Right-wing violence at Oregon's Capitol: Senate Republican caucus remains silent
Violence broke out at the Oregon Capitol during Monday's one-day special session of the Legislature.
Right-wing protesters, angry about restrictions placed on the state to slow the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, entered the Capitol illegally during their Dec. 21 rally, some carrying firearms. Some demanded the arrest of Gov. Kate Brown for the pandemic restrictions she has placed on counties.
Protesters sprayed an unidentified chemical irritant on police; one man was arrested on charges of being a felon in possession of body armor and unlawful use of mace; protesters deployed a type of smoke-emitting device; two were charged with criminal trespass and disorderly conduct; and someone smashed the window of a door to the building.
Outside, journalists, including one from Oregon Public Broadcasting, were physically assaulted.
Senate President Peter Courtney and Speaker of the House Tina Kotek condemned the violence and said they will consider what steps will be necessary to conduct the 2021 regular session, which opens Jan. 11.
Courtney said he has taken pride in a Capitol building that has been accessible to the public for the most part. But he said that Monday's events, plus the anger some protesters have shown during the pandemic, may prompt tighter security.
"I don't want to do it," he said. "But those days may be coming."
A spokesperson for Senate Republicans, contacted Monday, Tuesday and again Wednesday, declined to comment on the violence and arrests.
In a written statement, House Republican Leader Christine Drazan of Canby wrote, "The destruction of property and violence during protests under the banner of any cause is unacceptable and must end."
But she went on to compare the violence to a decision by Democrats not to allow motions to adopt amendments to one of the bills under consideration Monday.
"As Oregonians who were locked out of the building, protested and demanded their rightful place in the halls of government, democrat leaders locked the minority party out of the lawmaking process inside the building," Drazen wrote.
The Capitol has been closed to the public during the pandemic.
When asked Tuesdy about the incident, Gov. Kate Brown said, "Let me be perfectly clear: I absolutely support the rights of Oregonians to protest peacefully. It does not matter what issue they care about.
"But the violence at the Capitol yesterday is absolutely unacceptable. It solves nothing, it answers nothing, it resolves nothing. I think we are all a bit horrified that the place of our state government, our state Capitol, is where it actually occurred yesterday."
You count on us to stay informed and we depend on you to fund our efforts. Quality local journalism takes time and money. Please support us to protect the future of community journalism.