Oregon GOP legislator ousted over state Capitol breach
SALEM, Oregon (AP) - Republican lawmakers voted with a Democratic majority in the Oregon House of Representatives for the historic move to expel a Republican member who admitted violent far-right protesters into the Capitol on December 21.
MEPs said in plenary that this could be the most important vote they have ever cast. They then proceeded Thursday night to expel an uncompromising MP Mike Nearman with a 59-1 vote. This was the first time in its 160-year history that a member was expelled from the House of Representatives. The only vote against the expulsion order was Nearman's.
Rep. Paul Holvey, a Democrat who chaired a committee that unanimously recommended Nearman's expulsion on Thursday, reminded lawmakers of the December 21st events that were a sinister premonition of the much more serious January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol .
"On the morning of December 21st, a few hundred demonstrators - some of them heavily armed and in body armor - arrived at the Capitol for a protest with the intent to illegally break into the building, presumably occupying it and disrupting Oregon’s proceedings Legislature, ”said Holvey. “Employees and legislators were horrified. We can only speculate what would have happened if they had gotten in all the way. "
Nearman said he let the protesters in believing the Capitol, which was closed to the public to protect against the spread of the coronavirus, should have been open. The attack came during the height of the pandemic.
But even Republicans, who often bitterly oppose democratic climate change initiatives and some other bills, said the crowd outside the Capitol that day was not made up of voters willing to participate peacefully in the democratic process.
Some carried guns. Some called false QAnon conspiracy theories about the kidnapping of babies by Democrats. They carried American flags, banners for former President Donald Trump and a sign calling for the arrest of Democratic Governor Kate Brown. They broke windows and attacked journalists.
"Nobody should have opened the door to the people who were here that day," said Republican Daniel Bonham, a member of Holvey's special committee.
The final straw for Republican House members came on June 4 when a video surfaced choreographing Nearman letting protesters into the Capitol a few days before the actual event. To his co-legislators, this was evidence that it was a deliberate act, which Nearman admitted. All 22 of his Republicans in the House of Representatives wrote to him on Monday urging him to step down.
As lawmakers gathered to decide Nearman's fate, a few dozen people gathered outside the Capitol, waving American flags, and one with a sign that read "I am Mike Nearman." One of them repeatedly kicked a metal door, sending a bang down a marble hallway in the building.
Nearman was seen on a security video opening a door for protesters on December 21 as lawmakers met in an emergency session to deal with the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic. Protesters broke into the building, which was closed to the public due to coronavirus safety protocols, caught matches with police and sprayed officers with bear spray.
"It is impossible to overestimate the seriousness of the reason we are here today," Holvey said during the committee hearing. "Representative. Nearman allowed armed, violent protesters to enter the Capitol, breaching the security of the Capitol, which was officially closed to the public, and also endangering the authorized personnel and lawmakers in the building. ”
Hundreds of people gave written testimonies to the House Special Committee, which consisted of three Democrats and three Republicans on December 21, 2020.
Some who testified berated Nearman as a rioter. Others praised him for letting people into the Capitol and said residents should be allowed to attend, although the hearings will be televised.
"Mike Nearman's behavior ... was hideous and anti-democratic," said David Alba. “He has also put people's lives at risk by helping and supporting extremists. He should be removed from office and is not suitable to represent my district. "
But Nearman's supporters said they voted for him and the house shouldn't be ruling him out. One supporter suggested that the 22 GOP lawmakers who asked him to step down should be voted out of office.
"May your Republican voters have no mercy on you," Casey Ocupe said in a written testimony.
House spokeswoman Tina Kotek credited riot police, which eventually ousted the December 21 protesters, for preventing a widespread attack.
Nearman has also faced two criminal charges for offense and has announced that he will seek a jury trial.
Follow Andrew Selsky on Twitter at https://twitter.com/andrewselsky
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