SANTA CLARA, Calif.—A Northern California city declared itself a constitutional republic in November, after disagreeing with COVID-19 mandates from the state government. The declaration symbolically affirms citizens’ inalienable rights as the state extends emergency health orders and issues a new round of state-wide mask mandates.
Scott Thomson, vice mayor of Oroville, has been the main proponent of the move. He said California’s COVID-19 mandates infringe on people’s rights.
“It’s a public declaration of saying … we disagree … with the way this pandemic is being handled. I put it up, we voted on it, and it passed, 6–1,” Thomson told NTD Television.
Many of the city’s 20,000 residents—a balance of Democrats, Republicans, and independents—supported the move at a public meeting on Nov. 2.
“It just continually felt like there was a carrot dangled in front of our face. … ‘Just do this now, and we’ll give you your freedom back. … We’ll put things back to normal,’” Thomson said. “For me, it seems like there’s no end in sight.”
The city declaring itself to be a constitutional republic is only symbolic for now, but the purpose of the move is to make a public statement supporting individual rights in the face of ongoing public health orders. On Nov. 10, California Gov. Gavin Newsom extended portions of his March 4, 2020, emergency proclamation through March 31, 2022, thereby continuing his emergency powers.
“We have … inalienable rights endowed by our Creator, and also a republic, which, in essence, means a separation of powers,” Thomson said. “And that’s not what we have with this emergency declaration that we’ve been going on. This next extension, by the time that finishes, would be two years of emergency powers. That’s not what it was designed for.”
California implemented another statewide mask mandate in all indoor public settings regardless of vaccination status starting on Dec. 15. According to California Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly, there have been increasing cases since Thanksgiving. The mask mandate will remain in place until Jan. 15.
Ironically, Thomson said the declaration was inspired by Newsom—then a mayor—declaring San Francisco a sanctuary city for illegal immigrants in 2007, and more recently, state lawmakers’ plans for designating California as a “sanctuary” for abortion in response to a potential Supreme Court overturn of Roe v. Wade—both of which were designed to combat perceived federal government overreach.
“The sense is … this is an acceptable option when you feel the government is overreaching in its power,” Thomson said.
According to Thomson, there has been no contact from the state or federal government and no funds have been withheld—although that’s a looming threat.
Two cities located in Central California were denied state COVID-19 funds in July 2020 following individual declarations to keep businesses open contrary to the state’s orders.
Since the declaration, Thomson said the city has received comments from around the state and country, with 90 percent of them being supportive.
In 2020, three counties also located in Northern California defied Newsom’s lockdown orders and decided to reopen local businesses. In May 2020, Modoc, Yuba, and Sutter counties ignored the statewide restrictions after having no confirmed cases of COVID-19 after a month of shelter-in-place orders.