A brief history of the Conch Republic, for those who don’t know it..
In April of 1982, the US Border Patrol set up a blockade on US 1, just north of the Florida Keys; the only way in and out. Vehicles coming north out of the keys were searched for narcotics and illegal immigrants. The citizens of the keys were outraged that they had to prove their citizenship in order to drive onto the Florida mainland! The Key West City Council complained repeatedly about the blockade,claiming that the the government had established a new US border. It was an inconvenience for those traveling to and from the keys, and was also hurting the tourism industry in the area.
When the city council’s complaints went unanswered, Key West mayor Dennis Wardlow, with a few other “key” Conchs, went to Federal court in Miami to seek an injunction to stop the blockade; they had no luck. On the Federal courthouse steps, Mayor Wardlow announced, to the many tv cameras assembled, that the Florida Keys would secede from the union. In the eyes of the Key West Council, the federal government had set up the equivalent of a border station, as if the keys were a foreign nation. So it was decided that they may as well become one.
At noon on the day of the secession, Mayor Wardlow proclaimed that the Conch Republic was an independent nation, separate from the United States. Mayor Wardlow was named Prime Minister of the Conch Republic, and he then broke a loaf of Cuban bread over the head of a man dressed in a Navy uniform, beginning the Conch Republic’s Civil Rebellion. After one minute of rebellion, Prime Minister Wardlow surrendered to the Union Forces( the Admiral of the Navy base at Key West). He then declared one billion dollars in foreign aide and war relief, to rebuild their nation after the long siege!
This mock secession gained much publicity for the plight of the Keys, and the road block and inspection station were removed soon afterward. By act of Congress, the citizens of the Keys are both Conchs and Americans, and are proud of it. They celebrate their independence every year, with a week long celebration in April. I’ve attended “Conch Week” many, many times. It’s a week full of crazy activities…bed races, parades, “drag” (queen)races, dinners, and a food fight among boats in the harbor, the likes of which you’ve never seen!
Their “mission statement”:
“DEDICATED TO THE FUNDAMENTALLY AMERICAN SPIRIT OF A PEOPLE UNAFRAID TO STAND UP TO ‘GOVERNMENT GONE MAD WITH POWER’ THAT EMBODIED THE FOUNDING OF THE CONCH REPUBLIC IN 1982. AS THE WORLD’S FIRST FIFTH WORLD NATION, A SOVEREIGN STATE OF MIND SEEKING ONLY TO BRING MORE HUMOR, WARMTH, AND RESPECT TO A WORLD IN SORE NEED OF ALL THREE, THE CONCH REPUBLIC REMAINS THE COUNTRY WHO SECEDED WHERE OTHERS FAILED.”
LONG LIVE THE CONCH REPUBLIC!!
Shells Sink, Dreams Float. Life’s Good On Our Boat!”