A central California city has flouted Democrat Gov. Gavin Newsom’s strict lockdown order by declaring itself a “sanctuary city” that won’t impose the harsh measures.
The city of Atwater declared itself a “sanctuary city for businesses” on Friday, and will allow businesses to reopen, despite the state-wide shutdown order.
Under the city’s new status, business owners will be allowed to open and individuals can openly defy Governor Newsom’s stay-at-home order.
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The resolution asserts “the city’s commitment” to provide “fundamental” human rights to its residents.
According to ABC30’s Vanessa Vasconcelos, churches and other nonprofits are included in the resolution.
“A resolution of the city council of the city of Atwater affirming the city’s commitment to fundamental rights of life, liberty, and property, and declaring the city of Atwater a sanctuary city for all businesses,” the resolution states.
Mercedsunstar.com reports: “The City of Atwater is not going to go out and enforce any of the shelter in place orders by the state of California,” Mayor Paul Creighton told the Sun-Star. City police and code enforcement will not interfere with businesses that reopen ahead of state guidelines, he said.
“But if you do have a state (business) license, that’s between you and the state of California,” Creighton said, noting that the city has no jurisdiction over these licenses.
Merced County Sheriff Vern Warnke recently told the Sun-Star that his office is on the same page. “The Sheriff’s Office will not be enforcing the state’s COVID restrictions for businesses that they consider essential or nonessential,” he said.
The sanctuary city resolution affirms the city’s commitment to fundamental Constitutional rights. Local officials and residents in attendance made clear their belief that these rights have been stripped recently due to coronavirus-related restrictions.
“We have to base our decisions on the Constitution,” said Atwater business owner Chris Coffelt, who brought copies of the Constitution, the Bill of Rights and the Amendments for each City Councilmember.
“If you receive an order from the governor telling us that we can’t open our business, that’s an illegal order. It’s unconstitutional,” he added.
Councilmember Brian Raymond, who thought of the idea, recently told the Sun-Star the plan is similar to cities like Coalinga, who declared all businesses essential in defiance of the governor’s four stages of reopening. But Atwater is likely the first to use the term sanctuary city in this way, he said.
The thought is that all businesses could reopen with modifications, if they so wish. Preventative safety measures would be left to the business owner and patrons’ discretion.
This means businesses like hair and nail salons that are currently excluded from the governor’s staged reopening may open without retaliation from local law enforcement.
Churches can reopen, too. The City of Atwater is considering them nonprofits, Creighton said.
“I’ve never been more proud to sit here and support this community than I have today,” said Councilmember Cindy Vierra at Friday’s special meeting.