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Oregon GOP Rep. Nearman Ousted         06/11 06:16


   SALEM, Ore. (AP) -- 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."

   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.

   "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.

   Nearman was seen on security video opening a door to protesters on Dec. 21 
as lawmakers met in emergency session to deal with economic fallout from the 
coronavirus pandemic. Protesters barged into the building, which was closed to 
the public because of coronavirus safety protocols, got into shoving matches 
with police and sprayed officers with bear spray.

   "It's impossible to overstate the seriousness of the reason we are here 
today," Holvey said during the committee hearing. "Rep. Nearman enabled armed, 
violent protesters to enter the Capitol, breaching the security of the Capitol, 
which was officially closed to the public, and also endangered the authorized 
staff and legislators inside the building."

   Hundreds of people provided written testimony to the House Special Committee 
On December 21, 2020, which was composed of three Democrats and three 

   Some who testified excoriated Nearman as a seditionist. Others praised him 
for letting people into the Capitol, saying residents should be allowed to 
attend even though hearings are livestreamed on video.

   "Mike Nearman's behavior ... was abhorrent and anti-democratic," David Alba 
said. "Furthermore, by aiding and supporting extremists, he has placed people's 
lives in danger. He should be removed from office and he is not fit to 
represent my district."

   But Nearman's supporters said they elected him and the House should not 
expel him. One supporter suggested the 22 GOP lawmakers who asked him to resign 
should be voted out of office.

   "May your Republican constituents take no mercy on you," Casey Ocupe said in 
written testimony.

   House Speaker Tina Kotek credited riot police, who finally pushed out the 
Dec. 21 protesters, with preventing a full-scale assault.

   Nearman also faces two misdemeanor criminal charges and has said he will 
seek a trial by jury.

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