MIRAMAR BEACH, Fla. (WMBB)– Residents and tourists across Walton County’s beaches were in for quite a scare Friday afternoon.
“You know when we first saw him it was a little bit scary and we didn’t know exactly what was going on,” said Joe Villarreal, a resident of Walton County.
Villarreal is talking about the Grim Reaper, or Florida lawyer Daniel Uhlfelder. Uhlfelder was out protesting Walton County’s beaches fully reopening, with a film crew along for the ride.
Back in March, Uhlfelder filed a suit against Governor Ron DeSantis to close all of Florida’s beaches.
On the first day Walton County beaches were open without restriction again, Uhfelder wanted to send another message.
“The Grim Reaper represents death. This is a deadly virus. It’s a global pandemic,” said Uhlfelder when explaining why he chose the costume he did.
Uhlfelder says he feels compelled to urge beachgoers to think twice.
“People are gonna get hurt. And what’s what I’m here for. I wish I didn’t have to do this but nobody else is doing it,” said Uhlfelder.
Uhlfelder’s remarks were not welcome by everyone. Jay Fields, a Walton County resident, was out for a drive when he noticed the protest.
“I was just driving by, I saw the beach and I wanted to look out and I saw the news so I came. I walked up because I wanted to look at it and I saw this guy standing here so I got out. And I didn’t want to say anything but it’s just very frustrating,” said Fields.
Fields believes having the beaches fully open is great for local businesses and for those who have been left without a job since they closed.
Uhlfelder has long been an advocate for public beaches. Leaving many to question why he is now protesting against the very thing he promotes.
When asked, Uhlfelder said he actually loves the beaches but thinks they should be empty for the foreseeable future.
“I mean I’ve sacrificed so much of my time. I’ve got Mike Huckabee filing a bar complaint against me for speaking out, but there’s a time for this,” said Uhlfelder.
Uhlfelder is also currently leading efforts to make all Florida beaches public and do away with privately owned beaches.