Lawmaker Expelled After He 'Unapologetically' Allowed Protestors Into Oregon's Capitol

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  • Mike Nearman
    American politician

Rep. Mike Nearmann/Facebook Former Oregon State Rep. Mike Nearman

A Republican lawmaker was expelled from the Oregon House of Representatives on Thursday, almost six months after he allowed armed and maskless protesters to enter the Capitol building.

Former Rep. Mike Nearman was removed from office by an overwhelmingly bipartisan 59-1 vote.

Nearman, who had represented the state's 23rd district since 2015, was the only person to vote in his favor. It was first time in Oregon's history that a member of the state House had been expelled from office, according to The New York Times.

The lopsided removal came after Oregon Public Radio reported a video this week that showed Nearman coaching a group of protesters on Dec. 16 about how they could get into the building - including giving out his personal cell phone number as part of a plan he called "Operation Hall Pass."

"And if you say 'I am at the west entrance' during a session in text to that number there, that somebody might exit that door while you're standing there," the now-former lawmaker told protesters in the video, telling them he'd "deny" his role in the plan if they told anyone.

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Days later, on Dec. 21, security video at the statehouse showed Nearman exiting the building and pushing a door open just long enough for a group of conservative protesters to catch the door and enter the building.

Protestors were soon met by police inside, according to video of the incident, and they got into a physical altercation with law enforcement who forced them out of the building.

"The facts are clear that Mr. Nearman unapologetically coordinated and planned a breach of the Oregon State Capitol," House Speaker Tina Kotek said in a statement this week. "His actions were blatant and deliberate, and he has shown no remorse for jeopardizing the safety of every person in the Capitol that day."

Spurred on by former President Donald Trump, anti-shutdown conservatives increasingly sought to occupy or disrupt state legislatures last year - including entering the Michigan statehouse last April.

A pro-Trump mob stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, just 16 days after Nearman allowed protesters access in Oregon.

Kotek said in her statement that Nearman's expulsion from the House was "the only reasonable path forward."

In addition to his removal from office, the Associated Press reported that Nearman is facing two misdemeanor criminal charges and that he is seeking a trial by jury.

He did not immediately respond to PEOPLE's request for comment.

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According to the AP, Oregon state Rep. Paul Holvey said during a committee hearing that "staff and legislators were terrified" the day Nearman allowed protesters into the building because "a couple hundred" armed protesters gathered outside and planned to "presumably occupy the building and interrupt the proceedings of the Oregon Legislature."

"We can only speculate what would have happened if they were able to get all the way in," Holvey said.