The insurrection on January 6th was terrifying for millions of people, especially for Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley and her staff, once it was realized that the panic buttons were removed from their office.
Pressley's Chief of Staff Sarah Groh revealed that terrifying tidbit of info in a Boston Globe interview:
As people rushed out of other buildings on the Capitol grounds, staffers in Pressley’s office barricaded the entrance with furniture and water jugs that had piled up during the pandemic. Groh pulled out gas masks and looked for the special panic buttons in the office.
“Every panic button in my office had been torn out — the whole unit,” she said, though they could come up with no rationale as to why. She had used them before and hadn’t switched offices since then. As they were escorted to several different secure locations, Groh and Pressley and her husband tried to remain calm and vigilant — not only of rioters but of officers they did not know or trust, she said.
Since January, the story about the missing panic buttons has not been solved, but it is still under investigation said a Pressley spokesperson to Jamaica Plain News.
“During the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, Congresswoman Pressley’s Chief of Staff realized the duress buttons installed throughout the Congresswoman’s office suite had been removed. Our staff has used these devices before and they are regularly tested and maintained. The matter has been raised with the relevant agencies and is currently under investigation. 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.”
Former President Donald Trump practically put a target on Pressley's back as she is a member of The Squad, which was self-named by Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. That has led to heightened security measures for Pressley and the rest of The Squad during their time in Congress. Oftentimes locations of her events are not announced via press releases, but only provided after people RSVP to the event.
That target has not been lost upon many people, including Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey.
I’m sending love to our entire Congressional delegation and their staffs. @sarahgroh’s harrowing account from @AyannaPressley's office is shocking. The world needs to understand that you were targeted. I am so glad you’re safe. https://t.co/nIKsuRfspT
— Maura Healey (@maura_healey) January 13, 2021
Fact checking website Snopes.com has looked into the claim of the panic buttons being inexplicably removed from Pressley's office. Snopes asked for physical evidence of the buttons' removal. None was provided to them. Snopes also referred to a Washington Post columnist's piece in February that the removal of the buttons may have been a clerical error, and not a conspiracy against Pressley.
Columnist Greg Sargent wrote:
The aide added that ‘it is likely relevant’ that Pressley took over the office of former congresswoman Katie Hill (D-Calif.) in an office swap at the beginning of the last Congress. Hill subsequently resigned amid an ethics investigation, which may have erroneously placed that office (despite its having been traded to Pressley) on a list to be emptied out at the end of the last Congress.
That might have resulted in the removal of the duress buttons, the aide says. […]
Still, the aide cautioned that an internal Capitol Police investigation into the matter “remains ongoing.”
The timing of that "clerical error" is also dumbfounding, as Ocasio-Cortez pointed out, how come Pressley's office wasn't told the buttons were being removed?
Even if one assumes this as some totally innocent oversight, how does the department responsible remove ALL the panic buttons from a highly visible member’s office and NOT inform that member or their staff? https://t.co/yH0uBKJv5P
— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) January 13, 2021
So as Sargent points out, the hope is that the removal of the buttons were a horribly timed clerical error and not a nefarious plot against Pressley and her staff. Either way, the Capitol Police are still investigating the matter. Let's hope they eventually learn the truth and reveal it to the public.