To avoid COVID mandates, California town declares itself a republic

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OROVILLE, Calif. (KDKA) — Leaders of a small town in northern California believe they have come up with a plan that allows them to avoid vaccine mandates and other federal and state COVID restrictions.

The city council in Oroville, located about 90 miles from Sacramento, recently approved a resolution designating the town a "Constitutional Republic City," meaning city leaders could opt out of enforcing state or federal orders that they feel go too far.

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The resolution states that "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."

The declaration passed by a 6-1 vote.

Vice Mayor Scott Thomson, the father of two young boys, told the Los Angeles Times that Governor Gavin Newsom's mandate requiring schoolchildren to be vaccinated against COVID-19 was the final straw.

"Now that the mandates have gone from not just putting something on the outside of your body or modifying how you run your business, but now shoving something inside your body that nobody knows the long-term effects of, that's just like, OK, now you're, in my opinion, crossing the line," Thomson said.

The resolution doesn't mean the city is against laws, Thomson said, but rather it allows them to protect "citizens' rights as much as we can on the local level."

"In a way, we are acting as a sanctuary city for our citizens and their rights and freedoms protected by the U.S. and state constitutions," Thomson told Fox News.

Thomson added that each and every mandate will be handled differently. He said mandates won't be eliminated entirely, but the declaration gives local leaders an opportunity to decide how they are enforced.

"Although we realize this virus is serious; we also believe that protecting the constitutional freedoms our citizens have is also something we take seriously," he said. "Our state representatives have been trying to get through to our governor for him to hear that just because something works well for big cities like Sacramento or San Francisco does not mean that the same thing holds true for rural areas like Oroville."

Mayor Chuck Reynolds said while he supports the resolution, it is merely symbolic and "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," Reynolds told the East Bay Times.

Lisa Pruitt, a rural law expert at the University of California, Davis, echoed that the declaration does not shield the city from following federal mandates.

"A municipality cannot unilaterally declare itself not subject to the laws of the state of California," Pruitt told The Guardian. "It seems to make the people of Oroville feel better that their city council has made this gesture but as a practical matter it doesn’t make any difference."