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Oregon House GOP leader: 'Legislators are not above the law'

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) -- Oregon House Repubilcan Leader Christine Drazan, of Canby, released a statement Sunday addressing a video of Rep. Mike Nearman, R-Independence, opening a door, which allowed right-wing protesters to enter the State Capitol during an unlawful assembly in December. 

In her statement, Drazan said she does not agree with the decision to close the Capitol to the public, but she said there’s an elevated risk for violence within the building. 

“I have consistently stood for the right to protest peacefully while condemning intimidation, violence and destruction,” she said in her statement.

Drazan said Nearman’s actions are under investigation. 

“If the investigation finds that actions taken were criminal, legislators are not above the law and will be held responsible,” she said. 

On Thursday, Jan. 7, Oregon Speaker of the House Rep. Tina Kotek, D-Portland, said Nearman’s action to open the door while protesters stood outside was “a serious, serious breach of public trust.” 

Nearman is accused of  letting in the protesters -- some of whom were armed -- while the building was closed to the public and a special session to address the ongoing pandemic was underway on Dec. 21, 2020. The protesters were angry about Gov. Kate Brown’s shutdown of businesses because of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Kotek said she and others are looking at possible penalties for Nearman that could include expulsion. 

Officials with the Oregon State Police confirmed they have building surveillance video they’re reviewing. 

The State Capitol will remain closed to the public when the regular session starts later in January. Public hearings will be held virtually. 

Drazan said she affirms the right of the public to fully engage in the work of the legislature, but she’s committed to protecting public safety and holding those who undermine public safety accountable. 

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