The man behind the Calexit movement, which pushed for California to secede from the union, is now distancing himself from the controversial effort and said he will stay in Russia.
Louis Marinelli, who helped launch the movement to make California an independent state, said that he “intends to make Russia” his “new home.” As a result, he is withdrawing his petition for a “Calexit” referendum.
Marinelli has said in the past that in Russia he has found, “a new happiness, a life without the albatross of frustration and resentment towards ones’ homeland.”
The activist said in a statement he does not intend to return to California in the foreseeable future and therefore feels it’s only right for him to withdraw the Calexit petition.
“As I have stated in the past, I do not wish to live under the American flag,” Marinelli said in a statement posted on Yes California’s webpage. “I do not wish to live under the American political system or within the American economic system.”
The effort to make the nation's most populous state its own country, with what would be the world's sixth-largest economy, gained steam after last year's election of President Donald Trump. But those efforts appear to have been briefly halted.
Marcus Ruiz Evans, the vice president of Yes California, withdrew the California nationhood ballot measure and told the Associated Press that he’s leaving the group and joining the California Freedom Coalition, another pro-secession group that recently formed.
The coalition plans to file its own ballot measure in coming weeks, without the baggage of Marinelli's Russian ties, said Steve Gonzales, the group's secretary-treasurer and board member.
"It prevented Yes California from getting any serious money, I can tell you that," Gonzales told the AP, noting that he is a native Californian who has never been to Russia. He added that the new group will accept no foreign money, and contributions from other states must be cleared by the coalition's board.
There have been over 200 proposals for secession since California achieved statehood in 1850.
Marinelli has described Yes California in the past as a progressive initiative that aims to establish a “liberal republic” independent of the U.S. But the other pro-separatist group, the California Nationalist Party, distanced itself from Yes California after Marinelli started aligning himself with Russia – even opening an embassy in Moscow.
"We don't think that Russia needs to be an enemy of California, or that it even is one to begin with," Marinelli said in a December interview. "The idea that Russia is an enemy of the U.S. – that's a Cold War mentality."
The Associated Press contributed reporting to this story.