By News-Register wire services • News-Register wire services • 

Nearman stripped of duties after opening capitol door; resignation sought

UPDATED: Tuesday, Jan. 12:

Oregon House Speaker Tina Kotek on Monday stripped a Republican state representative of his responsibilities and called for his resignation after he let rioters into the state Capitol during a special legislative session in December.

Yamhill County Commissioner Casey Kulla has also publicaly called for Nearman to step down

Security video shows Rep. Mike Nearman, of Independence, opening the door on Dec. 21 into the Oregon Capitol building, which was closed to the public because of the pandemic, during a session in which demonstrators, some armed, attacked authorities with bear spray, broke glass doors and called for the arrest of Gov. Kate Brown.

Joey Gibson, founder of Patriot Prayer, one of the groups that organized the demonstrations at Capitol protesting COVID-19 restrictions, posted a video on social media group Parler saying a state representative let the protesters in. 

“In Salem, the Oregon state capitol, a few weeks ago, we did attempt entry, but we had the legal, constitutional right to be in there during that meeting,” Gibson posted recently. “And we had a state rep, let me remind you, a state rep open that door for us, ok, because we had a legal right to be in there.”

OPB News reported that a source with knowledge of the matter said that Nearman, after leaving the building about 8:30 a.m., immediately walked around the Capitol and used his ID to enter, at which time police were wrestling with demonstrators.

OPB also reported that at least three men who attempted to storm the Oregon Capitol building last month took part in the failed insurrection at the U.S. Capitol last week, including David Medina of Sherwood, who posted a video online acknowledges he was in the Capitol building, OPB reported.

“Representative Nearman put every person in the Capitol in serious danger,” Kotek said in a news release. “As we tragically saw last week during the insurrection at the United States Capitol, the consequences could have been much worse had law enforcement not stepped in so quickly. I believe he should resign immediately.”

Kotek stripped Nearman of his committee assignments, rescinded his commission appointments and will bill him $2,000 for damage done after he let people inside, according to the news release.

Nearman has agreed to forfeit a badge granting access to the Capitol, give 24-hours notice before arriving there and not allow “non-authorized personnel” access to the building. Nearman read those terms on the House floor Monday afternoon, Oregon Public Broadcasting reported.

Nearman is also the subject of a criminal investigation. One of the chamber’s most conservative Republicans, he was sworn in for his fourth term Monday.

He did not immediately respond to a email from seeking comment, but told The Oregonian/OregonLive he would issue a statement Tuesday.

The Legislative session officially begins Tuesday, Jan. 19.

House Republican Leader Christine Drazan (R-Canby) released a statement Sunday saying the video is “difficult to watch without a profound sense of gratitude to the troopers who were able to prevent further violence that could have recklessly put more people in harm’s way.”

Drazen said legislators are not above the law and the investigation must be allowed to be completed.

“As we affirm the need for due process and the right of the public to fully engage in the work of the legislature, we commit to protect public safety and hold accountable to those who would willfully undermine that commitment,” she stated

Lawmakers have pledged to review Capitol safety rules and the possibility of increased security for the upcoming Legislative Session, which begins Jan. 19.

Security is being increased at state capitols throughout the country following a warning issued by the FBI of plans for armed protests at all 50 state capitals and in Washington ahead of President-elect Joe Biden’s Jan. 20 inauguration.

OSP released a statement last week saying they support peoples first amendment rights but will not tolerate criminal activities. 

“The security of the capitol is our priority, if you are considering any unlawful activities at the Oregon State Capitol or surrounding areas, please reconsider,” OSP stated. “If you are aware of anyone that intends to engage in these criminal acts, please report them to your local law enforcement or to the Oregon State Police immediately.


In calling for
Nearman’s immediate resignation, Kulla said he believes Nearman’s actions, if intentional, warrants expulsion, which he said “should be done under only the strictest scrutiny.”

“I feel that willfully and intentionally endangering the lives of police, staff, reporters, colleagues and protesters meets this standard,” Kulla said. “The video evidence, his lack of a statement, and his ties to groups that support violence against democratic institutions all point to this being an intentional act.”

In Oregon, any legislative vacancies are filled by county commissioners within the district. In the case of multicounty legislative districts, each county is entitled to one vote per 1,000 electors. Nominations are made by the local political party’s precinct committee people within the district — only the party of which previously held the seat.

When asked about Nearman’s actions, Yamhill County Commissioner Mary Starrett only referenced protests by “violent Leftists.”

