Americans brandishing flags, weapons and pepper spray banged on the doors of the Oregon state capitol in Salem on Dec. 21, demanding to be let in to participate in their government after being shut out because of the virus that U.S. politicians have been using to shut down the nation’s economy, churches and even home holiday celebrations.
State police declared an unlawful assembly at Oregon’s Capitol building as protesters opposing COVID-19 restrictions tried to force their way into a one-day special legislative session, reported the pro-government Associated Press. Some demonstrators carried guns; others discharged bear spray.
At least two people were arrested, police said.
Lawmakers, who complained that the chemical agents lingered in the hallways and made them cough as they discussed bills, passed four bills. They included $800 million in relief to people struggling from the pandemic and wildfires, extending a moratorium on evictions through June and allocating funds for renter and landlord relief.
“Make no mistake, if we do not pass this bill thousands of families will lose their homes in January and it will be on us,” Democratic Rep. Julie Fahey told her colleagues.
Outside, protesters for whom the lawmakers supposedly work banged on doors chanting, “Let us in.”
The state’s Capitol was closed to the public during the special session as a COVID-19 safety measure. Only virtual testimony about the bills being discussed by lawmakers was allowed.
Police blocked off streets around the Capitol, and at noon people were shouting “Arrest Kate Brown,” referring to the Democratic governor of the state, who has been expanding virus restrictions.