Can a city declare itself a republic? Oroville, California just did

National News

A car passes over the Bidwell Bar Bridge in Lake Oroville in Butte County, Calif., Sunday, Aug. 22, 2021. Oroville voted to become a “constitutional republic” in November of 2021, saying it was fed up with state COVID-19 regulations. (AP Photo/Ethan Swope)

(NEXSTAR) – Fed up with COVID-19 regulations and vaccine mandates, one California city decided to take matters into its own hands. Oroville’s city council overwhelmingly voted to declare itself a “constitutional republic” earlier this month.

What that means, according to the declaration, is: “Any executive orders issued by the State of California or by the United States federal government that are overreaching or clearly violate our constitutionally protected rights will not be enforced by the City of Oroville against its citizens.”

What does it mean in practice? Oroville’s mayor told the East Bay Times it “doesn’t change anything.”

“It’s simply reminding people what kind of government we live under and that they do have personal choices and freedoms,” Mayor Chuck Reynolds told the Times.

Proponents of the constitutional republic told reporters they were especially upset with California’s requirement that children 12 and older eventually get vaccinated against COVID-19 in order to attend school. However, even after this vote, schools in Oroville will still be regulated (and largely funded) by the state.

Oroville isn’t the only California city to try and take a stand against the state’s COVID-19 policies. Earlier in the pandemic, two towns decided to defy Gov. Gavin Newsom’s shutdown orders for certain businesses, reports the Los Angeles Times. They lost some funding from the state as a result, according to the paper.

The desire to secede isn’t unique to California, either. The Washington Times and a USA Today columnist noticed the trend in 2020, noting rural pockets of blue states are often the ones who want out. A few Virginia counties said they wanted to join their more conservative friends in West Virginia, but Adam Dean, a history professor at the University of Lynchburg, called the prospect of getting approval from both state legislatures and Congress “extremely unlikely.”

Some residents in Southern Oregon and far Northern California have also been trying to form a 51st state of Jefferson for nearly 80 years. But as the New York Times reports, the creation of the new state would not only require California and Oregon to give the OK – Congress would have to sign off, too.

So can a city decide it’s fed up with its home state and go it alone? The short answer is no – at least not by merely putting the matter to a city council vote.

In theory, the city’s citizens could take up arms and go to war to fight for independence. But it would literally take a civil war. And since cities don’t have armies, you can see why even a large metropolis would be easily outmatched – not to mention Oroville, California: population 20,000.

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