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Yes, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, others were arrested at abortion rights protest

Some people on social media claimed Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was pretending to be arrested because she wasn’t handcuffed. That's not true.
Credit: AP
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., joins female House Democrats at an event ahead of a House vote on the Women's Health Protection Act and the Ensuring Women's Right to Reproductive Freedom Act at the Capitol in Washington, Friday, July 15, 2022. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Dozens of people were arrested by U.S. Capitol Police on Tuesday, July 19 during a protest for abortion rights at the Supreme Court. 

On the same day, photos included in a viral tweet appeared to show police officers leading Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) away from the protest. Ocasio-Cortez had her hands behind her back but did not appear to be handcuffed, leading the poster to claim she was “pretending to be arrested.”

Other people on Twitter also claimed that the arrests of Ocasio-Cortez and Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) were staged. 

THE QUESTION

Were Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and other Congress members arrested at an abortion rights protest?

THE SOURCES

THE ANSWER

This is true.

Yes, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and other Congress members were arrested at an abortion rights protest.

WHAT WE FOUND

U.S. Capitol Police confirmed in a press release that 35 people, including 17 members of Congress, were arrested on July 19 for blocking traffic near the U.S. Supreme Court. 

“It is against the law to block traffic, so officers gave the demonstrators three standard warnings to get out of the street,” the press release said. “When the demonstrators refused to get out of the street, the officers arrested them for Crowding, Obstructing or Incommoding.”

The Center for Popular Democracy Action (CPD/A), an advocacy organization, organized Tuesday’s protest against the Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, which guaranteed the right to an abortion in the United States. 

RELATED: VERIFY Fact Sheet: Where abortion is legal, and where it is not

In a press release, CPD/A provided the names of Congress members who were arrested during the protest, including Reps. Ocasio-Cortez and Omar. 

Here is the full list: 

  • Rep. Jackie Speier (CA-14)
  • Rep. Katherine Clark (MA-05)
  • Rep. Carolyn Maloney (NY-12)
  • Rep. Sara Jacobs (CA-53)
  • Rep. Barbara Lee (CA-13)
  • Rep. Madeleine Dean (PA-04)
  • Rep. Cori Bush (MO-01)
  • Rep. Rashida Talib (MI-13)
  • Rep. Jan Schakowsky (IL-09)
  • Rep. Nydia Velázquez (NY-7)
  • Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (NJ-12)
  • Rep. Ilhan Omar (MN-5)
  • Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (NY-14)
  • Rep. Andy Levin (MI-11)
  • Rep. Ayanna Pressley (MA-7)
  • Rep. Alma Adams (NC-12)
  • Rep. Veronica Escobar (TX-16)

Capitol Police did not provide VERIFY with a list of those who were arrested. 

A Twitter account run by Ocasio-Cortez’s staff shared a 16-second video of her arrest at the protest, writing, “Today, Rep. AOC was arrested along with other members of Congress outside the Supreme Court for protesting in support of abortion rights.”

Omar also confirmed her arrest in a tweet, which included a photo of her being escorted away from the protest with her hands behind her back. 

"Today I was arrested in a civil disobedience action at the Supreme Court to protest Roe v Wade getting overturned and the assault on reproductive rights across the country," Omar said in a press release. "Our reproductive rights are under assault across the country, thanks to an extremist court with little regard for precedent or our basic rights. I will do whatever it takes, including putting my body on the line, to protect our reproductive rights."

Why wasn’t Ocasio-Cortez handcuffed during her arrest?

Many of the social media claims point to a staged arrest because Ocasio-Cortez wasn’t placed in handcuffs during her arrest. 

VERIFY took the question about handcuffs directly to Capitol police. A spokesperson explained that people arrested on July 19 were “ticketed and released on-site,” which is “standard for peaceful, planned protests.”

“Nobody was handcuffed as is standard for a noncustodial arrest,” the spokesperson wrote in an email. 

In a noncustodial arrest, a person is allowed to leave the scene. 

Those who were arrested at the abortion rights protest have up to 15 days to pay a $50 fine or they can have a hearing, according to the Capitol police spokesperson.

Ocasio-Cortez also addressed why she placed her hands behind her back if she wasn’t in handcuffs. 

“Putting your hands behind your back is a best practice while detained, handcuffed or not, to avoid escalating charges like resisting arrest,” she wrote in a tweet

RELATED: No, DUI charges against Paul Pelosi haven’t been dropped

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