The presentation begins as an innocuous primer on keeping up with state politics. Speaking in front of a projected computer screen, Oregon state Rep. Mike Nearman encourages his audience to get engaged and says you can “take as big a bite or as small a bite as you want.”

The Oregon Capitol is closed amid the coronavirus pandemic, “so you can’t come in,” the Republican legislator from rural Polk County acknowledges in a newly publicized video of a meeting that apparently took place mid-December. But then he drops hints about something called “Operation Hall Pass.”

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

He gives a phone number — “just random numbers that I spewed out” — and says that if people were to text it with their location, somebody might exit through the right door at the right moment. On Dec. 21, according to previously released surveillance video, Nearman did just that.

Nearman was charged in that incident with “knowingly” letting far-right rioters breach the Oregon Capitol as lawmakers met to consider coronavirus legislation – weeks before Trump supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol and after armed protests outside statehouses across the country had raised concerns about lawmaker safety. Some capitols became sites of violent conflict and targets for extremists as alarm grew over threats and highly personal attacks on public officials because of coronavirus restrictions and the results of the November presidential election.

The meeting video, which Oregon Public Broadcasting surfaced this week and which apparently was recorded the week before the Dec. 21 breach, sheds new light on Nearman’s earlier discussions before he walked out of a special session and opened the door for maskless demonstrators who rushed inside and clashed with police. Dozens eventually entered the building that day, some attacking officers and damaging property, video shows. Police arrested at least five people on charges including trespassing and assault.


Nearman, 57, is charged with misdemeanor counts of first-degree official misconduct and second-degree criminal trespass. Online court records do not show a plea, and he and his lawyer did not immediately respond to requests for comment Saturday.

Early this year, in a statement reported by the Oregonian, Nearman said he was subjected to “mob justice,” does not condone violence and said the Capitol building is constitutionally required to remain open to the public.

The GOP legislator’s role in the December security breach led to the loss of his committee assignments and to restrictions on his access to the Capitol building. After Nearman’s filmed explanation of “Operation Hall Pass” drew attention this week, Oregon House Speaker Tina Kotek, a Democrat, renewed her calls for Nearman to resign.

“Today’s revelation that Rep. Nearman’s actions last December were premeditated is incredibly disturbing,” she tweeted Friday evening, adding that Nearman should “face expulsion from the Legislature” if he does not immediately step down. Kotek has said Nearman “put every person in the Capitol in serious danger.”

The Oregon GOP House leader, Rep. Christine Drazan, did not respond to requests for comment Saturday.

After surveillance footage of Nearman exiting the Capitol was published by the Oregonian and Oregon Public Broadcasting, Drazan told The Washington Post that state legislators are “not above the law” and said she backed a criminal investigation.


Many leaders have faced scrutiny for sympathetic statements toward participants in sometimes-violent gatherings at government buildings – particularly the mob that paused congressional certification of Joe Biden’s election victory at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. Some Republicans have pushed revisionist histories of that day, which left several people dead and more than 100 police officers injured.

Some GOP officials are accused of more direct involvement in the riots or support for people later accused of criminal behavior. Democrats said an unnamed House Republican took groups on “reconnaissance” building tours before the Jan. 6 insurrection. A New York Times report described a Michigan GOP lawmaker’s communications and appearances with leaders of armed protests, including with someone eventually charged with conspiring to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat.

But Nearman’s alleged involvement in the clash at the Oregon Capitol stands out.

A hearing in Nearman’s case is scheduled for June 21. The Marion County district attorney’s office did not respond Saturday to questions about how thevideo of Nearman’s presentation might play into the charges.

Nearman is from Independence, Ore., about 10 miles southwest of Salem, the capital. He was elected to a fourth term last year after vehemently opposing coronavirus restrictions, and he sued Oregon Gov. Kate Brown, a Democrat, over her emergency orders. He backed a lawsuit to overturn 2020 election results that fanned false assertions of widespread fraud, and he declares himself most at home with “grass-roots political activists.”

“The political environment belongs to those who show up and make themselves heard,” his website states.


The video of Nearman discussing “Operation Hall Pass” was posted to YouTube by a user with the handle “The Black Conservative Preacher.” It shows Nearman referring to an upcoming Monday special session, seemingly the one on Dec. 21. The lawmaker says in the more than hour-long video that he is at offices of the Freedom Foundation, a national group with a presence in Oregon that says it seeks to “reverse the stranglehold government unions have on our state and local policymaking.”

The Freedom Foundation did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The footage begins with Nearman giving his out-of-view audience an introduction to looking up legislative information online. A woman asks him to pull up “the illegal alien bill.” Nearman searches for a bill on what he calls “forced vaccination.”

Later, a woman mentions the coronavirus restrictions that closed the Oregon Capitol to the public starting in spring 2020. Nearman then launches into his apparent couched instructions on how to enter the building, along with disavowals.

“But I don’t know anything about that,” Nearman adds after laying out his supposedly hypothetical sequence of events for building access. “I don’t have anything to do with that, and if I did, I wouldn’t say that I did.”

The audience appears to play along.

“What was that again? 971?” someone asks, repeating an Oregon area code. “Just those random numbers again?”


“Yeah, I didn’t really say a number,” Nearman responds, before repeating it. “And, you’d have to say what entrance you’re at. But that’s not really going to happen, so, just, don’t worry about that.” He reiterates that people are “not allowed in the Capitol.”

A man asks: If people were to show up at the Capitol “hypothetically speaking,” what would be better – a weekend or a weekday? Nearman says that’s a tough question, because “responsible citizens” have jobs on weekdays but lawmakers such as himself will be there working during a session.

Then he imagines a discussion among legislators who realize people are gathering at the Capitol: “They’re out there on the Capitol getting ready to riot and all kind of stuff.”

Later in the video, a woman says she is getting “excited” about Monday.

Protesters did gather in Salem the morning of Dec. 21 as the legislature met to discuss pandemic aid, their proceedings broadcast to TVs set up outside. Demonstrators waved Trump flags and signs decrying the former president’s election loss as well as coronavirus rules. They eventually faced off with city police and state troopers while trying to force their way inside, chanting slogans including “enemies of the state!”

One video shows a man attacking journalists outdoors, and some rioters cracked glass in their attempts to break in, according to authorities. Police, who declared an unlawful assembly, said protesters struggled with officials and also used “chemical irritants” and a smoke-emitting device against officers.

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The Washington Post’s Katie Shepherd and Lateshia Beachum contributed to this report.