For the first time in its history, the Oregon Legislature has voted to expel a sitting member: state Rep. Mike Nearman (R-Independence), who coordinated with armed extremists to allow them inside the state Capitol last December.
On Thursday evening, the Oregon House voted 59-1 to expel Nearman. The only dissenting vote was Nearman himself.
“The facts are clear that Mr. Nearman unapologetically coordinated and planned a breach of the Oregon State Capitol,” House Speaker Tina Kotek said Thursday in a statement. “His actions were blatant and deliberate, and he has shown no remorse for jeopardizing the safety of every person in the Capitol that day. Given the extraordinary circumstances, this was the only reasonable path forward.”
Earlier this month, Oregon Public Broadcasting and other media outlets obtained a video that showed Nearman had coordinated days in advance to allow gun-toting protesters into the Capitol building while lawmakers were inside. That video, of Nearman plotting “Operation Hall Pass” with far-right figures, eroded any will from the House Republican caucus to protect him. On Monday, his colleagues in the GOP sent him a letter asking him to resign.
Nearman refused. On Thursday, as a special committee debated his expulsion, Nearman argued that state lawmakers had violated the state constitution by closing the building to the public to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
“They never should have excluded the public from the public’s building,” he said.
Armed conservative protesters had repeatedly gathered outside the Capitol in 2020, seething at COVID-19 lockdowns of restaurants and other businesses. But the gravity of Nearman’s action only became clear after Jan. 6, when loyalists to President Donald Trump surged into the U.S. Capitol in a failed insurrection.
On Thursday evening, a small crowd of Nearman’s supporters gathered at a side door of the Capitol and watched a live broadcast on a flatscreen television as 59 Oregon representatives voted to expel him.
“Any meeting or session of a governing body is supposed to be open to the public,” one protest leader told the crowd, consisting of about 40 people. “Everybody who votes to keep this building closed is breaking the law.”
The small crowd huddled around the small tent that sheltered the television as the live broadcast started. As the expulsion hearing began, many chanted, “Traitors! Traitors! Traitors!” at the Capitol building and the television screen as different representatives stood on the Capitol floor and offered testimony.
After the session ended, the small crowd moved to the back of the Capitol building on Court Street hoping to meet with Nearman himself. Instead, most verbally accosted legislators who voted for Rep. Nearman’s expulsion. The crowd split in two, targeting both exits of the Capitol building parking structure exits. “Treason! Traitors!” the crowd yelled as state legislators exited the building in their vehicles.
The Western States Center, a pro-democracy nonprofit that watchdogs extremist groups and has demanded Nearman’s resignation for months, said Thursday’s vote drew an important line in the sand.
“Oregonians were able to watch as Nearman, caught on security tape, helped violent extremists—including some who were armed—bypass security and enter the locked Capitol building, where they scuffled with law enforcement and threatened legislators and staff,” executive director Eric Ward wrote.
“It was clear to us then that he must be removed, but it wasn’t clear whether partisan politics would allow it,” Ward said. “We applaud legislators for overcoming partisan and personal differences to take a firm stand today against extremism.”