Oregon House Republican Leader Christine Drazan, of Canby, released a statement Sunday critical of one of her own caucus members who, in a recently released security video, appeared to open a door to allow violent protesters to enter the closed state Capitol building last month.
In her statement, Drazan said that while she does not agree with the decision to close the Capitol to the public, she has consistently condemned “intimidation, violence and destruction” in the name of peaceful protests — regardless of the demonstrators’ cause or political affiliation.
The actions of Rep. Mike Nearman, R-Independence, who appeared to knowingly leave open a door for right-wing protesters to enter the Capitol and clash with police, led to an “elevated risk for violence” for the entire community, Drazan said.
“The melee with police which follows is difficult to watch without a profound sense of gratitude to the troopers who were able to prevent further violence that could have recklessly put more people in harm’s way,” she said.
Drazan said Nearman’s actions are under investigation.
“If the investigation finds that actions taken were criminal, legislators are not above the law and will be held responsible,” she said.
On Thursday, Jan. 7, Oregon Speaker of the House Rep. Tina Kotek, D-Portland, said Nearman’s action to open the door while protesters stood outside was “a serious, serious breach of public trust.”
Nearman is accused of letting in the protesters — some of whom were armed — while the building was closed to the public and a special session to address the ongoing pandemic was underway on Dec. 21.
Protesters were demonstrating against the impacts of Gov. Kate Brown’s continued shutdowns of schools and businesses, and claimed they had the right to view lawmakers’ deliberations — though the sessions were being livestreamed online as well as televisions that were set up outside.
Drazan said she affirms the right of the public to fully engage in the work of the legislature, but she’s committed to protecting public safety and holding those who undermine public safety accountable.
On Monday, Kotek sent a new statement calling for Nearman’s resignation.
“Representative Nearman put every person in the Capitol in serious danger,” Kotek said. “As we tragically saw last week during the insurrection at the United States Capitol, the consequences could have been much worse had law enforcement not stepped in so quickly.
“His actions have created immense fear among legislators and Capitol staff. I believe he should resign immediately because he has already breached the public trust and endangered our ability to safely conduct the people’s business.”
Kotek stripped Nearman of his committee assignments and rescinded his commission appointments, according to the statement. She is also invoicing him for $2,000 to cover the costs to fix the damage that resulted when he allowed the rioters to enter the Capitol vestibule.
Kotek said she would join other House members in filing a formal conduct complaint with the Legislative Equity Office, alleging that Rep. Nearman’s actions have created a hostile work environment in the Capitol.
Nearman read a statement on the House floor agreeing to immediate safety measures, including that he will not let any non-authorized personnel into the Capitol, will rescind his badge access to the Capitol, and will provide 24 hours’ notice before each time he comes to the building.
“This will allow notice to be provided to all Capitol occupants so they can adjust their plans if they do not feel safe working in the building while he is present,” Kotek’s statement said.