A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

At the Capitol: More security, less freedom

Written January 12th, 2022 by Hasso Hering

The revolving front doors of the Oregon Capitol have always been hard to turn but easy to enter unbothered by guards.

One of the traditions of life in Oregon is about to come to an end, and it’s another step in our long slide of giving up little bits of freedom in the name of “security.”

Anyone — from politicians and other big shots to little people like you and me — has always been able to walk into the Capitol in Salem without being bothered or questioned in any way. That is about to change.

Officials in the offices of the House speaker and the Senate president announced the change Wednesday. Starting Jan. 27, they said, “all visitors, employees, and elected officials will be required to pass through a metal detector upon entering the building.”

Further, “bags and other items” will be searched in person or passed through an X-ray machine. “Trained security personnel” at the doors will check for weapons and other “dangerous items.”

This, the legislative officials said, “will be similar to security practices at county courthouses throughout the state.” Not all of them, though. Linn County, for one, still respects free citizens enough not to subject them to the indignity of forcing them through a detector and scanning their belongings just to attend a meeting or see about their taxes.

The leadership at the Capitol is taking those steps, the officials said, “in order to better ensure the safety of the public, staff, and elected officials.”

A Capitol building that’s open to the public and freely accessible to anyone is a symbol of a free people, maybe not the most important symbol, but still a significant one.

Leaders in Salem diminished the spirit of openness when they barred the public from the building during the last session on the grounds of the Covid contagion. Now, in a different but more lasting way, they are damaging it again. (hh)

14 responses to “At the Capitol: More security, less freedom”

  1. Deborah Swenson says:

    Back in 1970 my best friend and I decided to play hooky from what was then known as Albany Union High. We decided to do something educational to assuage the guilt. We drove to Salem and went to the Capitol building to check it out and see how things were done there. We had fun, and did learn a few things, so I didn’t feel quite as guilty for skipping school. I pity any student who would attempt such a thing today. But in those days Republicans were in charge and willing to give us information and a short tour.

    • Barry N. Libbs says:

      You’re right. Things were so much simpler back then. Could schedule a “Gold Man” tour on a whim. Spit a little tobacco off the winding staircase up there, just to see it dissipate in the Salem breeze. Things were so much more regular order under leadership like Victor Atiyeh. I mean under these snowflakes, sheesh. You have State Troopers that openly defy the Governor’s Orders in Corvallis Coffee Shops. Never would have happened in the good old days. I mean never.

  2. An Anonymous American says:

    Once apon a time my wife and I went to the Capitol just for fun. While there, then Gov Kitzhaber and Congressman Peter Difazio strolled out onto the balcony above us. They were deep in conversation and seemed oblivious to our presence. As far as we could tell, the four of us were the only living beings there. (I imagine there were others but we didn’t see anyone.
    We could hear every word they said. ….It made us feel pretty good! Sounds silly speaking of it now…and thinking of it now makes me feel sad for us all.

  3. hj.anony1 says:

    Off script again Hasso! Think Mike Nearman. And his band of crazed Rethugs.

  4. Gordon L. Shadle says:

    This is a fear-based security act. It’s only one scene from a bigger play.

    If a person intends serious harm to another person they will not be deterred by a metal detector and a couple of security guards.

    The perp would simply wait outside the capitol building for the target to exit.

    And this set-up does nothing to prevent another Nearman fiasco. Those folks came in a side door. Metal detectors and armed OSP officers would have to man every entrance to the building to stop a loud “largely peaceful” group of protestors. Not likely.

    Let’s be real. Oregon is increasingly governed by authoritarians. They demand, and get for the most part, docile submission from the people. Sad.

  5. John Klock says:

    January 6th. Enough said.

    • Birdieken says:

      The real inconvenient truth is what would have happened if the left stormed the capitol? If Ashley Babbitt was such an eminent threat why didn’t the plan clothed officer standing next to her just grab her arm? The truth is the left is willing to burn the whole place down for political gain and the right didn’t.

  6. Lundy says:

    A free society should always lean more toward freedom than security. We’re obviously doing a lot more tilting in the security direction these days, and it puzzles me that so many people just seem to be OK with surrendering, as you describe them, “little bits of freedom.”

  7. Katherine says:

    This is just the way of the world. It all started with 911. Now we have domestic threats we’re divided among ourselves just like our enemies enemies like it. You want freedom? Then respect law and order. When people don’t trust each other this is what happens. Does anyone even remember boarding a plane where there was no TSA?
    Why are we even suprised?

  8. H. R. Richner says:

    In yesterday’s paper, notably under “briefly”, appeared an innocent looking item reporting a new specialized unit of the federal government focused on domestic terrorism, addressing an “elevated” threat. Anyone who knows the history of the last century cannot but worry about what’s going on in Washington. In 1933 the Nazi party won more seats than any other in the Reichstag, if not a majority. What they needed was a January 6th and they got it with the Reichstag’s fire for which they blamed the Communist party. That’s when they started to focus on domestic terrorism, keeping the fire alive without MSNBC or CNN, but with accurate reports about Stalin’s Communist genocidal “land reform” in the Ukraine, famously ignored by our N.Y.Times. Where is the evidence for our elevated threat?

    • Gordon L. Shadle says:

      You asked, “Where is the evidence for our elevated threat?”

      In regards to Oregon the state’s press release provides a clue. It states the new security measures will ensure compliance with ORS 166.370 (Possession of firearm or dangerous weapon in public building or court facility).

      But no hard evidence of an elevated threat due to firearms or weapons is provided.

      Perhaps the biggest clue that answers your question is a tweet from one legislator who stated she “will feel safer in February.”

      Feelings, wo oh oh feelings…

  9. John Hartman says:

    If the MAGA-fueled idiot, Nearman, hadn’t violated his sworn oath to defend the State by allowing even more dazed and confused MAGA morons into the building surreptitiously, perhaps this action would not have been necessary. The Right delights in creating conditions that then allow the Right to whine about the consequences.


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