AROUND OREGON: Video shows state legislator letting demonstrators into Capitol in Salem

Capitol surveillance footage shows state Rep. Mike Nearman, R-Independence, allowing demonstrators into the building. (Screengrab.)

A video released Friday shows state Rep. Mike Nearman, R-Independence, allowing a confrontational group of demonstrators into the state Capitol during a special session last month.

The release comes after House Speaker Tina Kotek, D-Portland, said Nearman allowed the breach and created a dangerous situation for lawmakers gathered inside for a one-day special session. Kotek made the remarks during a press call Thursday.

The Legislature is closed to the public because of the pandemic. During the Dec. 21 session, a group of protesters gathered to protest Covid restrictions.

Capitol surveillance footage, obtained through a public records request, shows a group of protesters milling outside a glass door, some carrying long rifles, on the building’s west entrance.

The video shows Nearman exiting the building by pushing the door open. He does not deliberately unlock it from the inside. A demonstrator can be clearly seen standing outside as Nearman exits. Nearman pushes the door open wide enough so that the demonstrator could enter. Nearman offers no resistance.

The demonstrator is shown in the video rushing in and is followed by another. They both beckon the crowd inside.

From there, police emerge and struggle to push the group outside, the video shows. The six officers try to keep the crowd at bay. Officers in riot gear arrive around five minutes later and push the crowd outside.

From outside the building, a substance is sprayed on the officers who retreat behind a door to another room that leads to the main building. In a statement issued later that day, Oregon State Police said the incident occurred at about 8:30 a.m. and officers were sprayed with mace.

With police in retreat, the video shows the crowd streaming into the entryway, many covering their faces from the lingering mace.

Inside, police in riot gear stood at a doorway blocking the crowd from entering the main building. After the breach, the demonstration was declared an unlawful assembly and at least two arrests were made involving the confrontation with police.

Nearman did not respond to phone calls to his office and home for comment.Sent detailed written questions, Nearman responded by email on Friday that he had no statement to make.

Representing a district just west of Salem, Nearman was reelected in November with 58% of the vote. Among his backers included the Oregon Chiefs of Police.

Kotek’s remarks came a day after a mob of President Donald Trump’s supporters ransacked the nation’s capitol seeking to overturn the results of the presidential election. Kotek said that allowing the crowd inside terrorized staff. She said the move is out of the “Trump playbook and very much caters to white supremacist motivations.”

Kotek said she is looking at avenues for disciplining Nearman.

As of Friday afternoon, neither House Republican Leader Christine Drazan nor Deputy Leader Daniel Bonham had issued a statement concerning Nearman. Neither returned a phone call seeking comment.

Tom Pessemier, Independence city manager, sent an email to multiple media outlets on Friday saying Nearman lives outside city limits in rural Polk County. While Nearman has an Independence address, the city is represented by Rep. Paul Evans, D-Monmouth, Pessemier said.

“Rep. Mike Nearman is NOT the elected state representative for Independence,” said Pessemier.

However, Nearman lists Independence as his address on his legislative webpage.

Contact reporter Jake Thomas at 503-575-1251 or [email protected] or @jakethomas2009.