Protesters shattered glass doors, tore down tarps, and stood against law enforcement at the Oregon State Capitol building Monday, disrupting a special session of the Oregon Legislature.
The protesters, who were apparently demonstrating against COVID-19 restrictions, engaged in a standoff with Salem Police Department and Oregon State Police officers in their advance on the capitol.
The Oregon State Legislature was meeting to discuss extending the state’s emergency eviction moratorium, as well as provide funds to tenants and landlords in the midst of COVID-19 restrictions.
At least four arrests were made during the demonstration of over 100 protesters that included one man who allegedly attacked two reporters and attempted to break into the building. Police said the search for the suspect is ongoing.
“We’re standing up for our constitutional rights to be here for this legislative hearing and for our rights to reopen the state of Oregon,” said protester Crystal Wagner. “Why are they having a legislative hearing without the people? We are the people, we are the taxpayers. We’re here to fight for our democracy.”
According to USA Today, a limited number of staff and media were allowed inside the building Monday, as well as dozens of law enforcement officers.
Early that morning, protesters went into the Capitol building, with a least one demonstrator using “chemical agents” on the officers, Oregon State Police said. Troopers fired inert pepper balls in response, declaring the protest and unlawful assembly by 9:20 a.m.
“At one point we used pepper balls. I don’t know what else,” said Salem Police Lt. Treven Upkes. “When people attempted to come into the building, they actually used pepper spray and other things on officers. In return, we used those to separate ourselves and get them to hold that spot. So I don’t know what all was used but I know at least pepper ball was used.”
“There may have been other chemical munitions used by the crowd as well on us that seemed to have acted similar to…a CS gas,” Upkes added.
Around 1:30 p.m., after the demonstrators had gotten through the gated fence, protesters smashed the Capitol building’s west end glass doors in an attempt to enter the building.
After breaking into the building, one protester called on law enforcement to “do what’s right.”
“You can stand with us,” the protester said.
State Senator Shemia Fagan, a Democrat from Portland who is set to be sworn in as Secretary of State next month, called the event “unnerving.”
“It doesn’t feel normal,” Fagan said. “And it feels really sad.”