SALEM, Ore. — Republican lawmakers have voted with majority Democrats in the Oregon House of Representatives to take the historic step of expelling a Republican member who had let violent, far-right protesters into the state Capitol on Dec. 21.
Legislators said on the House floor that the vote on Thursday could be the most important vote they would ever cast.
"It's impossible to overstate the seriousness of the reason we are here today," Rep. Paul Holvey, a Democrat, said, according to the Associated Press. "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."
Lawmakers then proceeded to expel an unapologetic Rep. Mike Nearman with a 59-1 vote.
"The fact is that I exited the building and members of the public entered into the Capitol building, a place they had a right to be — a place the Legislative Assembly had no right to exclude them from," Nearman said, according to the AP.
Nearman's expulsion came days after reports emerged of a YouTube video that appeared to show him explaining to a group of protesters how to enter the closed state Capitol building.
Days after that video was published, a crowd of far-right protesters entered the Capitol during a legislative session where lawmakers were debating COVID-19 restrictions. The breach led to a scuffle with police; the Associated Press reports that some protests sprayed chemical irritants on officers.
The video was published Friday by Oregon Public Broadcasting (OPB). In the video, which was posted to YouTube on Dec. 16, State Rep. Mike Nearman speaks to a group about setting up what's referred to as "Operation Hall Pass," as the group discusses accessing the Capitol despite it being closed over COVID-19 restrictions.
In the video, Nearman speaks in vague terms about how "somebody might exit that door while you're standing there," if someone were to send a text message to a "random number" about being at the "west entrance" of the Capitol.
That "random number" happened to be Nearman's number, according to OPB and CNN.
Surveillance video on Dec. 21 showed Nearman leave the Capitol through a locked door that was surrounded by protesters, CNN reports. The protester's confrontation with the police in the building occurred shortly afterward.
Nearman faces charges of first-degree official misconduct and second-degree criminal trespass, according to CNN.