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Regional Interests

Video appears to show Rep. Mike Nearman explaining how he’ll open the Oregon Capitol ahead of prot

State Rep. Mike Nearman, a Polk County Republican, was captured by surveillance cameras allowing right-win demonstrators to enter the state Capitol on Dec. 21.
State Rep. Mike Nearman, a Polk County Republican, was captured by surveillance cameras allowing right-win demonstrators to enter the state Capitol on Dec. 21.

Days before he allowed right-wing demonstrators into the locked state Capitol, Oregon Rep. Mike Nearman told a gathering of citizens he would let them into the building if they texted him, a new video suggests.

The video posted on YouTube with a stamp saying it was streamed live in Dec. 16, features Nearman, a Polk County Republican, talking about something called “Operation Hall Pass.”

“Which I don’t know anything about, and if you accuse me of knowing anything about it, I will deny it,” Nearman says in the video.

Nearman continues, saying, “There might be some person’s number which might be [his cell phone number], but that is just random numbers... that’s not anybody’s actual cell phone. And if you say, ‘I’m at the West entrance’ during the session and text to that number there, that somebody might exit that door while you’re standing there.”

Nearman did not immediately respond when asked for comment via text message.

But those words exactly describe what Nearman did five days later, when he exited the Capitol via the entrance to a vestibule on the west side of the building, allowing right-wing demonstrators to enter. A standoff with police followed shortly thereafter.

Nearman faces two misdemeanor charges in connection to the incident, and could face expulsion from the Legislature if he’s found to have breached workplace rules.

Marion County District Attorney Paige Clarkson, whose office is prosecuting Nearman, told OPB her office is aware of the video.

“It’s been part of the investigative material we have reviewed,” Clarkson said.

The group Nearman was addressing in the video was not immediately clear, nor was the exact time the recording was taken. It’s currently posted to a YouTube account called The Black Conservative Preacher.

In the video, Nearman answers questions from audience members about meeting with lawmakers at the Capitol. Someone brings up the COVID-19 restrictions that have closed the building to members of the public.

“Yes, the Capitol is closed,” Nearman responds. “And so you can’t come into the Capitol.”

Several seconds later, Nearman says, “so, we’re talking about setting up ‘Operation Hall Pass.’”

Three times, in the video, he provides members of the audience his cell phone number.

“I don’t know anything about that,” he said. “I don’t have anything to do with that. And if I did, I wouldn’t say that I did. But anyway the number that I didn’t say was [gives number again]. Don’t text that number, but a number like that, whatever. And say what entrance you’re at too.”

Then, a member of the audience shouts out: “What was that again?”

“I didn’t really say a number,” Nearman said. “But if I were to say a number it might have been something like [gives number again]. You’d have to say what entrance you’re at. But that’s not really going to happen. So don’t worry about that. Nobody said anything”

“Right, just random numbers,” the audience member who asked the question responded.

Nearman also appears to consult members of the audience about what day would be better for people to show up.

“If people were to show up at the Capitol, hypothetically speaking, would it be better to do it during the week or the weekends?” a man in the audience asks.

“That kind of a dilemma,” Nearman said, noting that it’s easier to organize more people to rally on a weekend, but lawmakers are at the Capitol during the week.

Later, a woman chimes in about people showing up on Monday.

“But Monday, Monday everybody shows up,” she says.

“Monday, you got one crack at it there,” Nearman replies.

It’s at 8:29 a.m. on Monday, Dec. 21 -- apparently just five days after the video date -- that security footage captures Nearman walking out of a door of the Oregon Capitol, into a crowd protesting the COVID-19 restrictions.

The House Conduct Committee will meet next week to decide whether Nearman broke Capitol rules and, if so, what the consequences should be.

Copyright 2021 Oregon Public Broadcasting