The Conch Republic is a
micronation of the Florida Keys, created after some residents of Key West
staged a secession from the United States of America as a "tongue-in-cheek"
protest - albeit one motivated by frustration over genuine concerns. Irt is
described by Erwin S. Strauss (in his outdated, albeit classic micropatrological treatise “How To Start Your Own Country”) as a
“mouse-that-roared” operation. Although some perceive that the Conch
Republic is not, and never was, a real secessionist movement, many in Key
West continue to identify with it. Conch "Independence Day" is celebrated
with festivities every April 23 as part of a week-long festival of
activities annually, in a public and notorious manner. The organization of
the Conch Republic is a key tourism booster for the area. Residents of Key
West even issue their own souvenir "passports" and postage stamps (actually
cinderellas, stamp-like labels).
In 1982, the United States
Border Patrol established a roadblock and inspections point on U.S. Highway
1, which runs north from Key West over a series of causeways and is the
Keys' only land link to the mainland city Miami. When the United States
Border Patrol set up a check point at the Last Chance Saloon in Florida
effectively cutting off the Florida Keys at the confluence of the only two
roads out; Last Chance owner, Skeeter Davis, was immediately on the phone to
his old pal Mayor Dennis Wardlow of Key West.
Vehicles were stopped as it
was initiated due to an upsurge of illegal immigration and narcotics
smuggling in the area. Meanwhile a seventeen to nineteen mile traffic jam
ensued while the Border Patrol stopped every car leaving the Keys supposedly
searching for illegal aliens attempting to enter the mainland United States.
Residents and visitors attempting to leave the Keys were puzzled about what
illegal aliens could be hiding under their front seats, in their glove
compartments, and in their trunks. This act angered many of the residents
and the local tourist industry. The media starting reporting on the
unprecedented action of the Border Patrol in setting up a border checkpoint
within the United States, itself. This roadblock portrayed Keys residents as
non-U.S. citizens who had to prove their citizenship in order to drive onto
the Florida mainland! Hardly an American thing to do! The Key West City
Council complained repeatedly about the inconvenience for people traveling
from Key West and said it hurt the Keys' important tourism industry. As a
matter of a fact, Eastern Airlines, which had a hub at Miami International
Airport, saw a window of opportunity open when the roadblocks were
established, and, as a consequence, Eastern became the only airline to
establish jet service to Key West International Airport, figuring that
travellers from Key West to Miami would rather fly than wait for the police
to search their cars at the roadblocks.
As the stories of the traffic
jam poured out across the nation and the world, visitors started canceling
reservations to come to the keys. The hotels began to empty, deliveries were
delayed or stopped, attractions in the Keys went begging for customers; the
Key were paralyzed. After the complaints from the Key West City Council went
unanswered by the Federal Government and attempts to get an injunction
against the "blockade" failed in court, Key West mayor Dennis Wardlow and
the city council declared the independence of the Conch Republic on April
23, 1982. Since the Federal Government had set up the equivalent of a border
station as if the Keys were a foreign nation, they said, the Keys might as
well become one.
We protested! A totally
American thing to do! Key West Mayor Dennis Wardlow along with a few other
'key' Conchs, went to Federal court in Miami to seek an injunction to stop
the federal blockade, but to no avail. Upon leaving the Federal Court House,
on the court house steps , Mayor Wardlow announced to the world, by way of
the assembled TV crews and reporters, that ; "Tomorrow at noon the Florida
Keys will secede from the Union!"
Naturally, the press followed
Dennis back to Key West. As the news of the Mayor’s intentions hit the
newspapers and the airwaves, the community splintered. When the rumor flew
that the American flag was to be lowered, and the Conch Republic flag raised
in its place, a number of people were very upset. The calls came pouring in
to the Mayor. A compromise was reached, the American flag would stay. The
Conch flag would be raised underneath it.
At noon, on the day of
secession, at Mallory Square in Key West Florida, Mayor Wardlow was
proclaimed Prime Minister of the republic, which declared war against the
U.S. He read the proclamation of secession and proclaimed aloud that the
Conch Republic was an independent nation separate from the U.S. and then
symbolically began the Conch Republic's Civil Rebellion by breaking a loaf
of stale Cuban bread over the head of a man dressed in a U.S. Navy uniform.
