Oroville protests California COVID restrictions by declaring itself a republic: What does that mean?

California
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)

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)

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.”

But 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 newspaper.

The desire to secede isn’t unique, either. 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 require the Democratic-controlled legislatures of California and Oregon to sign off, plus it would need the federal government’s approval as well.

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.

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