Florida’s COVID-19 Grim Reaper Is Here, and He’s Fucking Furious 1

He’s been fighting for months to keep Florida’s beaches public. Then, in March, as the novel coronavirus began to ravage the state, he showed up at Gov. Ron DeSantis’ mansion in a Hazmat suit to urge him to close the beaches. When that didn’t work, he sued DeSantis. That hasn’t worked yet, either.

So now, attorney Daniel Uhlfelder is wearing a black cloak and toting a scythe along the Sunshine State’s beaches, begging residents to stay home. Meet Florida’s Grim Reaper.

“This is a deadly virus,” Uhlfelder told The Daily Beast Friday. “People are getting sick. It’s getting worse. Our state government’s not doing the right thing. Our governor is just being totally irresponsible.”

Uhlfelder wanted to conjure an image that properly conveyed the gravity of the situation. “And so I figured I’ll wear a Grim Reaper suit on the beach… And here I am talking to you now.” On Friday, he visited four or five beaches, and most responded positively—although someone did call the police at one point, alleging he’d intruded on a private beach and was scaring children.

The South Walton-based attorney never expected to gain thousands of followers last year when he began needling former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who lives a mile from his office, over his desire to privatize beaches. And yet, that’s precisely what happened; when Huckabee sued him for daring to brand him a “beach thief,” Uhlfelder publicized the trumped-up bar complaint—and gained a massive platform in the process. At the time of writing, he has more than 129,000 followers on Twitter.

“I was trying to figure out what to do with that following,” Uhlfelder said. “So I started a PAC for candidates and causes that I believe in.” Uhlfelder is using his Florida Grim Reaper Tour to raise $20,000 for Democrats running for Congress in the upcoming election. The effort has already gone viral—largely thanks to an incredible local news clip.

A well-heeled attorney who once worked as a staff aide in the White House and whose father was an attorney and lobbyist might not sound like the most likely figure to stage an avant-garde demonstration on the beach—but Uhlfelder says he was raised to believe in public service and activism as integral parts of the profession.

“I’m a lawyer; I’m also American,” Uhlfelder said. “I’m a person that believes that we are in a dire situation here. People need to do things, and our government’s not doing it, so we need to do it.”

In the past, Uhlfelder has fought to get the Confederate flag taken down in his area, worked civil rights and discrimination, and championed candidates he believes in. He said he’s never been content to sit on the sidelines; “It’s just not my nature.”

Uhlfelder’s demonstration has already drawn massive attention, even making an appearance on Saturday Night Live’s “Weekend Update.” Still, he’d love for someone, anyone, to close Florida’s shores to the public as the state’s death toll continues to rise.

“I wouldn’t be able to sleep at night if I didn’t get out there,” Uhlfelder said. “’Cause I’ve got young kids; my parents are here and they’re quarantined. My office has been working from home for six, seven weeks. We’ve got 60,000 people dying and we’ve got a thousand cases.”

“It’s amazing,” he said. “We are the wealthiest country in the world, but we can’t take care of people… So we’re going to force them to go to work.”

On Monday, Florida’s retail stores and restaurants will be allowed to reopen—a decision that will force thousands of workers to return to their jobs despite fears for their health. Speaking about this, Uhlfelder grew audibly livid.

“Ron DeSantis, he has more blood on his hands every day,” Uhlfelder said. “Every passing hour. Ron DeSantis… he cares about what Donald Trump tells him to do, and he cares about what his special interests [want him] to do. He has blood on his hands, and he is killing people… He could shut these beaches down in a heartbeat. He can fix that unemployment system, get people their benefits, but he doesn’t care. He doesn’t give a damn. So he can go to hell as far as I can say.”

One thing Uhlfelder would like everyone not to do? Blame Floridians for the state’s poor leadership. Although the internet’s adoration for the outlandish “Florida Man” meme has likely fueled some of his campaign’s success, Uhlfelder doesn’t love the generalization it makes about the state’s residents.

“I’m second generation Floridian,” Uhlfelder said. “My parents, my dad was born in Florida, my kids were born in Florida. I’ve been in Florida my whole life… Floridians are good people.”

“But we’ve got people like Rick Scott and Ron DeSantis, and Matt Gaetz, and now, Donald Trump,” he added. “We got just scumbags as leaders from Florida now.”

Above all, though, Uhlfelder is simply furious it came to this. Why is he the one suing the governor and wandering the beaches in a Halloween costume, hoping someone will make common-sense decisions?

“Where’s the Democratic Party in this situation?” Uhlfelder said. “They’re nowhere.” If anything, he said, they’re “just whining.”

“The Republicans are running the show and they’re getting away with it,” Uhlfelder said. “And I’m having to take my day off, you know, whatever the hell… run around the beaches in the Grim Reaper suit to get people take this seriously.”