Calexit supporters hold forum in LA as effort to collect ballot signatures continues

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- The belief that California would be better off as an independent country is driving an organized effort whose supporters want the Golden State to secede from the United States.

"We're talking about full-blown independence and breaking off from America," said Marcus Ruiz Evans, vice president of the Yes California Independence Campaign. "As I like to say, this isn't pizza toppings."

At a question-and-answer forum held Monday morning at a hotel near Los Angeles International Airport, advocates made the case for secession.

Yes California "is a positive campaign," said its president, Louis J. Marinelli, adding that the campaign "is about building a future for California."

Marinelli, a 30-year-old American citizen, teaches English in Russia. He said California loses about $70 billion annually by subsidizing other states and the American military overseas.

"With that 70 billion dollars a year kept in California, we can do so many things to improve infrastructure, education, healthcare, the environment," he said at the forum. "We can lower taxes to the extent where we may not need to have a state income tax anymore."

According to a recent Reuters poll, 1 in 3 Californians support the state's peaceful withdrawal from the union. The so-called Calexit proposal needs 585,000 signatures to qualify for the 2018 ballot.

Experts say the possibility of an actual secession is unlikely. Two-thirds of Congress and 75 percent of states would have to approve an amendment to the Constitution.

Opponents of the idea include Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, who noted that residents come to California from all over the U.S.

"I love this country too much to even consider an exit," Garcetti said in an interview. "I want to be a part of an America that continues to stand up for all of us, not bail on all our friends across the country."

Yet Calexit supporters are undeterred.

"I no longer believe in the American political system," said Clare Hedin, Yes California's Bay Area regional director. "It is outdated, selfish and anti-progressive."

Hedin, who emigrated from the United Kingdom, said her adopted home of California is ready for independence.

"She is her own country," Hedin said. "We at Calexit are simply paving the way to make that so for her - logistically, one signature at a time."

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