‘California wants to secede from the US because we don't want 49 different states to decide our future’

‘The chief separatist of all America’, who was a teacher of English in Kazan, told Realnoe Vremya about Trump and the links with the Kremlin

‘California wants to secede from the US because we don't want 49 different states to decide our future’ Photo: itsmycity.ru

Just recently, Louis J. Marinelli, who is behind the movement for California secession, has got within the view of foreign media. The media links his growing popularity with Donald Trump's win in the election – this fact allegedly may accelerate the process of the secession. As Realnoe Vremya found out, about eight years ago, Marinelli was working as an English teacher in one of the Kazan schools. We talked to 'the chief American separatist' and found out whether it is true that the citizens of the US are fleeing to Canada after Trump won, whether the citizens of California are ready to secede from the US and whether Marinelli is planning to go back to Kazan if his plan for sovereignty fails.

Will California secede from the US next spring?

Louis, could you tell us how the idea of the secession of California from the US was born?

We started to work in this direction two years ago. It was a small movement. We were told that time that we were crazy. However, since recently our movement has become very popular. It happened after the victory of Trump in the election. We suddenly felt the support of people. The thing is that California pays larger taxes than it receives in return from the federal government. We want to improve the standard of living in California but we can't do this because our money go to the other states to support them. We want to secede in order to leave our taxes here, to spend them on California. We started this movement because we realized that the federal government is broken and we can't rely on them anymore.

Do you think that California citizens will support you?

I this yes, they will. We definitely will conduct a referendum in a couple of years and I think it will go well.

Do you have many followers? Who supports you?

There are people who want to work for us. There are about 10,000 people who personally want to support our aim, to help us in different aspects. For example, to organize rallies, to collect signatures.

You need to collect signatures in order to hold a referendum – about 700 thousand. We have people who are ready to support us in this. That is why I think that we can materialize our plan. We will start work on signature collection this spring.

Do you believe that the secession from the US is possible?

First, it is 100% realistic that a referendum will take place. But it is unclear what will be after the referendum.

How will the independence of California affect the state itself and America in general?

California has its own culture, its own history, ideology. We have our own views on issues and so on. We are different people, we are different nation already. Out governor has already said that California is another nation in the composition of the US. We want to secede from the US because we don't want 49 different states to decide our future – we want to do this by ourselves. But until we are a part of the US, they do this for us, what will be with California. For example, who will be the president. We didn't choose Trump – they did it. As for the taxes, California can't solve this issue. We have only two senators, but there they are a hundred, they all are from different states that's why the majority from different states can decide the future of California citizens. But we want to choose by ourselves.

'California has its own culture, its own history, ideology. We have our own views on issues and so on. We are different people, we are different nation already.' Photo: facebook.com/louisjmarinelli

Some media calls you 'the American separatist' – what do you think about that?

I haven't heard yet they call me that way but I am the leader of this movement. Yes, it is the biggest state in the US. Perhaps, it is true. But I do not consider myself as an American, I am a Californian. My country is California, I work for it, for its future. I don't care if they call me that way or another. I care that California wants to live independently from the US.

'Every four years people say that they are going to move to Canada due to an election'

Earlier you have said that the world doesn't regard America the way the Americans regard it. What is the difference you think?

Most Americans think that America is the best country, it has the best government, best democracy, that it is the freest country, the most healthy country. But it is not true. I think that there are only two spheres where America is the leader. It is, of course, the size of the military sector – the biggest and strongest army in the world. Second, America has the largest percentage of the population being in jail. Ever larger that in China.

This country, they think, is the freest in the world, despite the fact that there is the largest number of people being in prison. As for, for example, education, healthcare, security in the streets, happiness, even the financial situation, economy, then the USA takes not the first place. You can see it only if you are living not in the US, you should look at America from outside.

I can't help but ask – what do you think about the appointment of Donald Trump as the president?

For me, both candidates Tump and Clinton, they are not from California that is why they are not my presidents. The thing is that Trump wants to introduce novel policies that will have a poor effect on California. We do not support him, personally I do not support Trump. We should elect our president for 'the republic of California' and cease to be involved in the US policy because they do not care about our opinion anyway. Perhaps you know that we voted against Trump but he did become the president. The elections take place every four years, where our voices are not heard.

By the way, the Senator from California Barbara Boxer has submitted a bill in the US Senate on the transition to the direct election of the US president. She believes the election system to be unfair. Do you agree with such opinion?

Generally, I agree with that because due to the system we have out votes are not taken into account. Even at the moment when the election is only finishing, media reports that California has already voted. It is despite the fact that we did not have time to count the votes, they already say whom we have chosen. I think that a new system, when one person has one vote like in other countries would be better for California – out votes would make a difference. Anyway, this will not improve the situation so that we wanted to stay in the US.

A students' rally in the centre of Los Angeles on 14 November. Photo: Reed Saxon (Associated Press)

By the way, is it true that people want to leave the country after Trump's victory?

To tell the truth, I hear it every four years. It is not news. There is a group of people who always tell after the elections that they are going to move to another country because somebody won the elections there.

California can become independent because the results of the latest elections is news. Every four years people say they are going to Canada or New Zealand or Australia. But we don't hear that California is going to become independent every four years.

'We don't speak to the Kremlin what we do…'

Louis, is it true that your movement has supporters in Russia? Some people even find a connection with the Russian government…

In California, we have people who want to help us to become an independent country. In Russia, we have partners who are ready to support us in our aspiration. But we will do it without Russia's help. There is a group in Russia we are working on the common global goal with. In California, we understand that the world is multipolar, and it won't be always under control of the USA. And Anti-Globalization Movement of Russia shares our points of view. We work on the independence of California on our own, that is to say, Russia doesn't help us to become independent. We have no connection with the Russian government. We don't speak to the Kremlin what we do. Russian citizens who work at AGM (Anti-Globalization Movement of Russia) are our connection here.

It has been known recently that you were going to open an office of Yes California in Moscow. What functions will it have?

It will be mainly an embassy, a consulate of California, not an office of our movement. There will be an exhibition, information about California: how one can get there, how to organise your business or what places one should visit as a tourist. Probably the history of the relationship of Russia and California will be told. It will be a kind of museum, cultural centre and consulate at the same time. When we become independent, we will be able to deal with diplomatic issues.

'In California, we understand that the world is multipolar, and it won't be always under control of the USA. And Anti-Globalization Movement of Russia shares our points of view.' Photo: anti-global.ru

Don't you plan to obtain Russian citizenship?

I want to be a citizen of the Republic of California. If I don't manage to do it for some reason, I am not going to stay there because I don't want to live under the American flag.

In conclusion, I would like to ask you… Did you really live in Kazan?

Yes, it was 8 years ago. I worked in Kazan during a year. I lived near the Moscow Market. I taught English at school. I liked your city! Before Tatarstan, I worked in Samara. It also was an English school – it was a sort of network of schools. I wanted to move from Samara when it was told about the opening of the Kazan branch of the school. So I moved to Tatarstan.

I did not come back to Tatarstan after that. Probably when I have time, if I visit different Russian cities, I will be able to visit Kazan too.

By Lina Sarimova