Bitcoin Miami 2021: Square’s Jack Dorsey, Elon Musk-bashing and an emphasis on ‘liberty’

“This is not a moment. This is a movement,” said Miami Mayor Francis Suarez in his Friday opening remarks at the Bitcoin 2021 conference.

The conference took place in the city’s Wynwood neighborhood — a cultural mecca north of downtown, where the stucco, cement and brick walls are painted with colorful graffiti art. 

Conference organizers estimated 50,000 attendees would come and go for the two-day conference (or three-day conference, for those who had an all-access “Whale pass” and started things off on Thursday), where speakers, investors and scholars came together to talk about Bitcoin‘s rapid growth and potentially promising future. 

Bitcoin 2021 conference welcome sign (Credit: Fox News)

“Sorry, not so sorry, Los Angeles,” Suarez said during his 9 a.m. speech. The conference was originally scheduled to run from April 30 to May 1 in Los Angeles but was changed to Miami amid concerns over California’s stricter COVID-19 policies. Suarez has dubbed Miami the crypto capital of the U.S., as well as “the capital of capital.”

Abolish the Federal Reserve?

Despite long food lines — and a very long restroom line, for men in particular — most attendees appeared to be having fun speaking and networking with like-minded individuals about everything from crypto to politics. To abolish the Fed or not to abolish the Fed was a popular topic of conversation. 

“Liberty” and “freedom” were two other oft-repeated points of conversation at the conference.

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“If you’re a friend of mine, you’re a friend of liberty,” former Texas Republican Rep. Ron Paul said in his Friday speech, adding that the U.S. currently has “a shortage of liberty,” but the people at the conference were “very much in tune about the principles of liberty.” 

That’s because Bitcoin, like other cryptocurrencies, is decentralized, meaning investors deal directly with each other rather than through a central bank.

Bitcoin 2021 conference welcome sign (Credit: Fox News)

“Everybody wants monetary freedom, I would hope,” Paul said. “But…I want to clarify that title because some people want free money, and that’s different. And there’s a lot of free money circulating out there these days, and it’s all fake, and it’s all political corruption that goes in. … It makes the country poorer no matter how many people get richer in the meantime.”

“If you know anything about me — and I’ve been in politics for a couple of years — I have a solution,” Paul continued. “…We don’t need the Federal Reserve. It’s built with corruption. So what we need to do is repeal or get rid of the Federal Reserve.” 

Calls for Congress to ‘catch up’

Various speakers throughout the weekend agreed with or contested Paul’s comments, which were met with large applause, but it was a popular one nonetheless. Fellow Republican politicians including Wyoming Sen. Cynthia Lummis and Ohio Rep. Warren Davidson also discussed the importance of Bitcoin in terms of American liberty and free markets.

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Lummis, who served as Wyoming state treasurer for eight years, expressed concerns with China’s plans to create a digital Yuan by the 2022 Winter Olympics and urged U.S. politicians to “catch up.”

“We have to teach our colleagues about digital currency — what its advantages are, why it will keep the U.S. dollar the world reserve currency — and why it’s important that we have Bitcoin underpinning the U.S. dollar as a store of value, just like gold used to be,” she said. “…I’m hopeful that Congress will respond in a way that keeps us competitive around the globe and keep us the currency that you want to hold if you’re in Venezuela…or China.”

Bitcoin 2021 conference welcome sign (Credit: Fox News)

Lummis added that the beauty of Bitcoin is that anyone with a “cellphone” can be their “own banker.”

“That is one of the great egalitarian things about Bitcoin that I’m so excited about,” she said. 

The senator also said she is trying to create a financial innovation caucus to bring attention to the topic of cryptocurrency on Capitol Hill.

Earlier on Friday, Tyler and Cameron Winklevoss — twin billionaire Bitcoin investors known for their dispute with Mark Zuckerberg over the creation of Facebook — made the claim that the Fed’s bad reputation actually helps boost Bitcoin’s popularity. Tyler referred to the U.S. dollar as the “ultimate sh-tcoin” while Tyler sported a t-shirt that read, “Rage against the machine.”

Elon Musk malice

Another common theme, especially among Bitcoin conference attendees, was voicing — or tweeting — their frustration with Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk.

