The State of Jefferson has become the catalyst for a movement in Northern California. The so-called Northstate is looking less and less like the rest of the Golden State. The vast, sparsely-populated region is whiter, more rural and poorer than the rest of the state, and residents are generally more conservative. While California has become the epicenter of resistance towards blunt popular conservatism, a deal of Californians are waging their own resistance: towards California itself.
The movement has been vocal against Californian laws and regulations for decades, but have recently become deafening towards state regulated COVID-19 restrictions. Carlos Zapata, an overnight right wing celebrity and figure in the Jefferson movement, had a clip of him at the Shasta Board of Supervisors go viral. “Right now, we’re being peaceful,” he said in the short speech, “But it’s not going to be peaceful much longer.” Despite having one of the highest per-capita rates of COVID-19 infections in the state, the Shasta County Board of Supervisors spent the last several weeks hearing calls to ignore state public health orders that would force restaurants, gyms and other small businesses to stop serving customers indoors.
At one point, an anti-mask activist in a Grim Reaper mask stood at the microphone and tried to set a face mask on fire. A man announced he was placing the entire board under citizen’s arrest. Activists read out the county health officer’s home address, prompting police to step up patrols in her neighborhood.
However, one begs the question, why would such a movement occur? Jeff Silva-Brown, an American Institutions and Comparative Government teacher here at Ukiah High said, “States are very diverse entities with cultures that span a broad swath of society. Probably one of the most disregarded cultures are those that exist in rural communities.” Silva-Brown highlighted some of the reasons rural populations are often ignored: “Very few people live in these locations compared to cities so the ability to influence policy related to a region’s culture is minimal. When states pass laws they are doing so without much regard to rural regions and this creates tension.” And this tension has been ever expanding, with the recent pandemic only speeding up the ignition of a revolutionary bomb.
But how much of this revolutionary talk can be taken seriously? How much of it just comes with the territory? Silva-Brown states, “Legally it can’t happen anyway as they would have to get both California and Oregon to give up that land, and then Congress must approve any new state. That’s not going to happen. Secession movements in California have been fairly common in California for 50 years. There have been multiple plans that have included Jefferson, splitting California in half, in thirds; and most recently carving California into six different states. These movements ebb and flow with economic conditions, political polarity, and usually die off as other issues pop up.”
Despite being vocal, the State of Jefferson and it’s rebellious movement is still only a minority within the liberal confines of California. “The urban/rural divide will get worse in the United States but I think the State of Jefferson will remain a symbol, never a reality.” Silva-Brown ends.