This Jewish Lawyer Is Dressing As The Grim Reaper To Protest Florida Beach Reopenings

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Daniel Uhlfelder says he was inspired by his family's tragic Holocaust history to protest beach reopenings. (Courtesy of Uhlfelder)

MIAMI (JTA) – (JTA) — Last Friday, Daniel Uhlfelder traded in his usual suit and tie for a black hooded cape and a scythe and headed to the beach.

Dressed as the Grim Reaper, the 47-year-old Florida lawyer marched across the sand at Miramar Beach as bikini- and surf short-clad beachgoers snapped photos.

Jason Kander

@JasonKander

The guy in the grim reaper costume sounds like he’s making 1000x more sense than the people who reopened the beaches.

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Uhlfelder’s “Florida Grim Reaper Tour” is his way of taking a stand against the reopening of some Florida beaches even as the coronavirus continues to kill more than a thousand Americans every day.

“There’s this utter and complete disrespect for human life,” Uhlfelder told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. “So if I have to go as a Stanford-educated, highly successful, regular family man in a Grim Reaper suit to get a message across, I guess that’s the world we live in. It’s pretty sad.”

As Florida and some other states take steps to get life back to normal after weeks under lockdown, Uhlfelder’s stunt drew plenty of media attention. CNNNBCThe Guardian and dozens of other outlets picked up the story.

His stunt drew plenty of media attention. (Courtesy of Uhlfelder)

The Santa Rosa Beach family and real estate lawyer is no stranger to the spotlight.

Last year, he feuded with former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, who was not a fan of Uhlfelder’s efforts to advocate for public beach access. Huckabee, who owns a house along a stretch of Florida coastline that Uhlfelder wants open for community access, ended up filing a complaint against Uhlfelder with the Florida Bar Association, saying the lawyer was harassing him on Twitter.

The quarrel attracted Uhlfelder plenty of media coverage and nearly 140,000 Twitter followers.

“He chose to attack me and come after me,” Uhlfelder said of Huckabee. “I don’t seek the spotlight, but I don’t shy away from it if there’s something I can do for good.”

Daniel Uhlfelder@DWUhlfelderLaw

At the end of last year I had 400 followers. Then Mike Huckabee filed a false bar complaint against me in an attempt to silence my efforts to expose him. We just hit 100,000 followers strong. Thank you so much from the bottom of my heart.

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Uhlfelder got the idea for the Grim Reaper tour in March, when he was looking to buy face masks at a local hardware store and the only thing he could find was an all-white paint suit. He filmed himself as he marched to the beach wearing the get-up to protest the fact that the state had yet to close down.

Daniel Uhlfelder@DWUhlfelderLaw

Breaking: spring breakers refuse to leave the beach. I interviewed some to see why exactly they won’t listen and are putting the rest of us in jeopardy.

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A day later, he sued Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis to close the beaches.

“It had an effect, and I guess [I] went to the next step,” he said.

That next step was dressing up as Death itself.

Uhlfelder bought a polyester Grim Reaper costume from Walmart, but realized it would be too hot in the Florida sun. So he approached a clothing designer friend, who offered to make one out of linen. He completed the look with a scythe he bought online.

Reactions from beachgoers at the four beaches he visited last week were “a mixed bag.”

“Not everyone was pleased,” he said. “I had some people make some weird comments.”

Uhlfelder is using the tour to raise money for a political action committee he created this year to support Democratic candidates across the country.

He drew inspiration for the tour from his family’s experience during the Holocaust. His grandfather, after whom Uhlfelder was named, escaped Nazi Germany as a teenager and was one of the few members of his family to survive. Uhlfelder’s father, Steve, helped persuade the Florida legislature to support the construction of a Holocaust memorial on the grounds of the state capitol in Tallahassee.

“My great-grandparents were murdered, and their ancestors were murdered in broad daylight,” Uhlfelder said. “And I’m not [comparing the two], but when you have 70-80,000 people dying in the wealthiest country on the planet, and it seems like nobody cares, I couldn’t sleep at night if i didn’t do something about this.”

Uhlfelder, a family and real estate lawyer, once clashed with former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee over the issue of public peach access. (Courtesy of Uhlfelder)

Uhlfelder is a member both of a Reform synagogue and a Methodist church with his wife, Michelle, who is Christian, and their two kids.

“I don’t go to temple all the time, but I feel very Jewish,” he said.

The lawyer isn’t a fan of President Donald Trump, whom he calls “crazy.” Nor does he like DeSantis, whom he refers to as a “Trump minion” who “thinks he’s the supreme leader of North Korea.”

But until recently, Uhlfelder was a Republican himself, serving on the Republican Party of Florida Jewish Leadership Advisory Council, a fact that has yet to be removed from his law firm bio. Huckabee’s bar complaint helped lead him to change his party affiliation earlier this year.

“After that and the state of our country, I just couldn’t do it anymore,” Uhlfelder said.

He isn’t the only one in his family who has had a change of mind recently. Though his wife was initially not too excited about the Grim Reaper gag, Uhlfelder says she’s come around.

“She’s good with it now,” he said. “She knows I have the right intentions.”

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9 COMMENTS

  1. He’s a ‘Cardiac Jew’ because he has a good ‘Jewish’ heart. He feels very Jewish because he married a Christian. We are dealing with another screwball.

  2. Instead of v’ahavta l’raicha, he upholds sinas chinum.

    Even if the beach is open, he does not have to go there. He seems to be a political hater, looking for ways to mix into other’s business and express his hate.

  3. “So if I have to go as a Stanford-educated, highly successful, regular family man in a Grim Reaper suit to get a message across, I guess that’s the world we live in. It’s pretty sad.” – self aggrandizing pretentious nobody. I’m not impressed with your silly Stanford education and other credentials. There’s ample evidence that being outdoors rather than locked inside for weeks on end is actually beneficial to the immune system and general health (and there are zero documented cases of anyone contracting the virus in an outdoor park or beach setting). Stop with this nanny-state tactics and let people decide for themselves. At this point, everyone knows about the virus and its risk, so you’re not educating anyone you attention seeking scold. So take your message along with your expensive piece of Stanford education paper elsewhere, nobody is interested in either of them.

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