Florida Group Protests Gym Closures By Exercising In Front Of Courthouse

With the economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic weighing on the nation, governors are feeling pressure from many corners to re-open businesses and having to make some tough decisions regarding prosperity versus public health.

Florida has been among the states that were less willing to shut down and tell residents to stay home in the first place, and more urgent about re-opening businesses. However, the state's re-opening plan hasn't been smooth, and what some see as an unfair and unequal process has drawn protests.

Florida began Phase One of its re-opening plan on May 4.

As WFLA reported, with the state's safer-at-home order lifted, residents will be allowed to do things like visit state parks, have a dental check-up, and get a haircut. Restaurants are allowed to re-open, provided they limit indoor capacity to 25%, with tables at least six feet apart, and retailers can open with 25% indoor capacity as well. Florida's famous beaches are open again, too.

However, one group is protesting the fact that the state has so far refused to open gyms as well.

The Open Tampa Bay group made headlines recently with a protest staged in front of Pinellas County Courthouse in Clearwater.

About 30 people gathered there to protest the continued closure of gyms in the state, and as WFLA reported, they did not appear to be wearing masks or social distancing. They were, however, waving flags and hoisting signs, as well as chanting slogans including "Give me gains or give me death."

Then the protest took a bizarre turn when some of the protesters dropped to the pavement, doing squats and push-ups.

Local news captured the scene as the protest became an impromptu workout.

Which, as many people were quick to point out, undermined the message the group was trying to send.

"Just saw there are people working out in protest to open gyms back up in Florida. Sit down, you just proved you don’t need a gym at the moment," wrote one person on Twitter.

"Florida, this protest isn't the way to convince courts you need the gym reopened to workout," wrote another.

One of the organizers later admitted that exercising was not the best way to get their point across.


Travis LaBazzo told BuzzFeed News that he thought the exercises would help draw attention to their cause, but it clearly drew the wrong kind of attention.

"I'm glad it got out there, but it completely lost the message," he said. "People out there saying, 'You just proved you don't need the gym,' but it's not about that. It's about thousands of employees that are out of work in Florida."

LaBazzo pointed at "mixed messages" from the government as a source of frustration among small business owners.


He said that Governor DeSantis had considered including gyms as part of Phase One re-opening but decided against it in the end.

"Why are we not allowed to open up, but you're allowed to go to Walmart, or a Home Depot? We're very much a necessity for a lot of these people and yet we're being left out. I mean, we've had strip clubs that stayed open after gyms closed," he said, adding that Florida had deemed professional wrestling an "essential service."

Despite not wearing a mask and social distancing at the protest, LaBazzo said that he and other business owners should be trusted to keep their customers safe.

Facebook | Open Tampa Bay

He says he "doesn't want to be the guy that gets more people sick," and that he has set up his gyms to adhere to social distancing guidelines, with workout machines far apart and limited capacity for patrons.

LaBazzo also feels that wearing a mask should be a personal choice and not mandated by the government.

Governor DeSantis has not set a date for the start of the state's Phase Two of re-opening.

According to state guidelines, Phase Two will begin only "Once the Governor determines it is suitable to continue re-opening and after fully considering medical data in consultation with state health officials." Gyms are slated to be included with Phase Two re-openings.

h/t: WFLA, BuzzFeed News