The Saga of the Conch Republic

Florida KeysThroughout the years, the Florida Keys have had ties to Latin America. And with the US government so focused on protecting its borders, especially in the latter 20th century, the Florida Keys bared the brunt of the repercussions from what many hailed as over protecting borders.
In 1982, some say the US Border Patrol went a little too far. Border patrol set up boundaries at the only access point connecting the Keys with the Florida mainland. Here they searched vehicles traveling from the Keys for everything from contraband, to illegal narcotics to illegal immigrants. Being the only access to the mainland, this caused serious traffic backups down US highway 1, as Border Patrol agents searched each and every car from top to bottom.
In response, the Key West City Council, representing the southernmost and furthest of the keys, lodged numerous complaints and sought an injunction to put an end to the searches. It made for a huge inconvenience to travelers to and from Key West, and a subsequent damper on the tourism industry. But these complaints went ignored and the searches continued.
In response to the incessant border patrol security, and the ignored pleas to put an end to the excessive search and seizure, citizens of the Keys moved to act. The council decided since the US Border Patrol is going to treat the Keys like a foreign country they may as well act like a foreign country. Key West Mayor Dennis Wardlow and the Council declared Key West’s independence on April 23, 1982 and its (symbolic) secession from the union. Wardlow was declared prime minister of the islands, which were collectively renamed The Conch Republic.
Though the movement was completely symbolic and no authentic litigation passed for secession from the Union, the issues surrounding the roadblocks generated a ton of publicity. The government had decided to put an end to the patrol and allowed visitors and citizens to the keys to freely travel to and from the mainland. With this huge victory for the Conch Republic, came a small victory; tourism returned to the islands as strong as ever.

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