Oregon GOP legislator ousted over state Capitol breach

Republican lawmakers voted with majority Democrats in the Oregon House of Representatives to take the historic step of expelling a Republican member who let violent, far-right protesters into the state Capitol on Dec. 21.

Legislators said on the House floor that this could be the most important vote they ever cast. They then proceeded Thursday night to expel an unapologetic Rep. Mike Nearman with a 59-1 vote, marking the first time a member has been expelled by the House in its 160-year history. The only vote against the resolution for expulsion was Nearman’s own.

Rep. Paul Holvey, a Democrat who chaired a committee that earlier Thursday unanimously recommended Nearman’s expulsion, reminded lawmakers of the events of Dec. 21, which were an eerie foreshadowing of the much more serious Jan. 6 assault on the U.S. Capitol.

"On the morning of Dec. 21st, a couple hundred protesters — some of them heavily armed and wearing body armor — arrived at the Capitol for a protest, with the intent to illegally enter and presumably occupy the building and interrupt the proceedings of the Oregon Legislature," Holvey said. "Staff and legislators were terrified. We can only speculate what would have happened if they were able to get all the way in."

The Oregon State Capitol Building in Salem was designed in Art Deco style by architect Francis Keally of the New York firm of Trowbridge & Livingston. It was completed in 1938 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Nearman said he let the protesters in because he believes the Capitol, which has been closed to the public to protect against spread of the coronavirus, should have been open. The assault happened during a peak of the pandemic.

But even Republicans, who are often bitterly opposed to Democratic initiatives on climate change and some other bills, said the crowd outside the Capitol that day was not made up of constituents who wanted to peacefully engage in the democratic process.

Some were carrying guns. Some shouted false QAnon conspiracy theories about Democrats kidnapping babies. They carried American flags, banners for former President Donald Trump and a sign calling for the arrest of Democratic Gov. Kate Brown. They broke windows and assaulted journalists.

RELATED: Oregon lawmaker faces expulsion in assault on state Capitol

"Nobody should have opened the door to the people who were here that day," said Rep. Daniel Bonham, a Republican and a member Holvey’s special committee.

The final straw for Republican House members came on June 4, when video emerged showing Nearman choreographing how he would let protesters into the Capitol a few days before it actually happened. For his fellow lawmakers, that was proof it was a premeditated act, which Nearman acknowledged. All 22 of his fellow House Republicans wrote him on Monday, strongly recommending he resign.

As lawmakers gathered to decide Nearman’s fate, a few dozen people waving American flags and one carrying a sign saying "I am Mike Nearman" gathered outside the Capitol. One repeatedly kicked a metal door, sending booms through a marble hallway of the building.

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