The Conch Rebellion: They Fought with Bread
It was the 1980’s, and drug smuggling was a noisy issue. Runners would take delivery of the stuff off shore, then travel north to big cities. So the Federal Government came up with a brilliant plan: the Border Patrol placed a roadblock at the northern limits of the Florida Keys. Yep, folks traveling from inside the United States to another place inside the United States were subject to Border Control inspections. Every car was being stopped to search for illegal aliens.
Well, residents of the Keys got pretty upset. Gee, who would have guessed?
Naturally, tourists were avoiding this traffic jam like the plague, and the Federal Executive Branch didn’t give darn. So the citizens of Key West sought help from the Judicial Branch. Mayor Wardlow of Key West went to Federal Court in Miami on April 22nd, 1982.
Alas, the Court decided in favor of the Federal Government: the checkpoint was legal. Fourth Amendment be damned, let’s search everyone: “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated…” I suppose all those folks in brightly colored shirts looked mighty suspicious, especially the ones being rude about the 15-mile traffic jam. Bet some of the scoundrels even had unpaid parking tickets!
Outside the courthouse Mayor Wardlow was asked what he was going to do next. He responded: “We are going to go home and secede.”
The next day the mayor addressed a huge and excited crowd. Reading the Conch Republic Proclamation of Secession, Wardlow ended with these words:
“Big trouble has started in much smaller places than this. I am calling on all my fellow citizens here in the Conch Republic to stand together, lest we fall apart – fall from fear, from lack of courage, intimidation by an uncaring government whose actions show it has grown too big to care for people on a small island.”
The official flag of the Conch Republic was raised, and the Mayor, now Prime Minister, declared war on the United States. He promptly broke some stale Cuban bread over the head of someone in a U.S. Navy uniform, and residents of the Republic began throwing bread at the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Diligence. About a minute into the war, the Prime Minister surrendered to a U.S. Naval Officer that was present, and demanded financial aid from the United States for the Conch Republic.
The US did not give the Conch Republic any financial aid, but the roadblock was immediately removed. With the economic embargo lifted, prosperity once again came to the Republic.