Yesterday, Oregon lawmakers convened a one-day special session to continue their response to the tumultuous pandemic and wildfire season. The legislature acted swiftly to enact aid for renters and landlords, protections for schools against lawsuits, cocktails-to-go for the struggling restaurant sector, and allocated emergency funds for vaccine distribution and wildfire response. Despite disagreements over legislative procedure and some aspects of the policy response, Democrats and Republicans largely worked together to advance the measures without much political theater. However, that is not to suggest the session was without commotion.
The collegiality inside the building stood in stark contrast to developments occurring on the Capitol’s front steps. Throughout much of the legislative proceedings, a group of roughly 100 conservative protestors spent the day clashing with police and journalists as they tried to break into the closed building. The disturbance included protestors reportedly spraying police with bear mace, breaking windows and doors, and attacking at least two journalists. The Oregon State Police reported that law enforcement is searching for one suspect and arrested four others relating to the situation at the Capitol.
Lawmakers were undeterred by the chaotic scene unraveling outside the Capitol and their session moved without significant delay or interruption. With that said, the growing prevalence of mob-like protests is bound to play into any plans to reopen the Capitol. In a post-session interview with Oregon Public Radio, Senate President Peter Courtney said the building is likely to remain closed for some time during the regular session and, once it reopens, new security protocols may be necessary to ensure the safety of lawmakers, advocates, and the public inside.