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PORTLAND, OREGON — Official accountability for the January 6th insurrection at the U.S. Capitol is not coming quickly. GOP politicians who saluted, inspired, or even abetted the militants who stormed the Capitol chanting, “Hang Mike Pence!” have not been investigated. And Republicans in the Senate have blocked the formation of a bipartisan commission to probe that day’s dark events. In striking contrast, lawmakers in Oregon, from both parties, have moved decisively to expel a Republican state representative who literally opened the door for a group of armed protesters who staged a similar incursion of the state capitol in Salem last December.
State Rep. Mike Nearman is the first state representative ever to be removed from office in Oregon. The vote to expel him was 59-1, with Nearman casting the only vote in his favor. (In January Nearman released a statement insisting: “I don’t condone violence nor participate in it.”)
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Nearman — whose wacky official bio touted his past work as a grave digger and a degree in computer science that confirmed he was “educated beyond his intelligence”— has represented a rural district west of the capital city since 2015. On the morning of December 21st, right-wing agitators, including members of the Washington-state based Patriot Prayer, assembled to protest the fact that state business was being conducted behind closed doors. Because of Covid restrictions, the Capitol building had been closed to the public, but the sessions were broadcast, and public input was enabled via phone and video links.
The protest quickly turned to vandalism as some attempted to break down doors to the building. Nearman was caught on surveillance video opening a door to a group of agitators, some of whom were armed with long guns. The agitators entered the state Capitol, where Nearman’s colleagues were in session. The intruders soon clashed with State Police in riot gear, who were able to turn back the incursion despite being maced with bear spray. Four agitators were arrested.
In recent days, another video surfaced making plain that Nearman had aided the agitators on purpose. In the video, filmed in advance of the incursion, Nearman is seen talking to a crowd of right-wing activists about what he calls “Operation Hall Pass.” He gives out what is reportedly his personal cellphone number and tells the activists how they might text that number with information about which Capitol entrance they were gathering at and “someone might exit that door while you’re standing there.”
“We had a state Rep., let me remind you, a state Rep. open that door for us,” Joey Gibson, the founder of Patriot Prayer, said in a video posted to Parler in January.
Prior to being expelled, Nearman had faced a unanimous call to resign from his GOP state house colleagues, who wrote: “Given the newest evidence that has come to light regarding the events of December 21, 2020, it is our beliefs as friends and colleagues that it is in the best interest of your caucus, your family, yourself, and the state of Oregon for you to step down from your office.”
But Nearman had remained defiant, telling local Rush Limbaugh wannabe Lars Larson, “I’m not gonna resign,” and instead called for the resignation of the speaker of the state house, a Democrat. “At the end of the day, it’s not about safety,” Nearman told Larson. “They don’t want you in the building. They don’t want your listeners in the building. And they don’t want people like me in the building when they pass their vaccine mandates and they wanna take away your guns and all that kinda stuff.”
In addition to his historic expulsion, Nearman has been charged with a pair of misdemeanor crimes in relation to the state capitol incursion.
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