SALEM, Ore. – A special session of the Oregon Legislature was held Disturbed by protesters on Monday who apparently spoke out against guidelines to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
The protesters broke glass doors in the largely empty Capitol, tore tarpaulin from the marble reliefs on the front stairs, and had a brief argument with officers from the Oregon State Police and the Salem Police Department.
Police arrested at least four people during the six-hour rally, which was attended by more than 100 demonstrators, including members of the far-right Patriot Prayer Group.
Another man is being searched for who assaulted two reporters and tried to break into the Capitol, police said.
“We are committed to ensuring that our constitutional rights are here for this hearing and that we have the right to reopen the state of Oregon,” said Crystal Wagner. “Why do you have a hearing without the people? We are the people, we are the taxpayers. We are here to fight for our democracy.”
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Aside from dozens of police officers, only a few staff and reporters were allowed inside the building on Monday.
At around 8:30 am, the Oregon State Police announced that protesters entered the Capitol and used at least one “chemical” on officers. OSP soldiers responded with an inert pepper ball, although it is unclear how many were fired.
An illegal gathering was called at around 9:20 am
“At some point we used pepper balls. I don’t know what else, “said Lt. Treven Upkes of the Salem Police Department.” When people tried to get into the building, they actually used pepper spray and other things on officials. In return, we used these to break up and get them to hold onto this point. So I don’t know what everything was used, but I do know that at least one pepper ball was used. “
He added, “There may also be other chemical ammunition that the crowd used on us that appeared to behave similarly to … a CS gas.”
Just before 11 a.m., some protesters opened the fence surrounding the Capitol steps and began removing the tarpaulin that covered the two marble reliefs that had been defaced during the first week of protest that summer.
About 2 1/2 hours later, a group of protesters smashed glass doors on the west end of the Capitol while trying to enter the building.
As protesters swarmed the doors, a photographer for the USA TODAY Network’s Statesman Journal was repeatedly pushed by a group of protesters. The photographer took pictures of demonstrators damaging the glass doors.
A short time later there was a brief altercation between demonstrators and police officers in SWAT gear at a nearby intersection.
“Do what is right,” one protester told the officials. “You can stand with us.”
At the Capitol, D-Portland Senator Shemia Fagan, who will be sworn in as Secretary of State in January, walked down the hallway not far from where the protesters faced police.
“It’s annoying,” said Fagan. “It doesn’t feel normal. And it feels really sad. “
The Oregon Legislature met Monday to consider extending the state’s eviction moratorium and providing funding to tenants and landlords amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.