Meet Derrick Belcher, a 45-year-old from Chunchula, Ala. Belcher is a truck driver, knife collector, "absolute Libertarian" and previously owned a topless car wash -- that is, until the government shut down his business, he claims.
According to Alabama.com, Belcher is so upset with the government, he's petitioning for Alabama to secede from the United States.
“I don’t think any one state can stand alone. But if we’ve got 20 of them, then that starts to be something,” Belcher said of the secession movement. “If you look at a map of the red states, we have all of the oil and we produce all of the food. We’re the ones that are carrying the rest of the nation.”
The Alabama native blames the federal government for shutting down his topless car wash, Euro Details, which he claims was successful for a decade in Mobile, according to Alabama.com. In 2001, Belcher was arrested and charged with obscenity. “The government ripped my business away, and now they’re choking America to death with rules and regulations,” he said.
Alabama enacted its anti-obscenity law in 1998, prohibiting private businesses and clubs from allowing breasts, genitalia and buttocks to be shown for entertainment, the Chicago Tribune previously reported. Although legislators claimed the law was instituted to stop nude dancing, "opponents argue the statute is so broad that it could be used to censor any type of entity that shows nudity," the Tribute explained.
Belcher's topless car wash fell under this umbrella.
So, last Friday, he started the Alabama secession petition in hopes that his state will be granted the right to secede from the Union, according to WKRG, a CBS News affiliate. Petitions to secede from the U.S. have been filed in all 50 states.
“The American people are being mistreated by the federal government and there is absolutley no reason why we shouldn't end this treatment from the federal government,” Belcher told WKRG. “And I guess there is a part of me that is angry because my government has mistreated me year after year after year and I am fed up with it and I know there are several other people in this state and all across the country that are fed up with it as well.”
As of this writing, the Alabama secession petition had garnered 29,113 signatures on the White House's "We The People" online petition tool. According to the petition, 25,000 signatures are required for the White House to review it.
[h/t Gawker for the find.]
Efforts to secede are nothing new. Here's a look back at previous attempts:
Left-leaning Arizonans attempted to get a measure on the ballot in 2011 that would create a new bastion for liberals in the state. Though ultimately unsuccessful, the measure would have given voters a choice to decide whether to chip off Pima County from the rest of Arizona, creating another state: Baja Arizona. It's an idea that's long been discussed, but The Tucson Sentinel reports that the most recent action was spurred by a desire for greater control over local issues and discontent with proceedings at the Phoenix statehouse. "Every bill we've heard about here is either anti-abortion laws or anti-Mexican laws. These are not laws that are geared toward solving the real problems that we have," David Euchner, treasurer of Start Our State, the group behind the secession push, told the Arizona Daily Star.
Republican Maine State Rep. Henry Joy brought forth legislation in 2010 to divide northern and southern Maine into two autonomous states. According to Joy, the move was necessary because of a proposal that would have turned millions of acres of northern woodland into a nature preserve, leading to the forced relocation of residents in the area. While that measure never passed, Joy was apparently not keen on the prospect of being removed from his home turf. Joy's bill, which eventually failed, would have allowed the northern portion of the state to retain the name Maine, while the southern section would have been ordained Northern Massachusetts. Joy proposed similar legislation in 2005, which also failed.
Democratic Utah State Rep. Neal Hendrickson submitted legislation in 2008 for the creation of a new state within Utah. Hendrickson contended that "citizens in the more populated areas of northern Utah have many interests that stand in stark contrast to the interests of southern rural areas of the state, which feel they do not have the influence on state policymaking that citizens along the Wasatch Front enjoy." His bill, which he said would "provide the citizens of what is presently southern Utah increased access to their state government," didn't pass.
When Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) signed onto a non-binding resolution claiming constitutional overreach of the federal government in 2009, some may have thought it was simply a symbolic display meant to show solidarity with a right-wing base disgruntled after the passage of President Barack Obama's stimulus package. A day later, however, Perry took his rhetoric to another level, implying that Texas might secede if "Washington continues to thumb their nose at the American people," by strapping his state with unsustainable taxation, spending and debt.
Rep. Zach Wamp (R-Tenn.), a Republican primary candidate for governor, piggy-backed off Texas Gov. Rick Perry's secession comments last year, telling Hotline on Call in a discussion about federal mandates in the health care law that states such as Tennessee might be "forced to consider separation from this government" depending on the outcome of the elections. Wamp eventually lost the gubernatorial primary to Knoxville mayor and eventual winner Bill Haslam.
In 1998, Republican Maryland State Sen. Richard Colburn filed a bill that would have paved the way for the Eastern Shore of his state, as well as parts of Delaware and Virginia, to branch off into a separate entity called Delmarva. Upset with regulations being forged in Annapolis and passed down to the Eastern Shore, Colburn encouraged Maryland's coastal residents to work toward a referendum that could get the measure on the ballot. It never passed muster.
Lawmakers across New York have long floated secession as a potential way to rectify what they see as imbalances in the burdens of taxes and other economic factors. From local proposals to split New York City off into its own state, to pushes to turn upstate New York or Long Island into their own sovereign entities, all efforts at secession have failed.
The tiny Rhode Island enclave of Block Island made a stir in the 1980s when its residents pursued secession after being invaded by a population of moped-riding mainlanders. The state senate and supreme court initially refused to allow the island's governing body to regulate the offending mopeds, which resulted in a successful vote to declare independence from the rest of Rhode Island. Massachusetts and Connecticut reportedly reached out during the process in the interest of annexing the island. Weeks later, the Rhode Island legislature approved a bill giving Block Island regulatory control over mopeds on the island, which sufficiently appeased residents.
Republican West Virginia Delegate Larry Kump floated a proposal earlier this year to let a number of his state's panhandle counties secede and rejoin Virginia. Citing economic concerns, Kump said his longshot legislation was an attempt to alleviate pressure brought on by the state's struggling manufacturing sector. It failed to gain support both among West Virginians and state legislators.