New Oregon GOP Leader Rallied State Protesters Against Capitol 'Enemy' on January 6

The Oregon Republican Party is under fire after electing an outspoken populist senator as the new chair of the state GOP, despite concerns over his links to far-right extremist groups and his role encouraging activists to storm the state capitol building in December.

Sen. Dallas Heard, who represents Oregon's Senate District 1, was elected at a party event on Saturday in which the state GOP confirmed several new top leadership positions, Oregon Public Broadcasting reported.

Oregon is one of the states where Democrats, media organizations and anti-extremism activists are warning that the Republican Party is veering to the far-right in the aftermath of President Donald Trump's electoral defeat.

Heard's election as party leader will do nothing to allay these fears. The senator has been at the forefront of opposition to President Joe Biden's election, as well as state restrictions on businesses and individuals designed to slow the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.

Heard was also present outside the Oregon Capitol in Salem on December 21, when a far-right mob stormed the building—reportedly with help from GOP politicians inside—forcing lawmakers to stop a debate on coronavirus restrictions.

Among them were protesters wearing flak vests and helmets armed with rifles, while others used what police called "chemical agents" against officers providing security.

As in Michigan on April 30, lawmakers warned that the Oregon Capitol attack was proof of the far-right extremism being whipped up by the GOP and Trump in the aftermath of the election and amid a worsening pandemic. Another far-right mob went on to storm the Capitol building in Washington, D.C. weeks later on January 6.

Heard was filmed addressing the crowd outside the Salem Capitol on December 21 after the mob broke into the building. The senator told protesters through a megaphone: "I'm in full support of your right to enter your capitol building, OK?" prompting calls from the crowd to "Lead the way."

David Medina was stood alongside Heard on the podium, and appeared to have influence over the rest of the protesters. Medina took the megaphone from the senator and praised the lawmaker for having "the balls" to come out and speak to the crowd. Medina would later be part of the mob that stormed the U.S. Capitol building.

On January 6, Heard again addressed right-wing protesters at an "Occupy the Capitol" demonstration in Salem, as tens of thousands of Trump supporters descended on Washington, D.C. for what would become one of the most consequential days of the president's term.

"I'm just kind of at a loss for words as I look at this Capitol building that is yours, the people's, and is currently being occupied by a group of elitists," Heard told the crowd.

"Sadly I'm not sure that it's all Democrats that are the elitists, frankly. I am a Republican, but I'm an American first and there are some Republicans that need to go.

"Don't let any of these punks from that stone temple over there ever tell you they are better than any of you. Trust me. I work with these fools. None of them are half as good as any of you."

Concerns about GOP extremism in Oregon go deeper than Heard. On January 19, the party issued a resolution—one disavowed by Oregon House Republicans—declaring the January 6 storming of the Capitol a "false flag" designed to "discredit President Trump, his supporters, and all conservative Republicans."

There is no evidence to suggest the attack was anything other than an attempt by a far-right mob to overturn the results of the November election.

Newsweek has contacted Heard and the Oregon GOP to request comment.

Among the other Oregon GOP appointments this weekend was that of former Senate Minority Leader Herman Baertschiger Jr. as party vice chair. Both Heard and Baertschiger are linked to a group called "Citizens Against Tyranny," which has published the names of people who reported COVID-19 safety violations to state authorities.

Boogaloo Boys at Salem capitol in Oregon
Members of the Boogaloo Boys stand armed in front of the Oregon Sate Capitol building in Salem on January 17, 2021. MATHIEU LEWIS-ROLLAND/AFP via Getty Images/Getty