DETROIT – On the House Floor Thursday, members of Congress recounted their personal, often stunning, accounts of the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol by a pro-Trump mob. The hearing, which detailed the most violent domestic attack on Congress in U.S. history, was emotional for some -- particularly for Rep. Rashida Tlaib from Michigan.
Late Thursday night, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., led colleagues in an hourlong session in which Congress members shared their stories from that distressing day.
Congresswoman Tlaib, who has represented Michigan’s 13th congressional district since 2019, was among the Democratic lawmakers who shared their stories of the attack. The lawmaker was not at the U.S. Capitol during the Jan. 6 riot, but she says watching the attack from home brought her back to the death threats she’s received since taking office.
“On my very first day of orientation, I got my first death threat,” Tlaib recalled Thursday. “It was a serious one. They took me aside. The FBI had to go to the gentleman’s home. I didn’t even get sworn in yet, and someone wanted me dead for just existing.
“Each one paralyzed me each time. So what happened on January 6, all I could do is thank Allah that I wasn’t here; I felt overwhelming relief,” Tlaib added.
Tlaib was not at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 due to COVID precautions. She says she watched in horror as extremists broke into the Capitol buildings, forcing lawmakers to flee in search of safety and in fear for their lives.
“And I feel bad for Alexandria (Ocasio-Cortez) and so many of my colleagues that were here,” Tlaib said on the House Floor. “But as I saw it, I thought to myself, ‘thank God I’m not there.’”
“All I wanted to do was come here and serve the people (who) raised me; the people (who) told my mother who only had an eighth grade education that she deserves human dignity. People (who) believed in me. And so it’s hard,” Tlaib continued.
For Congresswoman Tlaib, the attack on the U.S. Capitol was the final straw. During her Thursday speech, Tlaib called on members of Congress to rebuke hate speech and urged them do stop downplaying the insurrection.
“Please. Please take what happened on January 6 seriously,” she said. “It will lead to more death.”
A total of five people died during or due to the chaos at the Capitol, including a protester, Ashli Babbitt, who was shot by police inside the Capitol, and U.S. Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick, who was mortally injured confronting the mob. Three other people died of medical emergencies.
Tlaib isn’t the only member of Congress -- and not even the only one from Michigan -- to receive death threats. Just before the 2020 election, Rep. Elissa Slotkin was also the target of a violent threat left in a voicemail at her office. That caller said they planned to shoot their way to victory.
The Thursday House session was held just days before former President Donald Trump’s second impeachment trial. Rep. Ocasio-Cortez said that lawmakers’ stories needed to be told at a time when some in Congress, and the nation, are trying to minimize the damage of Jan. 6 and “move on.”
“Sadly, this is all too often what we hear from survivors of trauma,” said Ocasio-Cortez, who was criticized by detractors this week after sharing her own harrowing story of hiding that day, fearing for her life.
She said, “Twenty-nine days ago, our nation’s Capitol was attacked. That is the big story. And in that big story lie thousands of individual accounts, just as valid and important as the other.”
Since the attack, experts have said that the insurrection could have been far deadlier, and that bringing Congress members to safety was quick thinking and most likely saved lives.