An investigation has been launched after panic buttons were apparently removed from Ayanna Pressley’s congressional office before last week’s riot at the US Capitol.
Following the deadly pro-Trump siege on the federal building on January 6, Pressley’s chief of staff Sarah Groh revealed the Massachusetts congresswoman’s panic buttons had been ‘torn out’, which she realised as she tried to protect herself during the riot.
After informing the ‘relevant authorities’, a full investigation has since been launched into the circumstances surrounding their removal.
Spokesperson Ricardo A. Sánchez said, ‘During the January 6 attack on the US Capitol, Congresswoman Pressley’s Chief of Staff realised the duress buttons installed throughout the Congresswoman’s office suite had been removed,’ the Independent reports.
He added: ‘The matter has been raised with the relevant agencies and is currently under investigation.’
Sánchez continued: ‘The safety of the Congresswoman, her family and our staff remain our top priority and at the direction of the Congresswoman, the Sergeant at Arms oversaw the installation of new duress buttons throughout the office following the attack.’
As Pressley is part of ‘The Squad’, a group of Democratic representatives known to have drawn the anger of Trump supporters, she’s well-acquainted with safety drills and any scenario she’d be under threat. Extra security measures had been installed after she received death threats.
When extremists began to storm the building, Pressley and Groh barricaded the doors to the office, pulled out gas masks and looked to push the panic buttons, which had been ‘torn out… the whole unit,’ as Groh told The Boston Globe. They had no idea why they’d be removed, given that they’d been used before and Pressley hadn’t moved office since.
Pressley said it was ‘unnerving’ to discover, telling 7News Boston: ‘I called within hours for the Oversight Committee to initiate a thorough investigation to understand those individuals and agencies that might have enabled this violent attack.’
Groh had been concerned about coming to the Capitol prior to the siege, earlier saying: ‘I was deeply concerned; it felt like the heat was being turned up in terms of the rhetoric and Trump’s aims to incite violence.’
Newly-elected Congressman Jamaal Bowman also confirmed his office hadn’t received a panic button since he was sworn in on January 3, tweeting: ‘FYI, my office also did not have panic buttons during the insurrection.’
Other Democratic lawmakers have aired concerns over Republicans putting them at risk as rioters stormed the building. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said: ‘There were QAnon, white supremacist sympathizers and frankly white supremacist members of Congress in that extraction point who I know and who I had felt would disclose my location.’