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Oregon GOP lawmaker charged with helping far-right protesters breach the state Capitol

A few weeks before a mob forced its way into the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 to disrupt or stop the formal tally of President Biden's electoral victory, a group of far-right protesters breached the Oregon Capitol in Salem. And State Rep. Mike Nearman (R) let them in, according to security footage obtained by The Oregonian and Oregon Public Broadcasting in January. Marion County District Attorney Paige Clarkson announced Friday that Nearman will face criminal charges for "unlawfully and knowingly" opening the door for rioters on Dec. 21 "with intent to obtain a benefit or to harm another."

The surveillance video shows that Nearman, one of the most conservative members of the Oregon Legislature, exited the Capitol through a side door near where the far-right group had gathered to protest COVID-19 safety measures as the House was in session. Two protesters rushed in and waved in fellow demonstrators, and Nearman "promptly walked around the building and entered on the opposite side," OPB reports. State and Salem police arrived and managed to push out the rioters, who tried to fight their way back in, eventually forcing back police with bear mace.

"Oregon State Police and Salem police contained the raucous crowd, some of whom were armed with guns, to a vestibule of the Capitol and ultimately removed them from the building," The Oregonian reports. At least five people involved in the breach and property damage were arrested, and "at least three people who participated in the Salem protest went on to participate in the attack on the U.S. Capitol," OBP reports.

After the video's release, Nearman was stripped of all committee assignments, relieved of his building pass, billed $2,700 for damages, and urged to resign by Oregon House Speaker Tina Kotek (D). Nearman, 57, has now been charged with two misdemeanors, for first-degree official misconduct and second-degree criminal trespass. He is scheduled to appear in court on May 11, and if he does not, a warrant will be issued for his arrest, court documents show.

Kotek and House Majority Leader Barbara Smith (D) repeated their calls for his resignation Friday. Republicans in the Legislature have mostly kept silent on Nearman's conduct, but House Republican Leader Christine Drazan said in January that she will support the results of a criminal investigation. "State legislators are the voices of their community," Drazan told The Washington Post on Saturday. "They are not above the law."