A small Northern California town has declared itself a “constitutional republic” in response to restrictive Covid-19 mandates imposed by California Democrat Governor Gavin Newsom.
Oroville’s city council recently adopted a resolution stating that it would oppose federal and state orders that it deems to be overreach by the government.
The town is located at the base of the Sierra Nevada foothills about 90 miles from Sacramento.
Oroville leaders said the designation as a constitutional republic is its way of affirming the city’s values and pushing back against state rules. Tensions have been high throughout the coronavirus pandemic between California’s leadership and the rural north.
California was one of the first states to implement mask mandates, lockdowns, and vaccination requirements.
In Butte County, where Oroville is located, fierce opposition to Covid lockdowns and school closures drove support for the recall of Gov. Newsom, with 51% of the county backing the effort, which failed statewide.
In 2020, Oroville refused to enforce state requirements that prohibited indoor dining. The county declined to recommend a mask mandate for its residents.
Taking a stand
Before passing the constitutional republic resolution, Oroville council members argued that they were advocating for residents to take a stand and make their own health choices.
Oroville mayor Chuck Reynolds said, “I assure you, folks, that great thought was put into every bit of this. Nobody willy-nilly threw something to grandstand.”
The city’s declaration does not shield it from state and federal laws, experts say.
Lisa Pruitt, a rural law expert at the University of California, Davis, said she was not sure what the designation meant. “A municipality cannot unilaterally declare itself not subject to the laws of the state of California. Whatever they mean by a constitutional republic, you cannot say ‘hocus pocus’ and make it happen.”
City leaders in Oroville say the resolution is its way of affirming the city’s values and commitments to the constitution and pushing back against the state government.
Scott Thomson, the city’s vice-mayor, said the resolution was drafted from scratch after not finding examples of other cities with similar resolutions.
“I proposed it after 18 months of increasingly intrusive executive mandates and what I felt to be excessive overreach by our government. After the failed recall in California, our state governor seems to [be] on a rampage, and the mandates are getting more intrusive. Now he’s going after our kids and schools,” explained Thomson.
‘Where does it stop?’
The majority of the speakers at Oroville’s city council meeting expressed their support for the resolution, with several explicitly citing the state’s vaccine requirement for schoolchildren, while others called council members “heroes.”
“We’re hoping that becoming a constitutional republic city is the best step in order to regain and maintain our inalienable rights protected by the constitution of the United States. What will be left if we don’t have that? If we don’t have bodily autonomy,” said one speaker through tears.
“What else are they gonna want me to let them do to my kids? Where does it stop?”
The resolution will not affect local schools, which fall under the school district’s requirements, but is a way for Oroville to declare it will not use any city resources to implement any state rules the community does not agree with.
“We’re not ignorant that there are serious issues at hand; we just do not agree with the way it is being handled,” said Thomson.
The Oroville council approved the resolution by a 6-1 vote.