2 in custody as protesters converge on Oregon State Capitol amid special session


SALEM, Ore. (NewsNation Now) — As Oregon lawmakers returned to Salem for a special session to consider COVID-19 and wildfire relief, a group of protesters gathered outside the state’s Capitol building Monday.

Oregon State Police declared an unlawful assembly at the State Capitol building, warning on Twitter that anyone who refuses to leave the scene is subject to arrest. The Salem Police Department tweeted that a group of protesters first gathered in the area at around 8:30 a.m. PST.

State police said protesters gained access inside the building, which was closed to the public due to COVID-19 restrictions. Officers were able to remove the majority of demonstrators, but two individuals who refused to leave were taken into custody.

Ryan Lyles, 41, is facing charges including trespassing and assaulting a police officer.. (Courtesy: Oregon State Police)

Ryan Lyles, 41, is facing charges including trespassing and assaulting a police officer. They said he used bear spray against police officers. 

OSP said they did not use CS gas but did use inert pepper ball.

Footage from the scene shows a small group of protesters trying to enter the Capitol. Demonstrators were captured on video gathering at a doorway in the building, chanting “Let us in” and “Arrest Kate Brown.”

Streets by the building remain closed, and all residents are directed to avoid the area, NewsNation affiliate KOIN reported.

Gov. Kate Brown had called the special session for the legislature to consider measures that would provide $800 million in relief to people struggling from the pandemic and this summer’s massive wildfires.

The bills expected to be taken up Monday include a proposed eviction moratorium that includes $200 million in relief for landlords and tenants. In that package, $50 million would be allocated for rental assistance for tenants for the months ahead and $150 million to small landlords for previously unpaid rent. But in order for landlords to receive funds, they must forgo 20% of past-due payments.

Others include a restaurant relief package with a provision legalizing cocktails to-go, a bill that would protect schools from some coronavirus-related lawsuits and a measure that would transfer $600 million in to the state’s emergency fund for COVID-19 and wildfire-response and recovery.

It marks the first time in the state’s history that a third special session has been called in one year.

Because of the pandemic, lawmakers are limiting their time together in the Capitol building to one day, which began Monday at 8 a.m. PST. 

“A special session is the hardest of all sessions,” Senate President Peter Courtney said. “It’s particularly dangerous now — so you gotta keep that always in front of you and that controls how much to do and try to do.”

The Associated Press and NewsNation affiliate KOIN contributed to this report.

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