On February 3 2021, a viral tweet by @Breaking911 claimed that “AOC.” or Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-New York) was not in the Capitol building during the January 6 2021 riots, adding that “rioters did not breach the Cannon Building”:
That tweet read:
JUST IN: AOC was not in the U.S. Capitol building during her “near death” experience. She claims to have been in her office, which is located in the Cannon Building.
Rioters did not breach the Cannon Building.
Nancy Mace’s Conflicting Tweets
Google Trends data for February 3 2021 indicated a spike of interest in searches regarding Ocasio-Cortez’s location during the January 6 2021 Capitol insurrection, such as:
- “AOC not in capitol building”;
- “where was AOC during the riot”;
- “aoc on Capitol riots”;
- “Nancy Mace”;
- “where is AOC office,” and;
- “was AOC in the capitol?”
“Nancy Mace” was in related searches, thanks to a February 2 2021 tweet in which South Carolina Congresswoman Nancy Mace stated that “insurrectionists never stormed our hallway” during the January 6 2021 Capitol breach:
On February 3 2021 in a separate tweet, Mace made contradicted herself, claiming this time that on “January 6th, U.S. Capitol Police were the only thing standing between us and the rioters“:
AOC’s Response to the Rumors
Also on February 3 2020, AOC addressed claims that she “wasn’t even in the Capitol” during the events described on her Instagram Live on February 1 2021:
Rep. Ocasio-Cortez also maintained that these new, coordinated claims about her location during the Capitol breach were using the fact that many are unfamiliar with the layout of the Capitol complex to push the smear, as “the attack wasn’t just on the dome.” At the same time, the hashtag #AlexandriaOcasioSmollett trended, referring to actor Jussie Smollett in order to heavily imply that she had embellished the amount of danger she was in during the attack.
In a separate tweet, Ocasio-Cortez said:
People were trying to rush and infiltrate our office buildings – that’s why we had to get evacuated in the first place.
The attempts of attackers & publicly available communications show how they tried to gain access and share location info on finding members for physical harm.
Was AOC ‘Not in the Capitol’ During the Riots?
Multiple media organizations published timelines of events on and before January 6 2021; Wikipedia also helpfully maintained a detailed timeline of events on that day collated from news stories. An initial summary read in part:
The demonstrations turned violent when attendees breached multiple police perimeters, and occupied, vandalized, and ransacked parts of the building for several hours. Five people—including Capitol Police officer Brian D. Sicknick, who allegedly was struck in the head with a fire extinguisher—died over the course of the events and dozens more were seriously injured.
That timeline specified the time of the breach as between 2:10 and 2:12 PM on January 6 2021; not long before that, the Cannon Building was evacuated:
1:26 p.m.: The U.S. Capitol Police order evacuation of at least two buildings in the Capitol complex, including the Cannon House Office Building and the Madison Building of the Library of Congress.
• Capitol Police are overwhelmed and forced to retreat up the steps of the Capitol.
• Large numbers of Trump supporters march from the Ellipse 1.25 miles down Pennsylvania Avenue toward the Capitol.
According to Ocasio-Cortez’s official website, her office is located in the Cannon Building. As mentioned, Ocasio-Cortez said on February 3 2021 that claims she was not at the Capitol hinged on a lack of public understanding regarding the layout of the buildings in the Capitol complex.
On AOC.gov (which stands for Architect Of the Capitol, not Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez), a page under “Explore the Capitol Complex | Cannon” explains that the Capitol building and the Cannon Building are connected through tunnels:
Architecturally, their elevations are divided into a rusticated base and a 300 foot colonnade with an entablature and balustrade. The colonnade with 34 Doric columns that face the Capitol are echoed by pilasters on the sides of the buildings. Both buildings are faced with marble and limestone; the Russell Building’s base and terrace are gray granite. Modern for their time, they included such facilities as forced-air ventilation systems, steam heat, individual lavatories with hot and cold running water and ice water, telephones, and electricity. Both are connected to the Capitol by underground passages. Originally there were 397 offices and 14 committee rooms in the Cannon Building; the 1932 remodeling resulted in 85 two- or three-room suites, 10 single rooms and 23 committee rooms.
Each member of the House of Representatives was given a single, relatively modest room to use as an office. It was only 15 feet wide, 23 feet long, and furnished with a roll top desk, chairs, a wardrobe, and filing cabinets. Modern in every respect, the offices were also outfitted with telephones, lavatories (supplying hot, cold, and ice water), steam heat, and forced-air ventilation.
A map of the Capitol building and the adjacent Cannon Building is available at VisitTheCapitol.gov.
As the timeline demonstrated, the breach of the Capitol was chaotic and violent — ultimately resulting in at least six deaths and a number of injuries.
Ocasio-Cortez was, by her own account, evacuated as insurrectionists breached the Capitol. In her Instagram Live account, she explained that an individual she learned was a Capitol Police officer evacuated her; she was initially unaware the person was law enforcement.
At that point, right-wing protesters had already breached secure areas, and Ocasio-Cortez was directed to leave her office in the Cannon Building. Whether or not individuals breaching the building reached that particular hallway — presented as novel information by Mace on February 2 2021 — was immaterial; Ocasio-Cortez, like everyone around her, was in danger of encountering angry rioters unauthorized to be in the Capitol building.
Again, the Cannon building was evacuated at 1:26 PM, and the Capitol was breached at or around 2:10 PM. The timeline excerpted above indicated the Capitol was not deemed “secure” for several more hours:
6:14 p.m.: U.S. Capitol Police, D.C. Metro Police, and DCNG successfully establish a perimeter on the west side of the U.S. Capitol.
7:00 p.m.: Facebook, Inc. removes President Trump’s posts from Facebook and Instagram for “contribut[ing] to, rather than diminish[ing], the risk of ongoing violence.”
7:02 p.m.: Twitter removes Trump’s tweets and suspends his account for twelve hours for “repeated and severe violations of [its] Civic Integrity policy”.
8:00 p.m.: U.S. Capitol Police declare the Capitol building to be secure.
Following Ocasio-Cortez’s Instagram Live on February 1 2020, social media rumors claimed that Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez “wasn’t even in the Capitol” and therefore in no danger during the insurrection. Those arguments were made in obvious bad faith, and — as she pointed out herself — appeared to rest on the public’s general unfamiliarity with the Capitol complex. Ocasio-Cortez was in the Cannon Building when it was evacuated prior to the breach on January 6 2021. The Capitol was not secured until 8 that evening, during which time neither lawmakers nor members of the public were fully apprised of the day’s events. Although Ocasio-Cortez stated the individual banging on her door was a Capitol Police officer, ongoing events were such that uncertainty regarding the person’s initial intention would be expected.