Key West has always had a reputation as a repository for the independent-minded, entrepreneurs, opportunists and other unique personalities that just don’t fit in anywhere else. This has shown itself in the income-producing efforts in the past – wreckers, pirates, smugglers. During the 70’s & 80’s, the smuggling included lots of “square grouper”, otherwise known as bales of marijuana. To this day, the smuggling also includes illegal aliens. Finally, in 1982, the U.S. Government decided to crack down on smuggling. At least that was their excuse for their actions.
A border checkpoint was set up in Florida City. Every car leaving the Keys was stopped and searched. This has never been done in any other state in this union. This checkpoint caused backups of miles and miles. It adversely affected the Tourism Industry; something the Keys was beginning to rely on. People leaving the Keys were being treated as if they were returning from a foreign country. So people stopped coming.
Never ones to just sit quietly while being abused, Key West’s leaders took immediate action. They tried the courts, but the Federal Court in Miami refused to force the border patrol to remove the blockade. The Key West delegation decided that if they were going to be treated like a foreign country, they were going to become one. This talk of secession panicked the government so federal agents began to flood the Keys.
What was the Key West reponse to this invasion? Continue on to Part 2.