After a rally at the Capitol marked by chants of “The time has come for 51!” and a surprise appearance by Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, supporters of the State of Jefferson presented their “declarations of separation” to the California Legislature Thursday.
The declarations from Modoc and Siskiyou counties, expressing their desire to withdraw from California because of a lack of representation in Sacramento, marked the first official step in the secession movement’s long-running efforts to reform as a new state in Northern California.
“We’re here not because we feel any ill will toward California,” said Mark Baird, a pilot and rancher from Yreka who has helped organize the Jefferson movement. “Our problem is (lawmakers) don’t have empathy for us because we’re so far away.”
Baird addressed a crowd of about seventy from across Northern California, clad in green shirts and carrying green flags bearing Jefferson’s seal. The yellow circle with two X’s stands for “double-crossed by Sacramento.”
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Donnelly, a Republican from Twin Peaks in Southern California, showed up unannounced to support the rally, which frequently drew comparisons to the American Revolution through “taxation without representation” arguments and the “Don’t tread on me” snake logo.
“It’s time for another revolution,” Donnelly said. “A peaceful one.”
Supporters of the State of Jefferson argue that California’s representative system in both houses of the Legislature unfairly removes political power from their rural areas. Baird said they want to form their own government to address the issues of resources and the economy that are affecting them, leaving the rest of the state free to deal with its “urban problems” like large infrastructure, gangs and earthquakes.
Leroy Mainini drove two-and-a-half hours from Cottonwood in Tehema County, where one of four additional declarations has been approved, to attend the rally.
“Our rights have been taken away little by little,” he said, pointing in particular to California’s gun control laws, which he believes have gone far beyond common sense.
Jefferson is an opportunity to get back to the Constitution, Mainini added. “There’s so much corruption” in Sacramento.
Following the rally, dozens of supporters headed into the Capitol to visit legislative offices, while a small group including Baird delivered the declarations to the offices of the Senate secretary and the Assembly clerk.
As he walked through the rotunda, Baird reflected on Tim Draper’s Six Californias initiative to split the state, which includes the State of Jefferson in its plan.
“His heart is in the right place,” Baird said, but it won’t work. There’s nothing in the Constitution that allows citizens to split a state by initiative, whereas the Jefferson movement has precedent, he said.
But Baird appreciated the attention Draper was bringing to their cause. “Billionaires can get people to listen,” he said.
The declarations, which were also delivered to the Secretary of State’s office earlier in the day, represent a formal request by Modoc and Siskiyou counties to withdraw from California. Lawmakers can vote to allow them to separate, but supporters of the Jefferson movement expect they will be ignored, which they say will give them standing to make a legal challenge for their independence because the state is causing them harm.
They plan to move forward with that challenge once they get more counties on board; they’re talking to another 12 right now, in addition to the six that have already passed declarations.
As Baird left the office of the Secretary of the Senate, he extended a friendly invitation: “I hope you come visit our state when it’s finished.”