Oregon Capitol tours stopped for security review

SALEM, Ore. (AP) Guided tours at the Oregon Capitol have been suspended while authorities take a look at security in a building that has no barriers, metal detectors or security stations between the front doors and lawmakers.

Five protesters broke away from one of the tours on Thursday, rappelled down the face of the Capitol dome and unfurled a large banner denouncing Gov. John Kitzhaber for a plan to sell acreage from the Elliott State Forest in the Coast Range.

The protesters carried ropes, harnesses and the banner in backpacks, said Jason Gonzales, a spokesman for the Cascadia Forest Defenders.

The seasonal tours may be resumed next week, but they were scheduled to end next Friday in any case, the Salem Statesman Journal reported.

Oregon leaders have tried over the years to maintain a building accessible to the public, even as events raised security concerns.

"We're proud we're the people's Capitol," said Kevin Hayden, the building's legislative administrator. "We are looking at this incident and asking if this exposed a vulnerability that we need to shore up. Should we be taking another step? But if we do, we don't necessarily tell people what we change so that they can then learn how to beat the system."

Since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and the anthrax scares of 2002, lawmakers, staff members and journalists have been issued identification badges, and some side entrances are locked during the day.

In 2005, a man threatening to kill himself with a 10-inch knife entered the Senate Chambers, which caused a temporary lockdown and raised concerns about the open access.

Legislative leaders at the time met to discuss short- and long-term security changes for the building, and to hear recommendations from the state police.

All five of the protesters from Thursday's protest face trespassing and disorderly conduct charges, and four are charged with reckless endangerment. Some groups oppose the legislation because hey say would privatize 1.6 million acres of Oregon forestland and increase clearcutting.

Information from:

Statesman Journal

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press