Kotek: GOP’s Nearman let right-wing protesters into Capitol

Civic Affairs

Remarks made during press conference about the legislature's pandemic-related operations safety plan

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — A Republican state lawmaker is under investigation by the Oregon State Police for letting violent right-wing protesters into the State Capitol during a special legislative session last month.

Rep. Mike Nearman, a Republican from Independence, “did open a door to let demonstrators into the building,” Oregon Speaker of the House Tina Kotek said. “This was a serious, serious breach of public trust.”

Kotek, D-Portland, made the remarks during a press conference about the legislature’s pandemic-related operations safety plan on Wednesday.

Rep. Mike Nearman, R-Independence, in a photo on his Oregon legislative page site

Nearman is accused of letting in the protesters — some of whom were armed — while the building was closed to the public and a special session to address the ongoing pandemic was underway on December 21, 2020. The protesters were angry about Gov. Kate Brown’s shutdown of businesses because of COVID-19.

Kotek said she and others are looking at possible penalties for Nearman that could include expulsion.

Officials with the Oregon State Police confirmed they have building surveillance video they’re reviewing.

Four arrests were made during the incident that day, which was declared an unlawful assembly, and the glass door to the side of the State Capitol was broken. The incident during the special session delayed lawmakers convened to pass pandemic relief bills, which they were eventually successful at.

KOIN 6 News also learned OSP is doing enhanced safety training so lawmakers know specific evacuation routes and the things that could happen in the building if a demonstration gets out of hand.

The State Capitol will remain closed to the public when the regular session starts later this month. Public hearings will be held virtually.

Between the invisible threat of COVID-19 and the breach of the US Capitol and the State Capitol, Oregon lawmakers admit they’re nervous about the upcoming 6-month session that begins January 19.

“It’s a new way to govern because of the virtual issue, the threat of violence, disease. I could go on and on,” she said.

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