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Group declares independence from Chicago

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Roughly 100 people showed up to the Hancock County courthouse in Carthage, Illinois, to listen to the group New Illinois read a declaration of independence on Saturday, announcing their separation from the city of Chicago.

Group officials said their goal is to have 101 of the state's 102 counties unite to form the state of New Illinois and have it become the 51st state, leaving Cook County to be all that is left of the state of Illinois.

New Illinois co-founder Gina Merritt said New Illinois is a non-profit organization with the goal of educating Illinoisans about their constitutional rights.

Carthage resident Trish Markley said she feels like separation is a step in the right direction.

"The way we live our lives is nothing like Chicago so we feel like there's no recognition for how different we are," she said.

State representative Brad Halbrook said the central issue is a lack of fair government.

Halbrook is the sponsor of House Resolution 101 which urges the U.S. Congress to separate Illinois from Chicago.

He said the biggest goal of the separation movement is to ensure downstate voices are being heard.

"There's this rural-urban divide that just isn't being recognized by those in the city and our voices are being drowned out and we need to be heard," he said. "The U.S. Constitution guarantees a constitutional republic and we just don't have that."

Scott Hall said he traveled from Warsaw because he feels this movement is critical.

"I think that it would be beneficial for Illinois and to grow our communities and have them represented for the will of the people," he said. "There's a lot of people with a lot of good ideas."

Halbrook said it'll take years for their dream to become a reality.

New Illinois officials said their declaration of independence has to first be approve by the state of Illinois and then by the federal government.

Charity Bell

Multimedia Journalist at WGEM

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