Death Threats Soar as Progressive ‘Squad’ Grows in Congress

Nov 22, 2021
11:27 AM

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-NY, one of the original members of the progressive ‘Squad’ in Congress, who has had to increase her security detail following a recent increase in threats made against her. (nrkbeta/CC BY-SA 2.0)

WASHINGTON, D.C. — On October 26, Rep. Ihan Omar (D-MN) received a package at her Capitol Hill office containing a suspicious substance along with a cryptic message: “The Patriarchy will rise again. Merry fucking Christmas.”

After Capitol Police declared the substance nonhazardous, staffers went back to work. Latino Rebels spoke with Omar a short while later outside the House chamber following a vote.

“I’m the oldest person in my office,” said Omar, 39, a Muslim immigrant from Mogadishu, Somalia. “Most of them are pretty young people. This is their first job. Many of them are still idealistic and hold a lot of reverence for public service and for what this place represents. The fact that they are constantly subjected to death threats and vitriol that they deal with, it is a tragedy.”

“It’s everywhere,” said a staffer for Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), another high-profile progressive member of color leading her staff through a tempest of political rage. “People will use any way they can find to get to you.”

The belligerence of the right-wing mob’s attack on January 6 still hangs thick in the Capitol air, especially during House votes. “It has deeply, deeply affected lawmaking, policymaking. It has impacted the actual legislative process,” said Ocasio-Cortez in a May interview with Maria Hinojosa for Latino USA. “The aftermath of [January 6] … it’s very quiet. It’s not spoken about.”

The two-term Latina Congresswoman representing parts of the Bronx and Queens was hunted by the right-wing mob during their insurrection. “I didn’t think that I was just going to be killed,” Ocasio-Cortez told CNN’s Dana Bash. “I thought other things were going to happen to me as well.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) was also hunted when the mob breached the Capitol nine months ago. But unlike Ocasio-Cortez and other House members, Pelosi, as a privilege of her speakership, has a standing security detail of Capitol Police who protect her at all times.

“I have never needed a [security] detail on this level in my entire time in Congress until recently,” said Ocasio-Cortez, who has been assigned security in recent weeks due to “highly credible” threats against life.

Rep. Cori Bush (D-MO) has hired private security since rising in the national political spotlight as a new progressive member of Congress. “I have private security because I know I have had attempts on my life,” said Bush in an interview with CBS News.

Bush is one of the new members in the so-called “Squad,” a group of six young Democrats of color who have become icons for progressives and many communities of color during the last Congress. “We experience these threats at a level no other member of Congress experiences,” said Omar, one of the original Squad members along with Ocasio-Cortez, Ayanna Pressley (MA), and Rashida Tlaib (MI). Jamaal Bowman (NY) is the other new member.

Capitol Police expect to log 9,000 death threats against members of Congress, according to reporting by Henry Gomez for NBC News, an increase of more than double the threats Congress used to receive before Donald Trump’s presidency.

“And it’s getting worse,” Ocasio-Cortez told reporters last Monday after returning from a climate change summit in Glasgow, Scotland with Speaker Pelosi. During her trip a colleague, Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ), tweeted an animated video that showed him decapitating Ocasio-Cortez with a sword.

“One of the things that I have expressed to the Speaker and to leadership is that I find it to be very important for there to be a concrete response to the Congressman’s threats,” said Ocasio-Cortez “They are using a national platform to legitimize threats of violence on the local level to intimidate people. I believe this is part of a concerted strategy, and I think it’s very important for us to draw a very strict line, a strong line of material consequence, because what happens nationally very much sets the barometer and the temperature of things locally.”

Speaker Pelosi and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) agreed, introducing an extraordinary motion to censure Gosar and strip him of his committee assignments.

“Hate speech leads to hate violence,” said Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) during a debate over the motion to censure Gosar.

“We cannot let Congress be the only workplace in America where violence against a coworker is not only ignored but encouraged,” said Rep. Mondaire Jones (D-NY).

For his part, Gosar vowed to “continue to speak out against amnesty to illegal aliens, defend the rule of law and advance the ‘America First’ agenda”— a thinly veiled ethnic slur aimed at Ocasio-Cortez, who is a Latina of Puerto Rican descent.

The House voted 223 to 207 to approve the resolution. Gosar was removed from the House committees on Oversight and Reform, and Natural Resources.

“It’s encouraging that our party is actually standing up and being willing to issue a real consequence for the first time in a very long time,” Ocasio-Cortez told Latino Rebels after the vote.

Republicans have indicated that they intend to retaliate by stripping committee assignments from Democrats if the GOP regains the House majority after next year’s midterm elections.


Pablo Manríquez is the Washington correspondent for Latino Rebels. Twitter: @PabloReports