It turns out “Operation Hall Pass” was in the works for about a week before the December 21 door opening debacle that cost Mike Nearman his seat in the Oregon Legislature. The plan also went beyond a simple text or two.
We all know the key points on this. Nearman opened a side door of the Capitol building, went outside, and let demonstrators in who went on to break things and cause chaos. The video of Nearman talking to constituents about his plan and offering up his phone number was widely seen – giving Oregonians the plan’s name as well as revealing that the representative had preplanned his actions.
The fuller set of facts include that Nearman texted with at least two of his supporters to ascertain which door they were to wait at on Dec. 21. He also used an encrypted app called Telegram to speak to supporters about the scheme, and was seen on camera actively using his phone prior to opening the door.
Nearman may have interacted with a gun rights activist and conservative radio show host, calling his plan the “Oregon Hall Pass program.” He repeated that people could “text what entrance they are at to a secret phone number and someone lets them in.” The phone number was Nearman’s cell phone. He then claimed it was an idea he had, and gave the other gentleman access to a Telegram group for the “operation.”
On the morning of Dec. 21, as Oregon State Troopers were carefully watching what happened, Nearman was busy on his phone – giving more specific instructions and detailing which door to go to – to at least two people before leaving the chamber.
According to an Oregon State Police report obtained by Oregon Public Broadcasting, that morning demonstrators were attempting to get into the Capitol through several ways – including a woman who was trying to enter through a conference room window. As officers were distracted with the woman stuck in the window, Nearman “carelessly [opened] the northwest front ADA door to the Capitol building and proceeded out the door.”
The events according to the Police report went as follows:
8:00 a.m. the woman who would become caught in window was seen by officers
8:05 a.m. a group of demonstrators marched west around building
8:06 a.m.the group on west side were seen carrying “long guns and side arms” for the first time
8:08 a.m.a cracked window on west side door reported
8:09 a.m.group began grabbing handle to west door
8:15 a.m.over 50 people were staged at west door
8:20 a.m.part of west door group moved to front west ADA door
8:22 a.m.request made for troopers to go inside to front west ADA door
8:28 a.m.woman got caught part way in at window
8:29 a.m.Nearman left building through front west ADA door
8:30 a.m.Nearman recorded talking to crowd and shaking hands
8:34 a.m.Nearman used keycard to enter Capitol through west entrance
After getting into the building, one person used bear mace on officers. The group, with their long guns and side arms drawn, moved into the Capital. Some went on to vandalize the building.
OPB uncovered email sent to Nearman after that day asking him how “storming the castle” went, and Nearman answering that he “got in a little more trouble than [he] would have liked.” Adding that the State Police might charge him.
After the December 21 debacle, Nearman attempted to gain sympathy by speaking to conservative talk show host Lars Larson. On the show he said that he would not resign, but that Rep. Tina Kotek should.
On June 10, the house voted 99-1 to expel Nearman. Mike Nearman was the only representative to vote against the action.