Oregon State Senator Rips Off Mask in Protest During COVID Relief Talks

Oregon State Senator Dallas Heard has protested mask requirements by ripping off his face covering during a special legislative session for COVID-19 relief at the Capitol in Salem.

Lawmakers had been asked to follow strict guidelines while meeting in the Capitol, including wearing masks or face coverings while on the floor. After being called upon for remonstrances, Heard, a Republican, expressed his outrage at mask rules.

"This is yet another illegitimate session where you, the Democratic majority, have declared the people unfit to participate in person in their own Capitol building," Heard, a Republican, said.

So now Sen Dallas Heard, R-Roseburg, accuses Democrats of joining Gov Kate Brown in a “campaign against the people and the children of god.” He’s angry about a mask mandate and takes his off. Attempts to stand silent for 30 seconds. #orleg. pic.twitter.com/dHyI4YzZye

— Dirk VanderHart (@dirquez) December 21, 2020

"Let the record reflect that I am in fierce opposition to any legislation that this illegitimate assembly may pass today. You will be held accountable for this in the coming years."

Heard accused his Democratic colleagues of joining Oregon Gov. Kate Brown in a "campaign of intimidation against the people and children of God."

He then quoted scripture, before adding: "You've oppressed the free peoples of Oregon. You've said to me through my caucus leader that we are being forced to wear these masks today and that your false authority will be enforced against any of us who don't submit to you.

"If you had not done such great evil to my people and had simply asked me to wear this mask, I would have. But you commanded it and therefore, I declare my right to protest against your false authority and remove my mask."

Heard then ripped off his mask and said he would remain standing for 30 seconds "while you decide whether you are fascists willing to use the government to force and override my rights or to prove that you are nothing more than bullies and false authorities."

He stood in silence for a few seconds, before Senate President Peter Courtney called for the next item on the agenda. That prompted the pair to talk over each other until Courtney asked for Heard's microphone to be switched off.

Heard's protest wasn't the only one that took place during Monday's session.

Oregon Public Broadcasting reported that far-right protesters stormed the statehouse as the session got underway, calling on lawmakers to reopen the state's economy and lift coronavirus restrictions.

The Oregon State Police (OSP) declared an unlawful assembly after protesters pushed their way into the building and chanted "let us in" and "arrest Kate Brown," according to the outlet.

In a news release, the OSP reported that troopers were sprayed with "some kind of chemical agent" on two separate occasions on Monday morning while dealing with protesters in the building.

OSP said its troopers and Salem police officers gave protesters several warnings to leave or face arrest. State police said they used inert pepper balls to keep the crowd back.

At least four people were arrested on Monday, including 41-year-old Ryan Lyles who OSP said sprayed bear mace at officers.

Stock photo shows protesters in front of the state capitol during a rally on September 7, 2020 in Salem, Oregon. Nathan Howard/Getty Images