WASHINGTON — Members of Congress joined Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., on Thursday in speaking about their experiences during the Jan. 6 deadly riot on the Capitol on the House floor.
After days of backlash since Ocasio-Cortez told her own story from that day on social media, the congresswoman organized an hour aimed at “creating space for members to talk about their lived experience on January 6 and the need for accountability.”
In sometimes emotional speeches, members talked about where they were the day insurrectionists breached the Capitol and the need for accountability for the rhetoric they say incited the violence.
Members such as Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Fla., recognized the police officers and other staffers who put their lives in danger that day to defend Congress, including Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick, who died the next day from injuries sustained in the attack and who laid in honor at the Capitol earlier this week.
“As I mourn and honor Officer Sicknick, as he was honored by being in a state of honor in this House, I was reminded of the many officers, Capitol Hill and Metro Police that are in hospitals, that are still hurting and that are still suffering,” she said.
Jackson Lee also recalled being at the Capitol the day of the 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2001, saying she saw a similar reaction in Congress when members focused their energy on trying to protect their staffers.
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Rep. Dean Phillips, D-Minn., said he was one of 20 of his colleagues who were in the gallery and took cover on the floor among the seats while rioters attempted to breach the room.
“We know what it feels like searching for something, anything, with which to defend ourselves, and realizing a pencil is about all we had,” Phillips said. “And we know what it feels like that it’s a real possibility that we would not see our families and loved ones again. We won’t forget.”
Freshman Rep. Cori Bush, D-Mo., compared the experience on Jan. 6 to that of participating in anti-racism protests and facing violence from police and white supremacists.
“I feel like I’m back,” she said. “I feel like this was one of the days on the streets when the white supremacists would show up and start shooting at us,” Bush said.
Through tears, Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., said that while she was not present at the Capitol on the day of the siege, she watched on television and feared for the lives of her colleagues. She said she knows the dangers of serving in Congress from the death threats she has received since her first day in office: “Each one paralyzed me, each time.”
As she spoke, Ocasio-Cortez came to comfort her and someone else brought her a box of tissues.
“All I could do is thank Allah that I wasn’t here. I felt overwhelming relief,” Tlaib said. “And I felt bad for Alexandria and so many of my colleagues that were here, but as I saw it, I thought to myself, ‘Thank God, I’m not there.’ “
The “special order hour” organized by Ocasio-Cortez came days after she spoke of her time during the deadly pro-Trump riots.
On Instagram Live on Monday, the Democrat from New York recounted the fear she experienced when a Capitol Police officer she initially thought was an insurrectionist entered her office, and how she later sheltered with Rep. Katie Porter, D-Calif., and barricaded Porter’s office doors for hours.
“The reason I’m getting emotional in this moment is because these folks who tell us to move on, that it’s no big, that we should forget … these are the same tactics of abusers,” Ocasio-Cortez said Monday. “And I’m a survivor of sexual assault. … But when we go through trauma, trauma compounds on each other.”
“‘Can we just forget this happened so that I can do it again without recourse?’ And that’s what these folks are asking,” she said during her Instagram Live.
On Thursday, Ocasio-Cortez repeated her condemnation of some Republicans she said are pushing their colleagues to move on from the events of Jan. 6, likening the actions to those of abusers.
Rep. Mark Takano, D-Calif., echoed her in urging people to take the events that happened Jan. 6, and other traumatic events, seriously.
“Don’t let anybody gaslight, or belittle or dismiss what happened on Jan. 6,” Takano said. “It was a serious event.”