The breach of the U.S. Capitol building on January 6, 2021, made headlines around the world. But you might not know that a similar incident happened just weeks before thatin December 2020. A group of armed far-right demonstrators broke into the Oregon State Capitol to express their outrage over ongoing COVID-19 restrictions in their state. One Oregon legislator has now been removed from his role and faces criminal charges for assisting them. Here, Election Central takes a closer look at this story.
On December 21, 2020, a group of demonstrators gathered outside the Oregon State Capitol building to protest ongoing COVID-19 restrictions. Many in the crowd were armed or wearing body armor. They carried Trump flags and signs that read “Arrest Kate Brown,” Oregon’s Democratic governor. At least fifty of the demonstrators were able to get inside, where they fought with police officers to make their way even further into the building. Outside, the rest of the crowd continued to break windows and assault journalists. Six police officers were injured, and several people were arrested. At least three of the people also participated in the U.S. Capitol riot just weeks later.
Surveillance footage showed Republican Representative Mike Nearman exiting the locked Capitol building where a group of protestors were waiting to get in. In doing so, he purposely allowed the protestors to enter through that door. Then he circled around the building and re-entered through the back. Video footage also shows Nearman speaking to a crowd days before the riot, saying that if they were to show up at the State Capitol and text him, he might be able to let them in.
In response to his actions, Representative Nearman was removed from all of his legislative committees, told to turn in his Capitol access badge, and was required to give 24-hours’ notice before entering the building. In March, Nearman was also billed more than $2,700 by the Legislative Assembly to pay for repairs to the building. Last Thursday, Nearman’s fellow legislators voted 59 to 1 to expel him from his elected office. (The sole “no” vote was cast by Nearman himself.) This marked the first time in history that an Oregon legislator has been expelled from office.
Nearman was also taken to court on criminal charges on May 11, 2021. He is charged with first-degree official misconduct, and second-degree criminal trespass. Both charges are misdemeanors, but they do carry possible jail time.
In his remarks to his colleagues, Rep. Nearman, who has served in the Oregon State Legislature since 2015, did not show any remorse about putting his colleagues in danger. He defended his actions, saying that although he did not support taking violent action, he believed the Capitol should be open to the public. (The building has been closed due to COVID-19 restrictions.) Nearman also denied that the cell phone number he gave to the crowd was his real number.