Members of separatist group Yes California had their hopes dashed earlier this week when group leader Louis Marinelli withdrew his petition for a “Calexit” referendum and in a 1,600-word statement announced plans to make Russia his new home.
“I have found in Russia a new happiness, a life without the albatross of frustration and resentment towards ones’ homeland, and a future detached from the partisan divisions and animosity that has thus far engulfed my entire adult life,” Marinelli wrote. “Consequently, if the people of Russia would be so kind as to welcome me here on a permanent basis, I intend to make Russia my new home.”
Marinelli’s seemingly rash decision created havoc in the Calexit movement as supporters remain unsure about its future. The dream is far from dead, however. Last month a Yes California offshoot named California Freedom Coalition sprang into existence.
Steve Gonzales, a CFC board member who lives in San Jose, believes that his group is far more honest than Marinelli’s. It was formed by people who have grown leery of Yes California’s ties to the Kremlin.
“We’re not doing anything nationally. The only thing we would do is help other states, but we’re not asking for outside money,” said Gonzales “We are accepting nothing from outside of the country. Anything from out of state will be scrutinized by the board of directors.”
Marinelli wrote that because he will “not return to California in the foreseeable future,” it made sense for him to withdraw his Calexit petition and “allow a new petition, free from ties to me and drafted by others, to be resubmitted at future date of their choosing.”
Marinelli has been ensconced inside Russia since last September, an unusual location for a California separatist to reside. He claimed to be preparing for a California embassy in Moscow and had the support of a rabidly anti-American group.
Yes California was born after Scotland’s latest attempt to secure independence, an attempt that only fell 5.4 percent short of succeeding. “We have picked up the torch,” Marinelli said.
He claimed in a December interview that he was attracted to Moscow both because of visa concerns involving his Russian wife and its veto power on the UN Security Council. He expected that America and its supporters would reject California’s legitimacy as a nation.
“We don’t expect that the US’ staunchest allies will recognize a state’s independence movement,” he said. “That would be a slap in the face to the US.”
Marinelli insisted that he was disgusted with American politics and that his decision to remain in Russia was largely motivated by his inability to support President Trump.
“I had long planned to eventually return to occupied California and struggle for her independence from the United States so we could build the kind of country that reflects our progressive values,” he wrote. “However, while my frustration, disappointment, and disillusionment with the United States remain, these feelings now point me in a different direction.”
Gonzales hopes that Yes California’s dissolution will lead to growth for CFC. People turned off by Marinelli personally might support a group with no trace of his involvement. CFC’s strategy to win independence for California barely resembles Marinelli’s.
“The money’s coming in. We have several people who have said, ‘We’ll do matching funds.’ We believe we can easily, easily bring in $3 million,” Gonzales said. “We have a very strong connection with groups north of San Francisco in Marin County who have pledged money assuming Louis has nothing to do with this.”
Gonzales said that CFC will attempt to push for a single ballot measure and that more details would be released in the next few months. CFC also plans to organize labor strikes.
“The federal government is adversarial toward California, and we are sick of it,” Gonzales said. “And this group will use whatever peaceful means, if it’s a referendum, if it’s lobbying, if it’s marching, [and] we have other ideas to disrupt the economy as well.”
The California separatist movement was at least delayed if not ultimately crushed by Marinelli. Supporters lost credence due to his insistence on entangling the movement with the Kremlin. Liberals are loath to support anything connected with Vladimir Putin.
Marinelli, however, wrote that he hopes that “after the false allegations about me vanish, and after this period of anti-Russian hysteria subsides,” it will be “said of this campaign that we spoke the truth” and “set in motion a series of events that led California to independence from the United States.”
“When that day finally comes, as it will, I shall look forward with great satisfaction to return to California and to live once again under our bear flag. Until then I will continue to serve as the representative of the Republic of California to Russia.”