A Republican lawmaker in Oregon charged with “knowingly” letting rioters into the state’s Capitol during protests against the coronavirus restrictions appeared to tell people to text him and he would let them into the building as part of something called “Operation Hall Pass.”
“Which I don’t know anything about, and if you accuse me of knowing anything about it, I will deny it,” Polk County Rep Mike Nearman said in a recently resurfaced video of the presentation from 16 December.
Days later, on 21 December, surveillance footage appears to show Mr Nearman leaving a legislative session and opening a door as far-right demonstrators rush inside before they clashed with police and damaged property. At least five people were taken into police custody for assaulting and trespassing.
Nearman was also arrested for misdemeanors of first-degree formal misconduct and second degree criminal trespassing. He has not entered a plea, according to available court records. A request for comment by The Independent did not get a response immediately.
The assault on Oregon lawmakers, just days before a mob stormed the US Capitol on 6 January, followed widespread right-wing “lockdown” protests and threats to Democratic lawmakers at statehouses across the US over public health guidelines and restrictions during the pandemic and over the results of 2020 elections.
In the video, he gives out a phone number “that is just random numbers” and “not anybody’s actual cell phone,” adding that “if you say ‘I’m at the West entrance’ during the session and text to that number there, that somebody might exit that door while you’re standing there.”
He reiterates repeatedly that he did not provide a phone number. But he adds that “if he were to say a number it might have been something similar” to the one he provided.
One person from the audience can be heard asking, “hypothetically speaking”, which is better: whether it would work best to be at the Capitol during weekdays or weekends.
Nearman said that organizing people on the weekend is probably easier than organizing them during the week, but lawmakers do meet during work hours.
Tina Kotek, Oregon House Speaker said that Mr Nearman’s actions were “premeditated”.
“I again call for his resignation. If he does not immediately resign, I believe he should face expulsion from the Legislature,” she said.
Independent investigations from the state legislature showed that Nearman’s actions had “more likelihood than not set in motion a sequence of events that impeded” the Capitol facilities manager, as well as other state employees, “to function at the workplace” and denied them the benefits.
He was also criticized by at least 30 state officials, seven of which are members of the Oregon House.