“For the last year they have looted, burned and vandalized Portland businesses (many of them minority-owned) along with public buildings. They have assaulted innocent people, law enforcement officers and reporters,” she told the News-Register in an email. “The Newberg Dundee Police Department building was spray painted with BLM graffiti and now you’re asking for a comment on a State Legislator opening a door?”

Commissioner Lindsay Berschauer said she doesn’t condone violence of any kind, but also didn’t comment directly on Nearman’s actions.

“The legislature has its due process and we should let the system work as it is designed to,” she said, adding she thinks residents are more concerned about the economic impact from Gov. Kate Brown’s COVID-19 restrictions that was being protested at the state capitol.

“Speaker Kotek needs to start focusing on the layers of crises happening in households and on main streets across the state,” Berschauer said. “She can reinforce her commitment to finding solutions by safely opening the Legislative process to the public, as the Oregon constitution requires.”

Polk County commissioners did not respond to requests for comment by press time Monday. 


While Nearman is listed as R-Independence in representing at the state, the city of Independence made a point to clarify who represents their residents in the state house.

“Rep. Paul Evans serves as the representative for all of Independence, Monmouth, and parts of West Salem. Rep. Mike Nearman is NOT the elected state representative for Independence,” the city posted on its Twitter account on Saturday. “Rep. Nearman lives in rural Polk County, and receives his mail through the Independence post office; hence the Independence address. He does not live in the city.”

- - -

ORIGINAL STORY:

A Republican state representative let protesters into the Oregon Capitol building, which was closed to the public, during a December special legislative session where demonstrations outside turned violent, the Speaker of the House said Thursday, Jan. 7.

During the far-right protest, which was held in opposition to statewide COVID-19 restrictions and attracted hundreds of people, protestors assaulted reporters, attacked authorities with bear spray and broke glass doors.

As lawmakers inside the building discussed coronavirus-related bills, around 50 protesters briefly breached the building. The Capitol has been closed to the public as part of a pandemic safety measure.

House Speaker Tina Kotek said during a news conference about the Capitol operations safety plan that Rep. Mike Nearman, R-Independence, had allowed protesters into the building.

Nearman represents District 23, which includes most of rural McMinnville, Amity, Dayton and parts of rural Sheridan.

Protesters were eventually cleared from the building.

[See surveillance video posted by KOIN here.]

Kotek called Nearman's actions “reckless and dangerous.”

“This was a serious, serious breach of public trust. His actions put staff and legislators and law enforcement in danger,” Kotek said. “Legislative staff and members felt terrorized by the incursion, particularly our members who are members of color.”

It is not immediately clear if and what consequences Nearman will face. Attempts to reach Nearman Thursday weren't immediately successful.

Lawmakers have pledged to review Capitol safety rules and the possibility of increased security for the upcoming Legislative Session, which begins Jan. 19.

Protests at the Capitol are not uncommon. Most recently hundreds of supporters of President Donald Trump — many of them armed — gathered Wednesday at the statehouse and burned a life-size puppet of Gov. Kate Brown, a Democrat, in effigy. Police in riot gear declared an unlawful assembly and cleared the demonstrators by the late afternoon.

One person was arrested on suspicion of harassment and disorderly conduct during the protest. A second man was arrested on trespassing charges after the protest when state troopers found him after nightfall trying to enter the Capitol while armed.

On Wednesday night Oregon State Police said they were aware of “rumors” that armed groups are considering taking over the state Capitol and warned that anyone attempting that would be arrested.

The agency also asked Oregonians in a brief statement released late Wednesday to report anyone who may be planning an armed takeover to authorities.

Comments

Jean

He should resign immediately.

Rotwang

What's the beef? Legislative sessions are supposed to be open to the public. This one was not.

Tyler C

Rotwang, The session was obviously closed due to covid-19 concerns. Nearman intentionally let in an armed mob who went on to injure 6 of the police protecting the Capital that day. At the very least, Nearman should resign.

tagup

Defending the indefensible.....seen a lot of that lately.....

madmacs

He should be held liable for whatever the intruders did, and resign.

Treehouse

Not even remotely a peaceful group. They attacked and fought with our Oregon State Patrol, who acted with immense restraint and dignity.

Shame on them all and any who support their violence.

runnermagda13

All of our elected officials should make their response to this clear. Do they condemn Nearman's actions and call for his expulsion or will they be complicit?

LML

its not like he held the door for them. Looks like he exited. Those of you that want him to resign are all democrats....

yamhillbilly2

Why such an ignorant statement? Nearman ‘exits’ to open the door for the protesters. He walks around to the South entrance and uses his ID to get right back in. Was he going outside just to pee in the bushes, or something?

tagup

I wonder if the 6 State Troopers that got pepper sprayed were Democrats......

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