In April of 1982, the United States Border Patrol set up a blockade on highway U.S.1 in Florida City, at the northern entrance to the Florida Keys, and began searching every car, supposedly looking for illegal aliens attempting to enter the mainland United States. When the checkpoint resulted in a seventeen mile long traffic jam the media began covering the story. As a result the Keys were paralyzed: visitors canceled reservations, deliveries were delayed or stopped, and attractions suffered tremendous loss of business. Something had to be done.
Led by Key West Mayor Dennis Wardlow and local attorney Dave Horan, community leaders flew to Miami, seeking an injunction in Federal Court that would enjoin the Border Patrol from treating the Keys like a foreign country. Unfortunately, the court refused. As the group left the courthouse, reporters screamed, “What are you going to do, Mr. Mayor?” On the spur of the moment, Wardlow replied, “We are going to go home and secede.”
By the time the group returned to Key West, Federal agents had begun to arrive. No one knew what to expect. Would they be arrested? Would the Keys be put under martial law? The fear was palpable. Surrounded by his loyal followers, Continue reading