State legislator accused of creating chaos at Capitol says House speaker is putting politics over safety

State Rep. Mike Nearman, R-Independence. (Courtesy/Freedom Foundation)

A Salem area legislator who allowed a confrontational group of demonstrators into the Oregon Capitol has lashed out, saying he is being subject to “mob justice” by the House speaker.

State Rep. Mike Nearman, R-Independence, released a withering statement Tuesday evening saying House Speaker Tina Kotek, D-Portland, is more motivated by politics than public safety and that he has been subject to a double standard.

“I hope for due process, and not the mob justice to which Speaker Kotek is subjecting me,” Nearman said in the statement.

During a Jan. 8 press call, Kotek disclosed that Nearman had opened a door at the Capitol, closed to the public because of the pandemic, during a one-day special session in December allowing protesters gathered outside to enter the building.

A melee ensued as police officers tried to force the group outside. At least three were arrested after police officers were sprayed with mace and the protest was declared an unlawful assembly.

After previously declining to speak to the press, Nearman used the statement to question Kotek’s motives. He provided no explanation or comment on his conduct that led to Kotek’s actions.

Instead, he focused on the speaker, saying that Kotek released the video the day after a violent mob stormed the U.S. Capitol in an effort to implicate him. 

“For the last few days, I and my family have been subjected to criticism, attacks at my home and threats via email, social media and phone,” said Nearman. “Many of these messages have been hate-filled and profanity laced.”

However, Kotek didn’t publicly disclose the video at the time she detailed Nearman’s act. The video was first reported on Jan. 8, two days after the U.S. Capitol was stormed. Salem Reporter obtained the video through a public records request with the Capitol administration, not the speaker’s office.

Nearman pointed out that in September a member of Kotek’s staff was arrested during racial justice demonstrations in Portland and charged with interfering with a police officer. Multnomah County District Attorney Mike Schmidt dropped the charge, as well as the charges of many other protesters, and the staffer kept their job.

Nearman, who pointed out that Schmidt was endorsed by Kotek, said he would receive a similar resolution.

“So much for a commitment to public safety,” said Nearman.

In the statement, Nearman, who is a senior fellow at the anti-union Freedom Foundation, accused public union protesters of waging a “physical attack on the House chamber” in 2015.

While Nearman said he neither condones nor participates in violence, he pointed to a provision in the Oregon Constitution requiring legislative proceedings to be “open.” The Capitol building has been closed by legislative leaders because of the pandemic. Nearman called on leadership to open the building. 

On Monday, Kotek removed Nearman from all of his legislative committees, fined him $2,000 for damages that occurred after the crowd entered the building and called on him to resign. She said she would file a formal complaint with the Legislative Equity Office that Nearman created a hostile work environment.

Contact reporter Jake Thomas at 503-575-1251 or [email protected] or @jakethomas2009.

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