HOLLYWOOD, Fla. – The nationwide push to reopen the economy made its way to South Florida. The group, which calls itself Liberate South Florida, started their demonstration on Sunday in Miami-Dade and Broward counties, eventually making their way to Palm Beach County. Their name is a reference to President Donald Trump’s recent tweets, “Liberate Minnesota,” "Liberate Michigan and “Liberate Virginia,” which sparked small protests in a handful of states.
Health experts are still urging people to maintain social distancing and stay home if there is not a definite need to be out. In South Florida, no stay-at-home orders have been lifted. But there are some who say that they want the state to open and they are willing to deal with the risk.
Liberate South Florida called it a “citizen driven tri-county caravan," which drove through the main drag of Delray Beach in Palm Beach County honking their horns in protest. They drove through Broward County and Miami-Dade County passing by shuttered businesses, with signs in their windows calling to “End the Shutdown,” while declaring “All Businesses are Essential” and asking drivers to “Honk for Freedom.”
More than two dozen cars, part of the tri-county caravan, gathered in the parking lot of Oakwood Plaza shopping center.
Their goal is to have their voices heard to get South Florida open for business again.
“We need to reopen the state,” Rachel Cohen, a Hollywood resident, said. “We need to be clear about the devastating effects that the statewide safer-at-home orders are having on citizens right now. Any job that puts food on the table for a Florida family is an essential job,” Cohen said.
While state and local leaders have shut down non-essential businesses, beaches and open spaces as COVID-19 testing continues, the group believes they should be given the freedom to make their own choices, at their own risk.
"We can try to be away of a lot of the parameters that are in play and make wise, smart decisions and not only be driven by fear," Hollywood resident Yishi Cohen said.
But some lawmakers feel the risk is just too heavy. Congresswoman Debbie Mucarsel-Powell spoke on Local 10′s “This Week in South Florida” on Sunday.
‘’Right now the infection rate is 3 to 4 people, so if you have COVID-19, you can pass it on to 3 or 4 people. We need to reduce the rate of infection. We’re not there yet, so there is definitely a high risk involved if we were to prematurely reopen the economy,” Mucarsel-Powell said.
The group of unemployed, struggling business owners, parents and self-proclaimed freedom fighters believe the reward outweighs the risk. They want to be allowed to make their own health choices despite what is now being recommended by health experts.
"Someone with a pre-existing condition that is not comfortable going back to work right now, then they should have that liberty, have that freedom to have that option," Cohen said.
Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties do remain shut down. However, officials are saying when they do begin to open things up, it will be a gradual process. They will likely begin with parks and open spaces, but there is no timeline as to when that will happen.