After one minute of rebellion, the now, Prime Minister Wardlow turned to the
Admiral in charge of the Navy Base at Key West, and surrendered to the Union
Forces, and demanded 1 Billion dollars in foreign aid and War Relief to
rebuild our nation after the long Federal siege! These actions generated
great publicity for the Keys' plight. The roadblock and inspection station
were removed soon afterward.
On September 20, 1995, it was
reported that the 478th Public Affairs battalion of the United States Army
Reserve was to conduct a training exercise simulating an invasion of a
foreign island. They were to land on Key West and conduct affairs as if the
islanders were foreign. Dennis Wardlow and the forces behind the Conch
Republic secession in 1982 mobilized the island for a "full-scale war"
(which, in the Conch Republic, involves firing water cannons from fireboats
and hitting people with stale Cuban bread), and protested the Department of
Defense as to arranging this exercise without consulting the City of Key
West. The leaders of the 478th issued an apology the next day, and submitted
to a "surrender" ceremony on September 22.
In addition, during the
shutdown of the U.S. Government in December 1995, the Conch Republic
attempted to "invade" Dry Tortugas National Park in order to reopen it. They
had raised private money to keep it running, inspired by efforts of the
Smithsonian Institution to keep its museums open by private donations, but
could find no one to accept the money and reopen the park. When officials
attempted to enter the monument, they were cited. When the citation was
contested in court, the resultant case, The United States of America v.
Peter Anderson, was quickly dropped in 1996.
On January 13, 2006, the Conch
Republic annexed the abandoned span of Seven Mile Bridge, which was replaced
by a newer parallel span in 1982. On the previous January 4, 15 Cuban
refugees had reached the bridge, but had been returned to Cuba by the Border
Patrol because of a federal decision under the Wet Feet/Dry Feet Policy that
declared the bridge not a part of U.S. territory since it had been damaged
in a storm and no longer connected to land. Because of federal disavowal of
the bridge, Secretary General Anderson claimed the bridge for the Conch
Republic. He expressed his hope to use the bridge to build affordable,
ecologically-friendly housing. There was no defense of the territory by the
United States when Conch Republic Flags were planted on the structure.
The Conch Republic government
issues passports through its website, offering citizenship to all-comers
regardless of residency. However, these are not considered valid travel
documents, either by the United States or the Conch Republic itself. That
said, people continue to buy Conch Republic passports with the mistaken
belief that they can be used as valid travel documents. These passports
worth from $200 to $10000, depending on your satisfaction and mutual requirement/agreement.
In the quest for recognition,
the Honorable Peter Anderson, Secretary General of the Conch Republic has
created "Official Conch Republic Passports" . The Secretary General has
extensively traveled our surrounding Caribbean Nations with nothing more
than his Diplomatic Passport and has been well received by many as a
Diplomat and as a Government Official of the Conch Republic and even had his
passport endorsed by nearly all! Officially, our passports, Diplomats and
Citizens, have been well received by 13 Caribbean Nations as well as
Germany, Sweden, Havana, Mexico, France, Spain, Ireland, and Russia.
According to their
Secretary General, Sir Peter Anderson, and there are no available coins.
Though it contains no numismatic information, There is some awareness of 5 or 6 entirely different types of coins, and
some of them can be
don't send any money to the address posted there; that information is very
outdated, and I've had no success in locating the seller's current location)
However U.S. Dollar is commonly used in Conch Repuiblic.
I purchased my one
Conch Republic 1982 Commemorative silver Dollar from Stephen Nasiatka (firstname.lastname@example.org).
According to Erik V. McCrea, he
also found a pewter 1822-1972 commemorative Conch Dollar on eBay (the dates
allude not to the anniversary of its independence — the Conch Republic
wouldn't even be formed until 10 years down the road — but to the year in
which Navy Lt. Matthew C. Perry planted the U.S. flag in newly-acquired Key
West, transforming it into a base of operations for ridding the area of