Pentagon Blames Biden, Newsom for US Inaction in Breakaway Republic Crisis

Prospects for peace recede in a region ravaged by the effects of climate change and sectarian conflict.
Oroville, California
A boat motors by as the Bidwell Bar Bridge is surrounded by fire in Lake Oroville during the Bear fire in Oroville, California on September 9, 2020. (Photo by JOSH EDELSON/AFP via Getty Images

UNITED STATES—As the escalating crisis over the Constitutional Republic City of Oroville enters its second month, U.S. military leaders have refused to rule out an invasion, telling Motherboard that civilian leaders are responsible for inaction to date. For their part, those leaders have articulated no plans to protect both the territorial integrity and the people of their once-proud nation—but have also pointedly refused to deny that military force remains an option.

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While reporting by local news media traces the roots of the crisis to the effects of climate change, as well as preexisting sectarian tensions between residents of the Oroville enclave and those of the surrounding Northern California region, the spark that lit the flame came when local leaders declared their community of 15,000 a republic on November 2. 

Records show that at a council meeting, after considering such subjects as whether to lease a photocopying machine for $219 a month and a proposal from a firm called D.H. Slater & Sons for the demolition and remodeling of part of a local public safety building, the leaders adopted a resolution declaring Oroville a “Constitutional Republic City.” The document said that Oroville would no longer recognize the authority of the executives of the state of California and the U.S. federal government:

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Image courtesy Constitutional Republic City of Oroville

Confusingly, the leaders of this land of contradictions—who have said they’re motivated by California governor Gavin Newsom’s mandate that schoolchildren be vaccinated against COVID-19—have asserted that they are not seceding from either the state of California or the United States, but simply refusing to recognize their legal and political authority. (They cite the refusal of San Francisco, a Newsom stronghold, to enforce federal immigration laws as precedent, though that city has not declared itself a republic.) Footage from the council meeting, though, complicates the picture.

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Citizens applauded as the resolution was brought up for consideration; while one leader said that it was not meant to begin a secession effort, he also said that he had “not expended any time to research whether that’s possible.”

In a stirring speech, a U.S. loyalist and citizen of Oroville suggested that declaring the city a constitutional republic was a move designed to be “anti-decent living,” because it would allow the republic to ignore anti-discrimination laws and mask mandates. He was, though, laughed at by his fellow citizens.

“God has created our immune system, the most genuine and genius to fight these kinds of things off, and our whole family got it,” said one citizen. “We are now 30 percent stronger from getting any kind of sickness … everybody should be able to make their own choice.”

“Thank you for standing up for Oroville,” said another to raucous applause.

Even the cameraman filming the meeting was moved to speak in favor of the separatist movement, leaving his post from behind the camera to suggest that the U.S. should “look at Star Wars. They gave emergency powers to Chancellor Palpatine and look what happened.” 

“I think it’s time for us to draw a line in the sand and say enough is enough,” said separatist leader Scott Thomson, who serves on Oroville’s leadership council as vice mayor.

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Recently, Thomson has struck a more conciliatory note. “The desire here is dialogue,” he claimed to local news media.

With whom peace talks would be carried out isn’t clear, though. The U.S. State Department refused to answer specific questions from Motherboard, declining to say whether the U.S. government will be recognizing the republic (and why not, if not); whether it has anything to say about this threat to the integrity of the 245-year-old political union; what it has to say to Americans who fear they may find their communities annexed by violent Oroville separatists; and whether diplomats are working the problem or simply washing down fancy cheeses with wine at dinner parties where people speak foreign languages.

While the diplomatic situation is murky, it’s clear that for the U.S. government, all options remain on the table. Asked whether it had been tasked with planning an invasion of Oroville and whether it believes it has legal authority to wage war, a spokesperson for the Department of Defense firmly declined to say that it is not readying the full might of its trillion-dollar war machine, which has nearly a million and a half fighting men and women under arms as well as a powerful nuclear arsenal. “I refer you to the White House on this,” said the spokesperson, who declined to say whether they had anything to say to Americans living in fear, how many tanks the Pentagon might bring to an invasion, and whether it is currently invading. “You might also check with the California governor’s office where these sorts of actions would originate.”

President Joe Biden’s White House, which exercises control over both the federal diplomatic and military apparatuses, refused to respond to Motherboard’s inquiries. Governor Newsom’s office, which exercises joint control over local military forces alongside federal leadership, did not directly reply to questions similar to those put to the State Department and Department of Defense, nor answer questions about whether Newsom is in communication with Biden about the crisis or projecting weakness by not sending troops into Oroville. It did, however, issue a statement:

It’s unfortunate that Oroville leaders are willing to jeopardize the health and safety of their residents in this misguided effort to deny the scientific consensus underpinning California’s public health guidelines. The state will continue to focus on lifesaving measures to protect Californians from COVID-19 and prevent our health care system from being overwhelmed during this unprecedented pandemic.

The Oroville regime has so far not made representatives available to discuss the ongoing hostilities or a potential path to peace. An assistant city clerk, who is believed to be in direct contact with the separatists, told Motherboard, “I have reached out to our Mayor and Vice Mayor with your information. Please feel free to contact me back in the next few days if you haven’t heard from one of the three of us.” As of press time, Motherboard had not heard from them.

Additional reporting by Jason Koebler.