The Proud History of the Conch Republic
From Key to Shining Key
The Conch Republic (also known as Key West and the Florida Keys) like many nations was born from trouble. The trouble started back in the dark days of March 1982, when the U.S. Federal Government placed a Border Patrol Roadblock at the Last Chance Saloon in Florida City.
A seventeen mile traffic jam immediately ensued as the Border Patrol stopped every car leaving or entering the Keys, supposedly searching for illegal drugs and aliens who might be hiding under the front seats, in glove compartments, and in trunks.
The media starting reporting on the unprecedented action of the Border Patrol in setting up a Border Roadblock within the United States, itself (after all, most everyone believed that the Florida Keys were indeed part of the United States!) As the stories of the traffic jam poured out across the nation and the world, visitors started canceling reservations to come to the Keys.
Community leaders started to gather around Mayor Dennis Wardlow to decide what to do. The very lifeblood of a budding tourism industry was threatened and Secessionist talk was bubbling up in each discussion. At the urging of David Paul Horan, the legal route was chosen as the first alternative and an injunction was filed against the government’s action in Federal Court in Miami.
The court essentially refused to enjoin the US Federal Government’s Border Patrol from treating the Keys like a foreign country. When the Key West delegation left the courthouse, they were met by a gaggle of the world press asking "What are you going to do, Mr. Mayor?" and Mayor Wardlow replied "We are going to go home and secede" and thus the Conch Republic was born.
On April 23rd, the Conch Republic flag was raised over city hall and the Schooner Western Union, under command of Captain John Kraus, went forth into the harbor and attacked the US Coast Guard Cutter DILIGENCE with water balloons, Conch fritters and stale Cuban bread. The DILIGENCE fought back with fire hoses and thus commenced the Great Battle of the Conch Republic. Prime Minister Wardlow surrendered and demanded foreign aid from the United States (which we are still waiting for!) The road block was quietly removed and the glorious Conch Republic was born.
*A Footnote to History
The secession and subsequent creation of the Conch Republic should not be viewed as a revolution against the United States of America. Rather, it was quite the opposite…it was a protest against the folly of zealotry resulting in the people of the Florida Keys being literally alienated as Americans.
The United States Coast Guard, the object of the first and only act of military aggression by the Conch Republic government was never considered as a “enemy.” The US Coast Guard DILIGENCE was merely a target of opportunity. Let no one ever come under the impression that the US Coast Guard has ever been considered anything other than a good friend.
The Conch Republic exists as a sovereign state of mind, which signifies our vision of the America which we are proud to be part of.