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California city proclaims itself a 'republic' in protest against compulsory COVID-19 vaccinations

For Vice Mayor of Oroville, California, Scott Thomson, the father of two boys, Governor Gavin Newsom's decree on compulsory vaccination of schoolchildren against COVID-19 was the last straw. He believed that the government had no right to tell him what to invest in his bodies or the bodies of his children. So he came up with an ambitious plan for his small town in Northern California. What did he do, said the publication Los Angeles Times.

Photo: Shutterstock

Oroville declared itself a constitutional republic. A place where local leaders promise to fight government mandates that they say go too far.

"Any executive order of the State of California or the US federal government that unduly exceeds or clearly violates our constitutionally protected rights will not be enforced by the City of Oroville on its citizens," the city council said in a statement.

For some, the declaration has become a campaign for freedom. But other city residents saw it as a reckless hysteria amid the ongoing pandemic that has claimed the lives of more than 73000 Californians.

Butte County, with a population of about 220, has one of the lowest vaccination rates in the state. As of Saturday, 000% of residents were fully vaccinated, compared with 47% of all California residents.

Butte County's largest hospital, the 298-bed Enloe Medical Center, had an average of 26 COVID-19 patients in the past week - more than all Los Angeles County hospitals except one, which has 10 million people.

Oroville resident Celia Hirschman lost her father, Jack Hirschman, to COVID-19 three months ago. She said that such a statement offends people who have lost loved ones or people with weakened immunity.

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“It says we’re not going to live by your rules,” she said. - I don’t think at all that we are talking about an open dialogue. I think this is a dangerous measure that does not need to be added to our charter. "

Oroville, a city of 20, is now one of California's growing communities in recent years who call themselves a place that does not conform to any liberal ideals.

Two years ago, the desolate city of Needles became a “city of refuge” for the 2nd Amendment (right to bear arms) in protest of California's stringent firearms control laws. And contrary to pandemic-related closure orders, Atwater and Coalinga last year declared themselves as a “business haven city” and a city where all businesses matter, both of which lost funding for emergencies. COVID-19.

The Oroville Constitutional Republic Ordinance is largely symbolic, with no power over state-regulated schools.

The city is the capital of Butte County, a county where 36% of voters are registered Republicans, 35% are registered Democrats, and 20% are independent citizens. By a small margin, the district voted for President Donald Trump in 2016 and President Joe Biden last year. Here, voters also supported an attempt to remove Newsom from office.

COVID-19 rates remain relatively high here, even though they have dropped significantly in places like Los Angeles and San Francisco. The number of COVID-positive patients during the outbreak of the Delta variant, most of whom were not vaccinated, peaked at Enloe Medical Center on September 23, when 95 people were hospitalized.

“It's hard to be here in winter,” said Marcia Nelson, the hospital's chief physician. - We do not start with a baseline of less than 10 patients; we start with what used to seem like a really big number. "

At the Oroville City Council meeting that approved the constitutional republic resolution, the city official had to clarify to one commentator that the resolution was not "the beginning of an effort to separate Oroville from California and the United States."

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One speaker was an elderly man who likened the resolution to the Jefferson state movement decades ago, which called for California's rural conservative northern counties to secede and form their own state.

Thomson said the announcement was driven by vaccination demands, especially for schoolchildren, which were opposed by several Butte County school districts, sparking protests across the state, including in cities such as Los Angeles.

“Now that the prescriptions have stopped telling us to wear something on the outside of our body or change the way we do business, we are now stuffing something inside our body,” Thomson said.

Thomson, pastor of the Assembly of God Church, said that he is not against wearing or against getting vaccinated for people who want it. He said he and his sons are not vaccinated but now have antibodies after a mild COVID-19 illness in August.

“There are people who think, 'This is all a hoax,” Thomson said. "We're not like that."

He said unvaccinated city workers are tested weekly for COVID-19 at the city's expense. And his church distributed hundreds of masks to parishioners.

Council members said they were inundated with calls and emails about the resolution - both positive and negative - from across the country.

“There was a lot of swearing,” said Eric Smith, board member and president of the Oroville Chamber of Commerce.

Smith said most local business owners support this claim. He said the widespread closure due to the pandemic was a hard blow because it came amid a local "financial revival" and population growth in recent years.

It was very difficult to find "a balanced approach to the problems of disease and spread, as well as to the livelihood of people," he said.

Councilor Rat Riggs said she single-handedly voted against the declaration because she believes the best way for city officials to oppose mandates is through the judiciary, not through a resolution. But she says she understands the frustration with mandates.

“We've been in this situation for 20 months now, and I think the common feeling is fatigue,” she said. - When will it end? Yes, there is light at the end of the tunnel, but it also comes with uncertainty and risk. "

The pandemic has exacerbated the disastrous consequences for Oroville, she said. In 2017, a spillway accident occurred at the Oroville Dam, leading to a massive evacuation; a fire at a 2018 camp in nearby Paradise; drought, which caused the shutdown of a large hydroelectric power plant on Lake Oroville.

When wildfires broke out in Butte County last summer, the air in Oroville was toxic, but indoor dining was banned across the state due to the virus, putting local restaurants in a quandary, Riggs said.

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Brian Wong, who opened Union Bar & Grill in Oroville in the fall of 2019, said he considered the city's announcement "very bold."

As a small business owner, Wong said he felt he had to deal with the state's complex and ever-changing rules on his own.

“For a whole year, this whole system was permeated only by fear and anger,” he said. "Seeing that politics get into all this, it seemed to me that they were not sincere about health and safety."

Wong, who also owns 109-year-old Chinese restaurant Tong Fong Low, said he spent a lot of money to build a patio for outdoor dining and required dozens of his employees to wear masks for over a year before vaccines became widespread.

He has heard all the opinions on the pandemic from his clients and said he welcomes different points of view. This is why he named his restaurant Union, because this is his vision for California: "bringing all these different people together to create one whole."

The 24-year-old chef said he opened his Joe's Lunch ToGo burger van in March 2020, just as the pandemic began.

Tomlinson has heard little about the declaration of a constitutional republic, but believes it won't hurt if it pushes for greater local control.

“We are a small town and we support each other,” he said.

“This is all just talk,” said resident Michael Suplita.

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