By Sean Christensen
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was one of 17 members of Congress arrested at an abortion-rights protest on July 19. But social media posts falsely claim she was “pretending to be arrested.” Capitol Police records show the arrests did occur, and the congresswoman posted the arrest paperwork on her Instagram account.
A group of abortion-rights demonstrators assembled in front of the Supreme Court building on July 19 to protest the court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade in June.
At 1:18 p.m., the Capitol Police tweeted that the protesters had begun blocking First Street. Under Washington, D.C.’s criminal code, it is illegal to obstruct the use of any street and to continue or resume the interference “after being instructed by a law enforcement officer to cease.”
By 1:20 p.m., the police tweeted that they had given protesters three warnings and would begin making arrests. The police then arrested 35 people, including 17 members of Congress, “for crowding, obstructing or incommoding.”
Following the arrests, various Facebook posts falsely claimed that Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York pretended to be arrested.
One post showed multiple pictures of Ocasio-Cortez being held by a Capitol Police officer, and it read: “AOC pretending to be arrested and handcuffed is the most AOC moment of her career.”
A Facebook meme showed a photo of the representative’s face and the words: “LITTLE MISS FAKE GETTING ARRESTED.” The caption read, “Little Miss PR stunt.” Other posts also falsely claimed the congresswoman faked her arrest.
But Ocasio-Cortez was indeed one of those arrested.
The Capitol Police’s weekly Arrest Summary Report states, “Thirty-five Suspects were placed under arrest and processed on scene” on July 19. The report does not list the names of those arrested. We contacted the Capitol Police to ask whether Ocasio-Cortez was among the 35 arrested but haven’t received a response.
However, PolitiFact documented an Instagram story from Ocasio-Cortez’s personal account that showed her arrest paperwork and a $50 fine. We also reached out to Ocasio-Cortez’s office for comment but didn’t hear back.
Some of the social media posts appeared to misunderstand what it means to be arrested. As they were led away from the Supreme Court, Ocasio-Cortez and Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota both walked with their hands behind their backs. Some posts took this to mean the two representatives were pretending to be in handcuffs.
One of the responses to the Capitol Police tweet about the 35 arrests said, “So, they were handcuffed and placed into custody until their hearing, unless the[y] placed bail? If not, you didn’t arrest them, and lying about something like this is absolutely hillarious.” Another person told the Capitol Police, “Prove it. Where’s the mugshots of the arrested?”
Being handcuffed, having mugshots taken and receiving a hearing are not necessary to be arrested. An arrest is defined as “the use of legal authority to deprive a person of their freedom of movement.” PolitiFact and Snopes both reported that Capitol Police said the protesters weren’t handcuffed because these arrests were “noncustodial,” meaning no one was taken into custody.
On Twitter, Ocasio-Cortez explained why she walked with her arms crossed behind her back. She tweeted, “Putting your hands behind your back is a best practice while detained, handcuffed or not, to avoid escalating charges like resisting arrest.”
Editor’s note: FactCheck.org is one of several organizations working with Facebook to debunk misinformation shared on social media. Our previous stories can be found here. Facebook has no control over our editorial content.
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC). “No faking here. Putting your hands behind your back is a best practice while detained, handcuffed or not, to avoid escalating charges like resisting arrest. But given how you lied about a fellow rape survivor for ‘points,’ as you put it to me, I don’t expect much else from you.” Twitter. 20 Jul 2022.
Cornell Law School Legal Information Institute. “Arrest.” Accessed 22 Jun 2022.
Council of the District of Columbia. “§ 22–1307. Crowding, obstructing, or incommoding.” Accessed 21 Jul 2022.
Dobbs v. Jackson. No. 19-1392. U.S. Supreme Court. 24 Jun 2022.
Evon, Dan. “Here’s Why AOC, Omar Were Arrested — But Not Handcuffed — at Abortion-Rights Protest.” Snopes. 20 Jul 2022.
Geroge Finkle (@FinkleGeroge). “So, they were handcuffed and placed into custody until their hearing, unless the placed bail? If not, you didn’t arrest them, and lying about something like this is absolutely hillarious.” Twitter. 19 Jul 2022.
Jackson, Jon. “Full List of Congress Members Arrested With AOC Protesting SCOTUS.” Newsweek. 19 Jul 2022.
McCarthy, Bill. “No, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez did not ‘fake’ her arrest outside the Supreme Court.” PolitiFact. 20 Jul 2022.
Neil Tillman (@neiltillman). “Prove it. Where’s the mugshots of the arrested?” Twitter. 19 Jul 2022.
“Rep. Ocasio-Cortez, other Dems arrested during abortion rights protest | USA TODAY.” USA Today. 19 Jul 2022.
Schnell, Mychael. “Democrats including Pressley, Omar, Ocasio-Cortez, Tlaib arrested at abortion rights rally outside Supreme Court.” The Hill. 19 Jul 2022.
United States Capitol Police. “Arrest Summary Report: July 14 – 20, 2022.” 20 Jul 2022.
U.S. Capitol Police (@CapitolPolice). “Correction: We made a total of 35 arrests for Crowding, Obstructing or Incommoding (DC Code § 22–1307). That arrest number includes 17 Members of Congress.” Twitter. 19 Jul 2022.
U.S. Capitol Police (@CapitolPolice). “Demonstrators are starting to block First Street, NE. It is against the law to block traffic, so officers are going to give our standard three warnings before they start making arrests.” Twitter. 19 Jul 2022.
U.S. Capitol Police (@CapitolPolice). “We have already given our standard three warnings. Some of the demonstrators are refusing to get out of the street, so we are starting to make arrests.” Twitter. 19 Jul 2022.
Washington Free Beacon (@FreeBeacon). “AOC pretended to be in handcuffs when she was escorted away from the Supreme Court.” Twitter. 19 Jul 2022.
Washington Free Beacon (@FreeBeacon). “Ilhan Omar pretended to be handcuffed when she was escorted away from the Supreme Court.” Twitter. 19 Jul 2022.