South Floridians stage caravan protest to end coronavirus lockdown, demand beaches reopen

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More than 100 South Floridians participated in a caravan protest Sunday to demand Gov. Ron DeSantis reopen the beaches and state parks closed under coronavirus lockdown measures.

Drivers first met up in separate groups in Hollywood, Coral Springs, Boca Raton, Delray Beach, and Boynton Beach. The caravans then drove to downtown Delray Beach, honking their horns and blaring sirens up and down Atlantic Avenue. Waving American flags and Trump 2020 banners, onlookers lined the sidewalks to watch.

“We are gathering to urge Governor DeSantis and our mayors and our county executives to re-open Florida,” Yishai Cohen, who organized the event with his wife Rachael, told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. “We recognize that means, in our opinion, moderately re-opening the state, but we cannot have a full and complete statewide shut down because it’s destroying so many millions of jobs, it’s destroying so many millions of families and if this continues much longer, we’re going to be steeped in a depression, not even a recession, but a depression that we haven’t seen since the 1920s or 1930s.”

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JACKSONVILLE BEACH, FLORIDA - MARCH 21: Police tape and pylons block the public access to Jacksonville Beach amid the coronavirus outbreak on March 21, 2020 in Jacksonville Beach, Florida. (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)

JACKSONVILLE BEACH, FLORIDA - MARCH 21: Police tape and pylons block the public access to Jacksonville Beach amid the coronavirus outbreak on March 21, 2020 in Jacksonville Beach, Florida. (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)

DeSantis, a Republican, over the weekend announced he greenlit reopening some South Florida beaches but would discuss details Monday during his first teleconference with a newly formed task force for reopening the economy.

Mayors from all South Florida counties were expected to attend, according to the Florida News Service.

Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach, and Monroe counties – the first to fall under DeSantis’ “safer at home” order before he extended the measure statewide on April 1 – have said they will coordinate the reopening of public and private recreation areas such as beaches, parks, boat ramps, and golf courses.

Florida recorded at least 26,314 confirmed coronavirus cases, with at least 774 deaths by Monday morning, according to Johns Hopkins University.

Similar drive-by protests against lockdown measures have been organized across the country in states including Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania. In Colorado, healthcare workers clad in personal protective equipment stood in the roads in Denver, seemingly facing off with drivers during demonstrations against stay-at-home orders.

FLORIDA PROTESTER ENCASES HANDS IN CONCRETE OUTSIDE GOVERNOR'S MANSION, CALL TO FREE PRISONERS AMID CORONAVIRUS

Driving his minivan with “FactsNotFear” written on the windows, and his wife and children in tow, Boca Raton Deputy Mayor Jeremy Rodgers lead a caravan down the road for about two miles from Boca Raton to Delray Beach, the Sun-Sentinel reported. He said he was acting as a private citizen and the caravan was not sponsored by the city.

“I think we gotta start having the discussion on getting people back to work and getting people back to the outdoors,” Rodgers told the newspaper. “Residents can’t passively enjoy the beach from 20 feet away from each other, we can’t go to the park, I can’t shoot hoops with my son ourselves at the park and there’s long-term mental health problems with that and people are going to stay home and be less healthy when we want them to be more healthy. I think it’s time to start having the discussion on how to open up safely and open up soon.”

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Beaches and parks in Duval County, located in northern Florida, were reopened for limited purposes Friday, allowing visitors to engage in recreational activities, including walking, fishing, biking, swimming and dog walking while maintaining social distance.

After hundreds of beachgoers flooded a newly reopened Jacksonville beach, police who stopped to cite one man for social distancing violations realized he was also wanted on murder charges in Pennsylvania and took him into custody.