The “Yes California” movement seeks to have California become an independent country by seceding from the Union. Its co-founder, Louis J. Marinelli, lives in Russia. In fact, the 34-year-old, who was born in New York, has lived in Russia on and off since he was 21.
In 2007, Marinelli moved to Russia to teach in a private language school after he earned his TEFL certificate (Teaching English as a Foreign Language). In 2009, he moved to Saint Petersburg, Russia, where he worked as an English teacher and attended Saint Petersburg State University as a student of the Russian language.
Marinelli left Russia in 2011 with his Russian fiancée and moved to California. But he returned to Russia five years later citing his disillusionment with the United States. He said, “I have found in Russia a new happiness, a life without the albatross of frustration and resentment towards one’s homeland, and a future detached from the partisan divisions and animosity that has thus far engulfed my entire life.”
In 2019, while living in Moscow, Marinelli was detained by the Russian police after he attended an unsanctioned political march in support of investigative journalist Ivan Golunov. Ivan was falsely arrested for a drug-related crime, but he was released after widespread public outcry. It was later revealed that the police fabricated photos of a drug lab purportedly taken in Ivan’s apartment.
Marinelli was one of hundreds of protesters detained after being attacked by police wearing riot gear. Ultimately, Ivan and another human-rights activist were released. As a result of subsequent investigations, several high-ranking Russian officials and police officers were fired or arrested.
It begs the question of how Marinelli sees life in Russia under this kind of harsh totalitarian regime as better than a life of freedom and Constitutional protections in California.
During the five years he lived in California before returning to Russia, Marinelli launched a campaign for California to secede from the U.S. and become an independent country. He met author Marcus Ruiz Evans and together they released a 165-page manifesto in 2015 on California’s future. Their “Yes California” movement, inspired by the unsuccessful 2014 “Yes Scotland” campaign for independence, had a goal of California independence by 2020.
Mr. Marinelli was removed from his leadership position because of the optics of him living in Russia. He was removed by Marcus Ruiz Evans. Member Joshua Brown said the California independence movement should be a “militant Socialist” movement. [Mr. Evans said he is not a member.]
Marinelli lost his chairmanship of the “Yes California” committee because he and co-founder Marcus Ruiz Evans became president of “Yes California” in 2017.
Marinelli’s influence in “Yes California” has caused harm to the movement. According to the yescalifornia.org/about website, it had to defend itself against claims that it’s a Russian asset. By its own admission, the leaders “had no option but to withdraw our independence referendum from circulation” following “three years of the media stories of the Russian boogeyman.” (Reference to Marinelli)
Often referred to as “Calexit” (as in Brexit), this California succession movement is only the latest of more than 200 attempts in its history to split up the state.
Two years ago, the office of California’s Secretary of State announced that a ballot proposal for secession had been cleared to begin gathering signatures. It was among several recent initiatives to split up California into smaller states or secede from the United States.
There is a current measure to see if independence backers can get enough signatures to qualify for a vote for California to exit the union. They need 366,000 signatures from registered voters. If the current Calexit movement qualifies by mid-October, there would be a special election in 2021 to determine if California voters want to become an independent country.
This movement has been lent credence by recent comments by Governor Gavin Newsom, who called California a “nation-state.” It has 40 million people and the fifth-largest economy in the world, recently moving ahead of the United Kingdom.
The “Yes California” movement is ready to move. It reluctantly acknowledges on its website that President Trump will win reelection in November. It uses this as a call not just to action, but to revolution.
“When Donald Trump is re-elected next year, there is going to be revolution in California and we intend to tap into that energy to get our independence on the ballot.”
Full disclosure – I was born in Los Angeles, went to high school near San Diego, and returned after being honorably discharged from the Army to graduate from college in San Jose. Fortunately, I do not live in California anymore.
I remember over the years numerous times when northern and southern California threatened to divide into two states, mostly over water rights. I also remember predictions that an imminent major earthquake would cause California to fall off into the ocean. And now Californians want to secede from the Union. One of these things might actually happen in the very near future.
You’ve been warned.
Image from: washingtonpost.com
Correction: Mr. Evans informed us that Mr. Marinelli was removed from his position due to the optics of living in Russia. He also said Mr. Brown is not a member of the group. We have edited the copy to reflect that.