Navy Master Chief stands his ground, becomes face of freedom as coastal towns cautiously lift beach restrictions


States have begun reacting to President Trump’s plans to reopen the U.S. and many coastal towns are lifting beach access restrictions put in place to stem the spread of the coronavirus.

As Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis gave the green light for some beaches and parks in the Sunshine State to reopen, lockdown-weary residents flocked to take advantage. In other coastal towns such as North Carolina’s Emerald Isle, the announcement of a pending reopening came after a stunning protest as residents had grown frustrated with what they saw as a violation of their rights.

One man was seen in video and photos taking a patriotic stand against the town’s restrictions.

With a sign planted in the sand that read “LAND OF THE FREE,” a fully decked Navy Master Chief stood in the ocean waters and drew the attention of law enforcement officers and curious bystanders on Thursday.

Wearing full Navy Service Dress Blue, the man, who was identified in a video as Retired Chief Rife, stood calmly with his back to the waters, making his silent but powerful protest. Command Master Chief Mathew Rife retired from the US Navy in 2019.


(Source: YouTube)

Longtime resident of Emerald Isle, Mike Connor, told Business Insider that Emerald Isle Police asked him to leave but the man refused. He reportedly left on his own a short time later, before Town Manager Matt Zapp announced that ocean access restrictions would be lifted on Saturday. Mayor Eddie Barber and other mayors of the Bogue Banks towns had issued the coronavirus rules on April 2.

“We’re very happy that Emerald Isle allowed access not just to us swimmers, but to everybody that uses it as a medium for their exercise,” Connor told Insider. “We don’t want our rights stomped all over.”

Earlier in the week, angry surfers in Emerald Isle had begun a petition to lift the ban and staged a protest a few days later.

“Emerald Isle residents and property owners will be able to access the Atlantic Ocean for normal activities, including swimming, surfing, kiting, kayaking, and fishing. Residents can continue to walk, jog, and sit on the beach strand. All beachgoers must adhere to the current social distancing guidelines,” Zapp wrote in a press release announcing the reopening.

As of Friday, at least two people in Carteret County had died from COVID-19 and at least 24 people had tested positive for the virus. Though some of the beach restrictions had been lifted, officials reminded residents that social distancing guidelines were still in place.

Several North Carolina coastal towns including Atlantic Beach, Indian Beach and Pine Knolls Shores have reportedly begun to reopen with specific guidelines, WLOS 13 reported.

In Florida, Jacksonville Beach Mayor Charlie Latham, Neptune Beach Mayor Elaine Brown and Atlantic Beach Mayor Ellen Glasser announced the beaches would be open for exercising purposes and not for lounging, or tanning, reminding beach-goers that large groups were still not allowed to congregate.

Many Americans fed up with the pandemic and sweeping rules by local governments in the name of keeping them safe have taken to protesting, as in Michigan where people took to their cars and converged on the State Capitol in Lansing.

The Navy Master Chief standing defiantly in the ocean waters in Emerald Isle proved to be a powerful inspiration and visual symbol for many.

 

Frieda Powers

Senior Staff Writer
[email protected]

Originally from New York, Powers graduated from New York University and eventually made her way to sunny South Florida where she has been writing for the BizPacReview team since 2015.

Frieda Powers

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