As the nation watched the replay of the deadly Jan. 6 attack on our nation’s Capitol, we cannot forget that, in December, events in Salem foreshadowed the attempted coup in Washington, D.C. During a special session of the state Legislature to deal with the pandemic, armed extremists assaulted journalists outside the state Capitol building and attacked law enforcement officers working to protect legislators and staff. Thankfully, the Oregon State Police were able to hold the line, and the attackers were unable to breach the Senate and House chambers. But police were injured and there were several arrests of the militants. It could have been far worse.
In the aftermath of that attack, I was horrified to learn that after the attackers failed to break down a door into the Capitol — which was closed that day due to COVID-19 — security footage showed that state Rep. Mike Nearman , R-Independence, literally opened the door. Now, as reported by The Bulletin and other papers, Rep. Nearman is currently under criminal investigation for what could be felony charges. He is also under investigation by the House Conduct Committee.
The reality is that while the breach of Oregon’s state Capitol and the resulting injuries and arrests were shocking, they weren’t surprising. As Oregon Public Broadcasting has reported, we in Oregon have a long history of enabling far-right, anti-government extremism. Over the past few years, threatened and actual violence has become routine. It has to stop. We should all remember that last year the state Capitol had to be shut down due to credible threats of violence during the Republican walkout after a rally attended by violent militants and white supremacist groups. Our politicians gave speeches and courted these extremists. Rep. Nearman himself has a long history of anti-immigrant, anti-LGBTQ and anti-worker extremism.
I join more than 60 community organizations and elected officials who are calling on Rep. Nearman to save taxpayer money and trouble and resign immediately. If he will not, he should be removed from office. This is not a partisan issue. As a nonpartisan elected official I expect to be held accountable for my actions. I understand that part of my service to the people of Bend includes keeping staff and other politicians safe — especially when I disagree with them.
As public officials we must reject the growing extremism and violence in political rhetoric and actions. The Constitution is clear and gives lawmakers the authority to expel a member for disorderly conduct. Taking action to remove him from office is important to protect our democracy.
I applaud Republicans who are starting to distance themselves from extremists. Now they must go further, and both parties in Salem must take action. We deserve leaders with the courage to uphold our freedoms and our rights — especially the right to a peaceful democracy. Lawmakers who cater to bullies and traffic in extremism simply do not deserve to be in office. Republicans and Democrats in Salem must come together to hold any elected leaders who have done us harm to account. We must move forward together, assured that our leaders govern in our name and deliver what our families need, from pandemic relief to vaccine distribution. Together we can make Oregon a state where liberty and justice are for all. Not only will political violence tear our state apart, but we do not have time for it. The challenges facing us demand our leaders’ earnest attention, now.