An Oregon state representative, who faced widespread criticism for allowing anti-lockdown protesters to enter the state Capitol during a Dec. 21 special session, defended his actions on Wednesday and said he has faced “mob justice” from the House speaker.
Video from the incident show state Rep. Mike Nearman, a Republican, walk out a door that protesters were standing on the other side of. Two protesters run into the building and appear to encourage others to follow them.
State police officers stopped the protesters in the vestibule in a brief altercation. Five individuals have been arrested in connection with the disruption, according to KOIN 6. Nearman is also under criminal investigation.
“I don’t condone violence nor participate in it,” Nearman said in a statement, according to ABC 17. “I do think that when Article IV, Section 14 of the Oregon Constitution says that the legislative proceedings shall be ‘open,’ it means open, and as anyone who has spent the last nine months staring at a screen doing virtual meetings will tell you, it’s not the same thing as being open.”
The state House was conducting a special session on Dec. 23 to consider new coronavirus pandemic restrictions.
Nearman accused House Speaker Tina Kotek of deliberately releasing the footage of the incident after the Jan. 6 attack on Capitol Hill in Washington for political purposes. He said his family has been the target of “criticism, attacks at my home and threats via email social media and phone” since the footage was released.
“The fact that she was in possession of a video for sixteen days, and only chose to reveal the video and implicate me on the day after an ugly mob descended on the Capitol in Washington, DC, tells me that her motivations are about politics and not about safety,” Nearman said. “I hope for due process, and not the mob justice to which Speaker Kotek is subjecting me.”
Kotek has denied allegations that releasing the footage was politically motivated — or that she even had possession of the video, as Nearman claimed.
“The claim that the Speaker had possession of the video is not accurate,” Danny Moran, Kotek’s communications director, told the Washington Examiner. “She did not have possession of the tape. Oregon State Police confirmed to her that Rep. Nearman was on video opening the door for rioters. The tape was released to media members after they filed public records requests, which Legislative Administration fulfilled.”
Kotek took three actions against Nearman on Monday in response to letting protesters into the Capitol. The speaker stripped him of two committee assignments, fined him $2,000 to pay for damages to the door, and joined other members of the state Legislature to file a complaint against Nearman with the Legislative Equity Office.
Following the incident, Nearman also had to surrender his access card and must give 24-hour notice before entering the Capitol.