Origins of the Conch Republic

Back in the time of the War Between the States, Florida seceded from the Union, and the cry 'LET US ALONE' first appeared on the state's flag.  This month marks the anniversary of a similar cry by citizens of the Florida Keys.

Last April, under the authority of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, the U.S. Border Patrol set-up a roadblock between the mainland and the Florida Keys in an attempt to net illegal aliens entering the U.S., and to seize narcotics or contraband being trafficked from Monroe County to Dade county.  It was immediately successful in tying up northbound traffic for a distance of 19 miles along U.S. Highway #1.

The checkpoint instantly began to cause adverse effects upon tourism, which is the industry most relied upon by the keys.  Merchants of the keys responded by preparing to file a law suit to attain a temporary restraining order or an injunction against the checkpoint.  Local businessmen feared a recurrence of the loss of business from a similar checkpoint set-up two years earlier at the time of the Mariel sealift of refugees to Key West.

Once again the people living in the Keys reacted unfavorably to the U.S. government's tactics.  Their emotions and attitudes were portrayed in questions such as 'What are we -- a foreign country?,' which appeared on the front page of the local newspaper.  Protests against the Border Patrol roadblock soon solidified into plans for again seceding from the Union.  If the keys were to be treated as a foreign country then the residents of the area should be expected to conduct themselves accordingly.

Key West's Mayor, Dennis Wardlow, now self-proclaimed Prime Minister of the Conch Republic, conducted the official secession ceremonies at Old Town Square on Front Street, April 23.  After the raising of the Conch Republic flag, he declared war against the United States, fired a single verbal shot and announced that the newly established nation was surrendering in order to be eligible for foreign aid.

As for the tourists, temporary visas and border passes were made available to hopefully provide them with a facilitated exit from the country.  The quick action taken by local officials and citizens alike, succeeded in promoting tourism and caused, what had been reduced to ineffective spot checks of vehicles crossings the border, to eventually be eliminated.


Conch Republic, Founded 1982