Anti-lockdown protesters who swarmed the Oregon state capitol were pushed out by police as bear spray and pepper balls flew between the two factions.
About 300 members of the Proud Boys, Patriot Prayer and other groups arrived at the “Reopen Oregon” rally calling on governor Kate Brown to lift pandemic restrictions as lawmakers met in a special session to discuss stimulus and vaccination distribution measures.
Protesters used bear spray against police while entering the building before they were pushed out by police using pepper spray, according to the Statesman Journal, whose photographer was shoved by protesters while covering the event.
Salem Police Lieutenant Treven Upkes told the Journal that other chemical munitions may have been used by the crowd.
“When people attempted to come in to 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,” he said.
“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.”
Two arrests were made, with Oregon State Police identifying Ryan Lyles, 41, as charged with trespassing and assaulting a police officer.
Another arrest was made after protesters smashed glass doors trying to enter the building while the demonstrators were heard throughout the day chanting “arrest Kate Brown” and enemy of the state.
In a news release, Oregon State Police confirmed that protesters first entered the Capitol at about 8.30am using chemical agents on two different occasions as police used “inert pepper ball”.
“When there were enough resources available between OSP and Salem Police Department, they started to push the crowd out of the building, when another individual used bear spray against police officers,” the statement said.
“The Oregon State Police encourage people to exercise their first amendment rights, but it must be lawfully. Please, discontinue the acts of vandalism or destruction of property. If you commit a crime you will be subject to arrest.”
While they were still searching for the first protester to have deployed a chemical agent when entering the building, Oregon State Police announced on Twitter late on Monday that a second person had been taken into custody. It was unclear if it was the same person who deployed the chemical agent earlier.
Blue tear gas used by police was captured on video by Statesman Journal reporter Virginia Barreda, who said most scattered away from the building but remained on the ground.
As they disperse they can be heard in the video chanting “stand your grand”, “this is America”, “shame on you”, “tyrant”, and “traitors of Oregon State and the US Constitution.”
Reporter Sergio Olmos captured video from the event showing protesters shoving a photographer, smashing glass doors, and shouting “they do this in Portland, so what’s so wrong with it”, in reference to far-left Antifa violence.
Lawmakers were meeting in special session to consider measures that would provide $800m in funding for coronavirus measures and wildfire relief.
The government’s agenda included an eviction moratorium with $200m in relief for landlords and tenants, a restaurant relief package that would allow to-go cocktails, and $600m being transferred from the state’s emergency fund for Covid and wildfire response.
“I’m here to support the constitutional rights of people and of Oregon business owners. These people are unemployed and their lives are being ruined by this situation and most importantly by a government that seems to have taken totalitarian views,” one protester told The Daily Beast.
More than 103,000 people in Oregon have tested positive for Covid while more than 1,300 people in the state have died.