Who are the Squad and what do they represent?

Who are the Squad and what do they represent?
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Ayanna Pressley and Rashida Tlaib – also known as the Squad – have all been targets of Trump's series of racist and xenophobic attacks.
7 min read
19 July, 2019
Trump stepped up his attacks on these four progressive Democratic congresswomen [Getty]

You might not have known all their names before July 14, but following US President Donald Trump's recent racist tweets, telling four democratic congresswomen of colour to 'go home', all eyes became fixed on the newly-dubbed 'Squad' and what they represent.

Congresswomen Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Ayanna Pressley and Rashida Tlaib were all targets of Trump's latest tweets, where he ranted and raved about their unpatriotic attitudes towards America.

He stepped up his attacks on the four progressive Democratic congresswomen, saying if they're not happy in the United States "they can leave."

Trump tweeted: "Why don't they go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came."

A quick fact check found that all four women are US citizens, three of whom were born in America and one who came over as a refugee and has held US citizenship for over two decades.

Condemnation quickly poured in from Democrats along with accusations of racism, given that the women were all ethnic minorities.

Following Trump's comments the four congresswomen took part in a press conference to address the tweets.

Despite outrage across the world, Trump remained unrepentant and continued to incite hatred towards the four women amongst his loyal followers.

At a recent Trump rally in North Carolina (the same place where the Chapel Hill Islamophobic shootings took place four years ago), Republicans were filmed as they chillingly chanted "send her home".

Since going viral, Trump has attempted to condemn the chanting, claiming he tried to stop it by "very quickly" speaking out, despite there being a very long pause between his speeches.

In spite of the controversy, the 'Squad', what they stand for and their policies were catapulted into the public spotlight within hours of the tweets being posted, unwittingly by Trump himself. 

The four congresswomen address the remarks made by US President Donald Trump during a press conference [Getty]

The name itself, the Squad, was set by the women during a photo shoot.

"Someone said, 'Oh you should do a hashtag or something #squadgoals' and then it morphed into whole other thing," Congress member Ayanna Pressley told CBS This Morning on Wednesday. 

So, who are the 'Squad'? And what do they represent?

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is
of Puerto Rican descent [Getty]

The youngest ever US congresswoman: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

Also known as AOC, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez shook the Democratic party when she defeated political veteran and favourite Joe Crowley at their party's primary for the New York district.

She then went on to win the mid-terms, making history as the youngest ever US congresswoman.

Born in the Bronx, New York, to parents of Puerto Rican descent, Ocasio-Cortez worked as a community organiser, educator and bartender before running for office. And since becoming elected the self-described democratic socialist has taken every opportunity to speak out on critical issues like immigration, poverty and race.

Her impassioned testimonies at congressional hearings have also earnt her praise and admiration and her unapologetic stance on issues like immigration have helped her amass nearly five million followers on Twitter.

Ocasio-Cortez has also openly criticised the US president several times, saying there is "no question" that Mr Trump is racist.

It was also Ocasio-Cortez who was responsible for coining the term 'Squad' after suggesting they hashtag an image of the four of them #squadgoals.

In response to Trump's racist rant she tweeted: "Mr. President, the country I 'come from,' and the country we all swear to, is the United States." She also added that his words were the "hallmark language of white supremacists".

The New York congresswoman also used the recent press conference, held by the Squad to address the children of the USA, telling them: "No matter what the president says, this country belongs to you… it belongs to everyone."

No matter what the president says, this country belongs to you… it belongs to everyone
Ilhan Omar and her family fled
the Somalian civil war in 1997 [Getty]

The first ever Muslim US congresswoman: Ilhan Omar

Perhaps the most well-known of the Squad, Ilhan Omar made waves across the world when she became one of the first ever Muslim women to be elected to the US congress.

This has also made her a constant target of slander and false-accusations, most notably from the US president himself.

Omar won the Minnesota seat back in November, making her the first Somali-American legislator in the US.

Originally a refugee, Omar and her family fled from the Somalian civil war in 1997. Three years later she was granted full citizenship.

Since her election, Omar has continued to make history by challenging and overturning a 181-year ban on headwear in the House, allowing her to wear the hijab.

Trump has attacked and slandered Omar on several occasions, recently stating that she "hates Israel" and "hates Jews", and suggesting she supports the jihadist group al-Qaeda, despite there being no evidence to support the claims.

Omar has also been accused of anti-Semitism for her outspoken stance on the Israeli occupation, for which she tweeted an apology to clear up any misunderstanding.

In response to Trump's criticisms Omar wrote on her Twitter: "You are stoking white nationalism [because] you are angry that people like us are serving in Congress and fighting against your hate-filled agenda."

And at their recent press conference Omar called for his impeachment: "I have not made impeachment central to my election or my tenure. But it's not if he will be impeached, but when. It is time for us to stop allowing this president to make a mockery of this country."

It is time for us to stop allowing this president to make a mockery of this country
Rashida Tlaib was born and raised in Detroit
to Palestinian immigrant parents [Getty]

The first ever Muslim congresswoman: Rashida Tlaib

Palestinian-American Rashida Tlaib also made history when she was sworn in to serve as the first ever Muslim congresswoman last year.

The Michigan Democrat was born and raised in Detroit to Palestinian immigrant parents.

Not one to shy away from controversy, Tlaib has been vocal of her disdain of the president on several occasions and was even filmed saying: "we're going to impeach the m***** f*****, don't worry."

Following Trump's tweets Tlaib hit out, saying that the US president was the: "Biggest bully I've ever had to deal with in my lifetime", adding that his attacks were a "distraction" from her job of representing people in her district.

She tweeted: "Yo @realDonaldTrump, I am fighting corruption in OUR country. I do it every day when I hold your admin accountable as a U.S. Congresswoman. Detroit taught me how to fight for the communities you continue to degrade & attack. Keep talking, you’ll be out of the WH soon. #TickTock"

The US president is the biggest bully I've ever had to deal with in my lifetime
Ayanna Pressley is first African-American
woman to get elected into congress
in the state of Massachusetts [Getty]

The first ever African-American congresswoman in Massachusetts: Ayanna Pressley

Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley, made history when she became the first African-American woman to get elected into congress in the state of Massachusetts.

Raised in Ohio by her mother, Pressley's political career started ten years ago when she became the first woman of colour to be elected in Boston City Council.

She also worked for Senator John Kerry before joining congress. In fact, her win at US congress caused major political uproar when she defeated 10-term Democratic congressman Michael Capuano.

Since joining the office earlier this year Pressley has worked tirelessly as an advocate of abortion rights, pushing for health insurers to cover abortions for low-income Americans.

As a survivor of sexual abuse, Pressley has also spoken on her website about protecting assault victims, stating that: "the people closest to the pain should be closest to the power".

Responding to Trump, Pressley said: "THIS is what racism looks like. WE are what democracy looks like. And we're not going anywhere." And at the press conference, she warned the American public to "not take the bait".

"This is a disruptive distraction from the issues of care, concern and consequence to the American people," she added.