC went on to emphasize and explain the reason behind her livestream in more detail. She mentioned that she didn’t speak up earlier because she was scared, taking this moment to mention that she was a survivor of sexual assault. Based on her past experiences with trauma, she feared people wouldn’t believe her, would accuse her of making the situation about herself or tell her to simply ‘move on.’

There is no moving on, AOC stressed, without accountability. She explained how this phrase is commonly used by abusers to undermine, discuss, and coerce survivors and their experiences into silence. Until those responsible for inciting and acting out the violence of the insurrection faced the consequences of their actions, people like her who were caused direct harm, danger, and trauma from the experience could not move past it. This goes for any situation of trauma, AOC explained. 

Caution Tape at the United States Capitol Photo by Andy Feliciotti from Unsplash

After the all-clear signal was issued for the Capitol complex, Representative Ayanna Presley texted AOC to “come eat” in her office. There, she finally had a chance to understand and come to terms with the events of the day as she explained them for the first time to Porter and Presley. 

“This is trauma,” Presley told her. Hearing her say those words, as a colleague and a sister, AOC said, allowed her to understand the extent to which she was dealing with— she needed someone else whom she trusted and looked up to, as being a survivor, she is quick to downplay her experiences. Presley went on to explain to AOC that she needed to take time to heal, to take care of her mind and body, and to rest. There was no ‘bouncing back’ from what she was going through. AOC listened. 

Her interaction with Porter and Presley shows that AOC needed a strong group of women peers to help her get through the day, and each day after that. Women need women peers— in the workplace and in life. Porter provided AOC with everything she asked— workout clothes, shoes, and a jacket to blend in, as AOC ransacked her office trying to find a place to hide— despite that she did not know what was going on at the time. Presley’s simple “come eat” text and their late-night discussion about her trauma gave AOC the comfort she needed after one of the scariest days of her life. The way these three women were there for each other during one of their darkest days sparked a larger discussion across social media about the importance of having women peers in one’s life.

AOC is known to use her live streams and other forms of social media to connect with people on a personal level, answering their questions or assuring them about inconsistencies or fear they may have. Using her platform to now discuss not only trauma, but the concept of a survivor’s mindset, abuse tactics, gaslighting, sexual assault, and so much more was a big step for someone who is mostly seen as her work -- a political figure. Many tend to forget that AOC is the youngest, most progressive, and most targeted Congresswoman by the entire right side of politics. She was also the biggest target at the insurrection, with the man who tweeted that he was going to “assassinate” her being a participant in the Capitol riot. Being a 31-year-old who is one of the most polarizing figures in politics and having earned her seat in Congress instead of having it handed to her, AOC can truly be described as ‘one of the people’— a real representation of America —a person of color, from a working-class background, still in student-debt despite her salary, etc. Although she has gotten personal many times before, AOC showed a side of herself in this live stream that she does not get the chance to express as a political figure, giving people a sense of ‘humanity’ and allowing them to understand the extent of the insanity which was the insurrection at the Capitol. She did not forget to address the speculation behind the idea that the event was pre-planned, mentioning that she had received texts telling her to beware of violence on the 6th. News sources had also revealed that Presley’s panic button had been removed prior to the riots, unknown to her knowledge. She concluded by saying that her story was just one of many, as most members of Congress went through something extremely traumatic but are expected to keep a brave face as they represent the people. 

Her live stream opened up a discussion for other survivors of trauma, allowing them to share their own stories or simply come to terms with their experiences, and that in itself makes a large impact. 

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez / Instagram

AOC has received a significant amount of backlash from the right after her live stream, with people going as far as trending #AlexandriaOcassio-Smollet on Twitter (referencing Jessie Smollet, who faked an experience with harassment back in 2019), saying she was lying about encountering the mob by using a map of the Capitol complex to explain how she was nowhere near the rioters (this has been debunked, as rioters were all across the Capitol complex, not just the main building of the Capitol). Despite this, AOC remains adamant, now openly discussing the concept of trauma and survivors on her social media to keep the conversation going. 

If her live stream made one thing clear, it is that AOC will not be brought down. She started a conversation and will keep the momentum going, as it is about time society faced reality and addressed the situation headfirst.