TALLAHASSEE, FLORIDA — Companion bills in the House and Senate are cracking down on what flags are permitted to fly over public buildings in Florida.
Under Republican-led legislation HB 1011 and SB 668, proposed by Rep. David Borrero of Miami and Sen. Jay Collins of Tampa, government agencies would only be able to fly pre-approved flags, such as the flag of the United States, the State of Florida flag, the Firefighter Memorial flag and the POW-MIA flag.
In a surprising move, Sen. Collins attempted to amend his bill, allowing for the Confederate flag to be added to this list, but the senator’s spokesman Ted Veerman stated the amendment was “filed in error” and that “any insinuation that Jay is a confederate sympathizer is disgusting.”
“WE SECEDED WHERE OTHERS FAILED”
In 1982, Key West citizens were enraged to discover drug and immigration roadblocks had stopped tourism to their city, the main source of income for the four-by-two mile island.
Mayor Dennis Wardlow did not take this lightly, and after failed negotiations, figured the only solution was to declare Key West an independent and sovereign state called the Conch Republic.
Soon after, the U.S. naval commander confronted the self-proclaimed Prime Minister Wardlow, resulting in an immediate Conch surrender. The Conch Republic, however, is still the unofficial nickname for the island, with the slogan: “We Seceded Where Others Failed” embroidered on their flag.
“A FASCIST MOVEMENT”
By the proposed restrictions in the flag bills, the Conch Republic flag and the “Pride” flag – two ubiquitous sights in Key West – would not be allowed to be flown by government buildings. This has sparked anger throughout the island.
“So many of our rights are being taken away, and we must speak out,” Key West Commissioner Jimmy Weekley asserted. “If this passes, I’d like to give direction to our city not to remove those flags. This is a fascist movement and it scares me.”