The President of “Yes California,” a movement aimed at helping California secede from America, has received backlash from the public since they learned that he currently resides in Russia, the New York Times reports. Louis J. Marinelli, a 30-year-old English teacher, lives in Yekaterinburg, a provincial Russian city located about 1,000 miles east of Moscow. From Yekaterinburg, Marinelli is leading the charge to break one of America’s largest states away from the 49 others.
The New York Times reports that Marinelli decided to take up a Kremlin-funded offer to teach English in Russia because his wife is Russian. He stated that he intended to move back to California in June.
“Now with renewed attention on the movement, Mr. Marinelli is under scrutiny for living in a country that many in the United States see as an adversarial power,” the New York Times reports, about Marinelli living in Russia.
“Back in California, he is on the defensive for accepting travel expenses and office space from a Kremlin-linked nationalist group,” the New York Times continues. “That acceptance has raised the prospect that Russia, after meddling in the election to try to tip the vote to Mr. Trump, as United States intelligence agencies have said, is now gleefully stoking divisions in America by backing a radical liberal movement.”
“Mr. Marinelli, who said he supported only nonviolent means of opposition, described his presence in Russia as coincidental, and he denied any links to Russian officials,” the New York Times report continues. “Before the American presidential election, Mr. Marinelli said he saw no harm in taking a year off to teach English in Russia; his movement had been only creeping along anyway, financed with his credit card and run from his home in San Diego.”
During an interview with CNN in December, Marinelli says the campaign started about two years ago. Though the campaign did not begin because of Donald Trump’s election win, Marinelli said Trump’s win “certainly has invigorated the people of California to support our campaign.”
Just last Thursday, Yes California received approval to begin accepting signatures to add “Calexit” to the 2018 ballet. “Calexit” is a term inspired by Britain’s “Brexit” movement, which pushed for, and eventually succeeded, in the country’s exit from the European Union. “Calexit” therefore implies California’s exit from the other 49 states in America.
According to the LA Times, Marinelli moved to California in 2006 from upstate New York and fell in love with his new home. He decided to create the “Sovereign California” movement to have the state secede from the country he believed it was so politically unaligned with. The “Sovereign California” movement was later rebranded to “Yes California.” He also ran for California State Assembly in 2016.