During 1982, the US Border Patrol set up roadblocks to try to get control over the growing problem of narcotics and illegal immigrants finding their way into Miami. Key West residents and business owners weren’t happy with the decrease in tourism. The City Council submitted complaints to the Federal Government, but after several weeks of being ignored, they decided it was time to secede.
There’s even a news video of it, so you know it’s real.
The Mayor of Key West (which is not only a political title, but the coolest nickname in the world), Dennis Wardlow, resigned from office and named himself the Prime Minister of Conch Republic (also an awesome nickname) on April 23, 1982 (#NeverForget). The reasoning behind the CR’s secession was that the Florida Keys were being treated as a bordering nation, so they just flat out decided to become a bordering nation. That’s Key West in a nutshell. They didn’t have time for the US government’s shit. During the protest, Prime Minister Wardlow declared war against the United States by symbolically breaking a loaf of stale Cuban bread over the head of a man dressed as a naval officer. Wardlow then quickly surrendered and demanded one billion dollars in foreign aid.
The Conch Republic remained silent until 1995, when the shutdown of the US government closed the Dry Tortugas national park. The CR armed themselves with civilian and fire department boats, launching what they called a “full-scale invasion” of the park by the Conch Navy. I imagine it was much like the helicopter scene from “Apocalypse Now,” but instead of helicopters and “Ride of the Valkyries,” it was Sun Tracker pontoon boats and “Sailing” by Christopher Cross. The “invasion” was really just an effort to raise money to reopen the park. Unfortunately, the CR couldn’t find a government employee to give the money to in order to reopen the park.
The Conch Republic’s last stunt happened in 2006, when Conch Republic annexed the Seven-Mile Bridge. I’ll let Wikipedia explain:
In yet another protest on January 13, 2006, Peter Anderson (the defendant in the Dry Tortugas case from 1995–1996) purported to annex the abandoned span of Seven Mile Bridge, which had been replaced by a parallel span in 1982. The move was in response to a recent event regarding Cubanrefugees. On the previous January 4, fifteen Cuban refugees had reached the bridge, but had been returned to Cuba by the U.S. Border Patrol because the U.S. government had declared the bridge to be a “wet feet” location under the “wet feet, dry feet policy“. The rationale was that, since two sections of the span had been removed and it was no longer connected to land, it was not part of U.S. territory subject to the “dry feet” rule, and thus the refugees were not permitted to stay. Anderson, seizing upon the apparent disavowal of the abandoned span by the U.S., claimed it for the Republic. He expressed his hope to use the bridge to build affordable, ecologically friendly housing. In response, Russel Schweiss, spokesman for Florida Governor Jeb Bush, declared “With all due respect to the Conch Republic, the bridge belongs to all the people of Florida, and we’re not currently in negotiations to sell it”. The refugee decision was later overturned, but only after the refugees had been returned to Cuba.
This sounds like my kind of country. Key West still uses the Conch Republic as a tourism gag, but I wish this really was real. I love America, but I’d have a tough time not hopping the border to go live in a place like that.