Weeks before the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, another right-wing group stormed the state Capitol in Salem, Ore., trying to break into the building while legislators met for a special session on Dec. 21.
The Capitol’s locked doors kept the crowd at bay — until Republican state Rep. Mike Nearman coolly walked through an exit and held the doors open as far-right demonstrators raced inside. Despite the efforts of police to keep them out, dozens of rioters eventually streamed into the building, attacking officers, damaging property, and unsettling legislators.
On Monday, after surveillance video showing Nearman’s role in the incursion became public, his colleagues stripped his committee assignments, restricted his access to the Capitol building, and fined him for the damage caused by the crowd after he opened the door.
The video, published by the Oregonian and Oregon Public Broadcasting last week, has also sparked wide calls for Nearman’s resignation.
“I believe he should resign immediately,” Oregon House Speaker Tina Kotek, a Democrat, said in a statement on Monday. “He has already breached the public trust and endangered our ability to safely conduct the people’s business.”
Nearman did not immediately respond to a request for comment Monday night. Few Republicans have publicly criticized Nearman, but Oregon House Republican Leader Christine Drazan on Sunday said she supports a criminal investigation of the incident, the Oregonian reported.
“If the investigation finds that actions taken were criminal, legislators are not above the law and will be held responsible,” Drazan said.
Nearman, 56, represents Independence, Ore., about 60 miles southwest of Portland, and is one of the most conservative members of the state legislature. He has been a vocal opponent of the state’s coronavirus restrictions and sued the Democratic governor over her emergency orders. He also backed a Texas-based lawsuit challenging the presidential election results. Nearman was sworn into his fourth term on Monday, after winning reelection in November.
The Oregon legislature met on Dec. 21 to consider Gov. Kate Brown’s proposal to distribute $800 million in coronavirus relief. As lawmakers began their morning meetings, right-wing protesters gathered outside around 8 a.m. for a “flash mob rally.”
The protesters held signs challenging the November election results and opposing coronavirus restrictions. They waved Trump flags, yellow “Don’t Tread on Me” flags, and American flags.
Rioters later tried to bust through the Capitol building’s doors, leaving the glass cracked. Video captured outside shows at least one man repeatedly attacking journalists reporting on the protest. Police said at least one man sprayed officers with “bear spray.” Many others shoved police and defied orders to stay out of the Capitol building and remain peaceful.
Once they made their way into the Capitol, the intruders chanted, “Enemies of the state,” and “Arrest Kate Brown” for nearly an hour before police finally cleared the area, OPB reported. Police arrested five people and charged them with crimes ranging from trespassing to assault.