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Officials claim Oregon legislator allowed protesters into state Capitol building during closed session


A Republican state legislator may have let protesters into the Oregon Capitol last month during a closed session, according to state police and officials, resulting in a showdown that left two people arrested.

“Oregon State Police (OSP) has confirmed and informed us that Representative Mike Nearman did open a door to allow demonstrators into the building,” Oregon Speaker of the House Tina Kotek said Thursday during a press briefing on Capitol security plans.

A spokesman for the state police confirmed to CNN that Kotek’s statement was accurate but did not provide further details on an investigation or whether Nearman could face charges.

CNN reached out to Nearman’s office but did not receive a response.

Wednesday’s riot by supporters of President Donald Trump at the US Capitol on Wednesday left five people dead. It was the latest and most egregious of legislative security breaches since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic. State capitol buildings nationwide have faced protesters responding to lockdown mandates.

The Oregon breach on December 21 took place as its state legislature gathered in Salem for a one-day special session on proposed relief for Covid-19 and summer wildfires.

Protesters demonstrated outside the building, objecting to Oregon’s Covid-19 restrictions in a “Reopen Oregon” rally, as reported by CNN affiliate KATU. The building is closed to the public due to coronavirus precautions.

Many held signs supporting Trump, according to CNN affiliate KPTV. Others openly carried weapons.

According to OSP, shortly after the incident, several protesters entered the Capitol about 8:30 a.m. as a then-unnamed individual opened a door and exited.

As the group moved toward the main chamber, they were confronted by OSP and Salem police in a vestibule, according to OSP. The altercation became physical and officers used “inert Pepper Balls” to keep the group at bay.

One protester allegedly sprayed a type of chemical irritant at officers, and another used a smoke-emitting device.

After repeated warnings by police to leave the building, two people refused and were taken into custody. Four protesters were arrested by the end of the day. Police soon declared the rally an unlawful assembly.

The legislative session continued uninterrupted, yet lawmakers mentioned hearing chants from outside the building.

Nearman has served since 2015. He was re-elected in November by more than 20 points.

“Representative Nearman’s actions were completely unacceptable,” Kotek said. “It’s serious, and his behavior was reckless and dangerous.”

Kotek said Nearman is likely to face discipline in the House, whatever the OSP decides.

“We are looking into our options of how we can address his actions,” she said. “We’ve been waiting for further advance on the criminal investigation, but we are not waiting until that’s concluded at this point.”

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