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Weeks before a mob forcibly entered the U.S. Capitol on January 6 to disrupt or stop the official tally of President Biden’s election victory, a group of far-right protesters violated the Oregon Capitol in Salem. And State Representative Mike Nearman (right) let them in, according to security footage obtained by The Oregonian and Oregon Public Broadcasting in January. Marion County District Attorney Paige Clarkson announced Friday that Nearman will face criminal charges for “unlawfully and knowingly” opening the door to rioters on December 21 “with the intention of gaining an advantage or harm others “.
Surveillance video shows Nearman, one of the most conservative members of the Oregon legislature, exited the Capitol through a side door near where the far-right group had gathered to protest COVID-19 security measures while the House was in session. Two protesters rushed over and waved at other protesters, and Nearman “quickly walked around the building and entered from the opposite side.” OPB reports. State and Salem police arrived and managed to repel the rioters, who attempted to force their way through, eventually pushing back the police with a mass of bears.
“Oregon State Police and Salem Police confined the noisy crowd, some of whom were armed with guns, into a lobby of the Capitol and eventually removed them from the building.” The Oregonian reports. At least five people involved in the breach and the property damage were arrested, and “at least three people who participated in the Salem protest continued to participate in the attack on the US Capitol.” OBP reports.
After the video was released, Nearman was stripped of all committee assignments, relieved of his building pass, billed $ 2,700 in damages and asked to resign by Oregon House President Tina Kotek (D). Nearman, 57, has now been charged with two misdemeanors, first degree official misconduct and second degree criminal trespass. He is due in court on May 11, and if he does not, an arrest warrant will be issued for his arrest, according to court documents.
Kotek and House Majority Leader Barbara Smith (D) reiterated their calls for her resignation on Friday. Republicans in the Legislature have mostly remained silent about Nearman’s conduct, but Republican House Leader Christine Drazan said in January that she would support the results of a criminal investigation. “State legislators are the voices of their community,” said Drazan The Washington Post the Saturday. “They are not above the law.”
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