Because the number of Floridians infected with COVID-19 continues to rise, attorney Daniel Uhlfelder thinks it's ridiculous that Gov. Ron DeSantis has allowed the state's beaches to begin reopening. So Uhlfelder came up with an equally ridiculous protest idea: dressing as the Grim Reaper to persuade people to remain home and stay alive.
Uhlfelder, a Miami native who lives in Santa Rosa Beach in the Panhandle, this week vowed on Twitter to embark on what he calls the Florida Grim Reaper Tour.
"I was thinking about ways to articulate the message that this is a serious, deadly virus that is easily communicated, and we don't need to be drawing thousands to our beaches," he tells New Times. "I couldn't think of anything more deadly as a symbol than a Grim Reaper."
Many of you have asked if I am willing to travel around Florida wearing Grim Reaper attire to the beaches and other areas of the state opening up prematurely. The answer is absolutely yes. Beginning May 1 we will hit the road here in state. Please retweet and spread the word. pic.twitter.com/UO7QKg161n— Daniel Uhlfelder (@DWUhlfelderLaw) April 22, 2020
Uhlfelder says he is normally an advocate for free access to Florida's beaches. In the past, he has sued to open private beaches in the Panhandle to the general public. But the current circumstances have changed his tune.
"I wanna get back to normal more than anyone," he says. "I love our beaches... but the suffering will be shorter if we follow the rules and flatten the curve," he says.
Before you ask — no, Uhlfelder did not have a Grim Reaper costume and scythe already hanging in his closet waiting for just such an occasion. But he says his online order is on the way. By next Friday, he plans to start his tour of coastal towns to spread his grim but hopeful message.
"There won't be a lack of choices," he says, pointing out that beaches are opening with restricted hours in Duval, Dixie, and Flagler Counties, among others.
Uhlfelder says he'll practice social distancing while telling people about the dangers of gathering in groups during the pandemic and will try to get his message across with a mix of looks and logic. With any luck, he won't be taking any souls.
He says he'd like to make it down to Miami Beach despite the long drive. Mayor Dan Gelber has been adamant about not reopening the beaches for now despite protests from one city commissioner.
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This isn't the first time Uhlfelder has dressed up to take his message of personal safety to the seashore: A month ago, he put on a hazmat suit and grabbed a megaphone to explain to locals in Pensacola why they should not gather in groups during a national health emergency.
The Florida Governor doesn’t care if people die. I do. Please continue to help us close every beach in Florida. pic.twitter.com/ieyqHtmR17— Daniel Uhlfelder (@DWUhlfelderLaw) March 20, 2020
Uhlfelder says he's not worried about angry beachgoers confronting him. His experience in the legal system has toughened him up enough.
"I'm a trial lawyer," he says. "I'll be fine."