California Independence Movement to hold itself to a higher standard


Contact: Coyote Codornices Marin (

Carlsbad, CA: Independent California Institute, a 501(c)(3) think tank that studies California independence, today issued a set of basic standards (see that they invite all self-identified California independence (or “Calexit”) organizations to abide by.

The standards codify six principles that ICI believes any organization in the California Independence Movement should easily be able to meet:

  • exist primarily to benefit Californians
  • be non-violent
  • be based in California
  • exist as a legal entity
  • be transparent
  • have accountable leadership

Based on conversations with other organizations in the Movement, there is broad agreement in principle to these standards. While the details and specific wording of the standards may evolve over time in response to stakeholder feedback, the underlying six principles will remain the same.

The Independent California Institute expects to spend the next few months ensuring that other California independence organizations (and ICI itself) are in compliance with these standards. If any self-identified California independence organization chooses not to work with ICI, ICI will instead do its best to measure that organization’s level of compliance on its own. ICI will then issue public reports on its findings.

ICI hopes that, at the very least, having this information in hand will help media organizations and the public easily distinguish self-identified “leaders” of the movement from the actual nonprofits that do the hard work of advocating for a more independent California. Over the past four years, California independence organizations have lobbied the state government, proposed legislation and policy changes, supported candidates for public office, conducted research, and participated in peaceful protests.

ICI also hopes that this information will protect people who participate in the Movement by volunteering their time or donating money. It can be incredibly discouraging to donate to a non-profit only to find that it is actually run as the personal project of one individual, or to be asked to join a board of directors only to find out that your vote on that “board” is merely symbolic. While such problems can crop up in any movement of sufficient size, ICI feels that the California Independence Movement needs to hold ourselves to a higher standard.

Finally, given the recent resurgence of violent extremism in the United States, it is urgently important that Californians know that California’s own independence movement has absolutely nothing in common with the Confederate-flag waving extremists who attacked the United States Capitol on January 6, nor any of the groups or movements behind the attack.

In contrast, our Movement is fact-based, policy-focused, and strictly non-violent. California’s own independence movement is different because our members largely reject American mythology about secession (e.g. the American Revolution, the U.S. Civil War). Rather, they focus simply on California values of democracy and inclusion.

Unfortunately, as Californians have seen during the last four years of living under a president U.S. voters did not choose, the United States was never designed to be a democracy in the modern sense of the word. Nor, thanks to the grossly disproportionate power that the U.S. Constitution grants to residents of small states, are Californians fully included in what self-government Americans have.

Thus, the work of the California Independence Movement, helping Californians fully obtain democracy and inclusion, is about fighting for some fundamental change in the relationship between Californians and the United States, whether that means significantly more autonomy for California or revising the United States’ system of government so that it distributes political power equally among its citizens.

California independence can, of course, include calls for California to someday become an independent country (hence, “Calexit”). However, as the standards’ section on non-violence make clear, this is never a call for unilateral secession by California. Rather, any attempt to remake California as an independent country must follow existing peaceful models: for example, the “Velvet Divorce” of Czechoslovakia.

Generally, once people become involved in the independence movement, they start to see independence as a spectrum and a process, rather than a sharp distinction between the “nation-state” California is now and a fully independent country. In any case, the terms of independence would likely have to be negotiated—so why not see what autonomy California can get now, without having to give up anything in return?

The Independent California Institute hopes that whatever Californians choose regarding our struggle for democracy and inclusion, we will have the breathing room to do so on our own terms and our own timeline. However, given the rise of violent extremism and authoritarianism in the United States, Californians may need a vigorous and well-organized independence movement sooner than expected.

Whatever the future holds, ICI hopes these standards will put the California Independence Movement on solid footing, so that it can continue to grow and to do the hard work of building a better, more independent California.