Governments' Lighter Side

Long live the Conch Republic

Last month was the 32nd anniversary of the foundation of the Conch Republic. Never heard of the Conch Republic? That’s OK, not many outside of Florida have.

Back in 1982, the Florida Keys seceded from the union, declared war on the U.S., surrendered a minute later, and then demanded $1 billion in foreign aid and war relief from the federal government, according to Conch Republic materials. And you thought there was only one American Civil War!

While the rebellion was a tongue-in-cheek move, it stemmed from very real frustrations and concerns. The problems started when the U.S. Border Patrol set up a blockade of U.S. highway 1 at Florida City, just north of the Keys, in efforts to quell illegal immigration. This “heinous act” (Conch Republic verbiage) isolated Key residents, who had to prove their citizenship to drive onto the U.S. mainland.



Key West’s then-mayor Dennis Wardlow went to Federal Court in Miami to seek an injunction to stop the blockade, but his efforts failed. So, like any rational public leader, he decided to declare war. The way he saw it, if residents of the Florida Keys were going to be treated like foreigners in America, they might as well actually be foreigners.

And his efforts worked – kind of. The blockade was eventually shut down, and the Conch Republic has since been victorious in a number of skirmishes (again, all good natured) against foreign aggressors.

Although they never received the $1 billion in aid they originally sought, the idea of a “Conch Republic” continues to be a driver for tourism in the Keys. And with their own (not really official) passports and currency, visiting might actually feel like entering a foreign country.

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What's Governments' Lighter Side?

It is an irreverent take on local and state government news.

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Derek Prall

Derek Prall is a professional journalist who has held numerous positions with a variety of print and online publications including The Public Manager magazine and the New Jersey Herald. He is a 2008...
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