Start Our State
Baja Arizonans to declare independence from Phoenix
Activists who want Southern Arizona to break away from the rest of the state will symbolically declare their independence from Phoenix on Saturday.
Start Our State will celebrate the signing of the Declaration of Independence 235 years ago at the Rialto Theatre, 318 E. Congress St., organizers said.
The event will "recommit" to the United States as the 51st state in the union, organizers said in a press release.
"This Fourth of July weekend affords the Free Baja Arizona movement the symbolic opportunity to air its grievances against the oppressive rule of the governor and state legislature, just as our Founding Fathers did with its grievances against England," said Paul Eckerstrom, co-chairman of Start Our State.
The Pima separatists' grievances range from defunding schools, interference with local autonomy, and denigrating the Hispanic heritage of Arizona, most notably targeted at Tucson, they said.
"For these reasons, it is necessary that we chart our own future and separate from Phoenix," said Eckerstrom, a former state Democratic Party chairman and one of the founders of the move to cleave from Arizona.
Beside declaring independence from the state capital, Start Our State will celebrate the holiday weekend with music. Gabriel Sullivan and Taraf de Tucson, Silverbell, Seashell Radio, Yardsale Heart, and Tom Walbank are slated to perform.
Doors open at 5 p.m., and the bands begin to take the stage at 7 p.m. Tickets are $10.
Start Our State launched a petition drive in April, seeking to put a resolution on the ballot that would ask the Legislature to allow Pima County to seek statehood. They have until July 2012 to collect 47,339 valid signatures for the initiative to appear on the ballot.
The initiative, which would appear on the November 2012 ballot, wouldn't directly seek to create a new state.
It would ask the Legislature to give Pima County permission to request that Congress consider statehood for what some call "Baja Arizona."
The group has disavowed the "secessionist" label that some have tagged the Baja Arizonans with.
"Secessionists want to leave the United States of America," said attorney Peter Hormel, one of the organizers of the drive, during a Start Our State meeting in May. "During the Civil War—those were secessionists."
"We view ourselves as good American citizens," he said. "What they're doing in Phoenix (in the Legislature), with the states rights moves, the nullification of federal laws—that's secession. We want to remain totally inside the United States."
The Maricopa County-dominated Legislature doesn't serve Pima County's interests, Hormel said.
"Our representatives are overwhelmed," he said. The Legislature "is not sending us law enforcement money for the border. Most of our taxes are paying for infrastructure and construction in Maricopa."
"There has to be a way to make us heard, somehow," Hormel said.
Creating a state from a state
Only twice before has a state been formed from part of another. In 1820, as part of the Missouri Compromise over slavery, Maine broke off from Massachusetts to form a new free state.
In 1863, while the Virginia legislature was split during the Civil War, West Virginia was recognized as a new state by the Congress.
For part of a state to break away and become a new state, both the legislature and Congress must authorize the separation.