The billionaire tech entrepreneur tweeted a broken heart emoji about Bitcoin on Thursday that some investors linked to the cryptocurrency‘s price drop on Thursday.

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Max Keiser, host of the “Keiser Report,” began his Friday fireside chat by repeating, “F-ck Elon!” several times.

A number of conference attendees posted on social media about their disappointment in Musk, who recently announced Tesla would stop accepting Bitcoin for vehicle purchases due to environmental concerns that were credited with sending the markets lower in May. 

NFL tackle and Bitcoin fan Russell Okung launched a billboard campaign Friday in Miami just in time for the conference, as well as in Brownsville, Texas, and Santa Clara, Calif., near the SpaceX and Tesla headquarters. The billboards state, “Stick to Space, Elon.”

“Bitcoin has no marketing department or dedicated PR team to push back against false information,” Okung said in a statement. “This campaign is meant to correct the false public narratives around Bitcoin’s energy use and to encourage Elon to stick to what Elon does best.”

The cryptocurrency neared $40,000 ahead of the first day of the conference but fell to just above $35,500 late Thursday evening. Musk posted the broken-heart tweet around 9 p.m. EDT.

The billionaire tech entrepreneur has expressed environmental concerns with the Bitcoin mining process, or the process of creating the cryptocurrency. Bitcoin mining is done by solving mathematical puzzles on powerful computers that require large amounts of energy.

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But other cryptocurrency experts disagree with Musk’s assessment. Michael Saylor, co-founder of the business intelligence company MicroStrategy and a staunch Bitcoin defender, said during the conference that he believes “Bitcoin is the most efficient use of energy that the human race has yet come up with.”

Jack Dorsey’s endorsement

Jack Dorsey‘s views on Bitcoin came in contrast with Musk’s when the Twitter and Square founder and CEO spoke at the conference on Friday.

Dorsey, who has purchased more than $200 million in Bitcoin through Square since October of last year, said Friday that if he weren’t already working on his two tech companies, he’d spend the rest of his life working to develop Bitcoin.

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey at Bitcoin 2021 conference (Credit: Fox Business screenshot of Bitcoin 2021 live stream)

“If I were not at Square or Twitter, I would be working on Bitcoin,” Dorsey said during the conference. “…Whatever I can do — whatever my companies can do  — to make Bitcoin accessible to everyone, that is what I will do for the rest of my life.”

Dorsey said he believes Bitcoin, in particular, is going to be used by “more and more people” in years to come.

“It’s an amazing asset,” he said. “The internet needs a native currency.”

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He added that he believes people around the world will need to “transact” with Bitcoin “every single day” in the future, which is why his companies do not work with any other cryptocurrencies besides Bitcoin, he explained at the conference. 

Tony Hawk talks crypto

Pro skateboarder and early Bitcoin investor Tony Hawk was a large focus of Saturday’s conference events. 

Hawk, 52, told conference attendees during his Saturday morning interview with actor Jeremy Gardner that his interest in Bitcoin first came to life after news circulated about the “Silk Road,” which was a dark web marketplace that allowed users to trade Bitcoin for drugs online. Federal officials shut down the digital marketplace in 2013.

“I was fascinated with the payment program they had,” he said. “…There was an anonymous side to it, but also just the idea that it was very fast, it was international and it seemed like that, to me, was the future of finances. So I immediately researched, ‘How do I buy Bitcoin?’ I wasn’t on Silk Road but I did buy Bitcoin in 2012.”

The iconic skateboarder announced in March that he would be selling footage of himself completing the “Ollie 540” skating trick, which he first mastered in the late 1980s, as a non-fungible token, or a digital collectible made possible through blockchain technology, according to his Instagram page.

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“In 1989 I started trying ollie 540’s as a joke, since it seemed there was no way to keep a skateboard on your feet throughout [and-and-a-half] spins in the air. But at some point I started scooping the tail with my back toe, which kept my feet in place for most of the spin,” he wrote in a March 17 Instagram post. “…Today I decided to do [the trick] one more time … and never again.”

Hawk added that the clip would be sold as an NTF via Ethernity Chain, a fast-growing, blockchain-based NTF trading platform.

The skateboarder later gave a demo for conference attendees using a ramp that was set up just outside the conference center’s indoor facility.

FOX Business’ Bradford Betz contributed to this report.

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