A Republican member of the Oregon House of Representatives has been expelled from the state legislative body for illegally allowing dozens of far right individuals, some of them armed with guns, into the state capitol at a time when coronavirus protocols limited public access to the building.
The individuals that Rep. Mike Nearman (R) allowed into the state capitol on December 21, 2020, eventually got into physical altercations with law enforcement, spraying officers with bear spray. Before entering the building, the group had been protesting outside against the restrictions, with many chanting QAnon conspiracy theories and some bizarrely alleging that Democratic lawmakers had kidnapped children.
Security footage of the incident shows Nearman leaving the state capitol building that day, and allowing people to enter the doorway he exited, while the Oregon House of Representatives was in session.
Assembling to determine whether Nearman should remain in office or not, the Oregon House voted 59-1 for his removal, with Nearman being the sole vote against the measure.
“Rep. Mike Nearman intentionally allowed armed protestors, occupiers, to illegally enter the building during the peak of the pandemic,” Rep. Paul Holvey, a Democrat, said during debate on Nearman’s ouster. “He coordinated with his supporters and extremist groups and then opened a door to let them in.”
Nearman was the only Republican to speak during the debate on his status as a lawmaker. In his remarks, he railed against not having due process.
“The party in power doesn’t have to be fair — might makes right. So, if that’s what you want to do, let’s do what the people have sent us here to do. Let’s decide,” he said.
Despite his protestations against Democrats, the vote for Nearman’s expulsion was bipartisan, with 22 Republicans joining in affirming the decision also. Leaders from both parties agreed his removal was warranted.
“The facts are clear that Mr. Nearman unapologetically coordinated and planned a breach of the Oregon state Capitol,” Oregon House Speaker Tina Kotek, a Democrat, said after the vote. “His actions were blatant and deliberate, and he has shown no remorse for jeopardizing the safety of every person in the Capitol that day. Given the extraordinary circumstances, this was the only reasonable path forward.”
“[Nearman] made a decision to intentionally come up with a plan to let people into the building [when] he did not know how that would turn out and he was comfortable with that,” Rep. Christine Drazan, the Oregon House Republican Leader, also said. “I am not comfortable with that. There could easily have been a death on that day.”
Nearman’s actions seemed to be coordinated with the group of extremists prior to the date that they illegally stormed the building. In a video released earlier this month, the lawmaker was seen speaking to a group of supporters regarding the plan to enter the state capitol building, which he called “Operation Hall Pass,” giving what appeared to be instructions on how to contact him to open the door, while saying he would deny knowing about it if asked.
“We are talking about setting up Operation Hall Pass, which I don’t know anything about; and if you accuse me of knowing something about it, I’ll deny it,” Nearman said to the group in that video. “But there would be some person’s cell phone which might be … but that is just random numbers that I spewed out; that’s not anybody’s actual cell phone. And if you say, ‘I’m at the west entrance’ during the session and text to that number there, that somebody might exit that door while you’re standing there. But I don’t know anything about that, I don’t have anything to do with that, and if I did I wouldn’t say that I did.”