Thousands join hands on the sands of Florida’s beaches
June 25, 2011 | By Wayne K. Roustan, Sun Sentinel
LAKE WORTH Upwards of 5,000 people joined hands across Florida beaches at noon Saturday to protest offshore oil drilling and promote clean energy.
The state’s annual ‘Hands Across the Sand’ event coincided with similar gatherings around the country to raise awareness about the dangers of offshore drilling and to call on elected leaders to end America’s dependence on oil.
At least 100 people linked up at each of more than 50 locations around the state. Ana Campos of the Clean Energy Coalition of South Florida co-organized the event on Fort Lauderdale’s beach and was thrilled by the large turnout.
“We had about 400 people last year, but that was right on the heels of the BP oil spill,” she said. “I was still really surprised that we had around 150 people show up. We had a great crowd. I was very, very happy.”
More than 100 showed up at the Lake Worth pier, as well Saturday.
Participants joined hands along the shoreline for 15 minutes to signal solidarity. There were speakers, a beach clean-up and entertainment. Some carried signs that read: “Drillers are Killers, keep our beach out of reach” and “Boycott BP, make big oil pay.”
State Rep. Jeff Clemens, D-Lake Worth sits on the House Energy and Utility Committee and joined the event in Lake Worth.
“It’s not just a green issue, it’s an economic issue,” Clemens said. “We’re talking about bringing jobs to Florida. Clean energy is really our next great economy in the world and the United States. We’re being beat by China. We’re being beat by Germany. We need to pick up the ball and run with it and we do that by not relying on oil resources for our energy needs.”
Environmental science and marine biology teacher Gina Hertz is a Pensacola native who saw the impact of the BP oil spill first hand.
“It was unbelievable when you go to Pensacola Beach and see no one there except for a clean-up crew in their hazmat suits,” Hertz said. “It was disgusting.”
Diver Molly Munro said the underwater impact of the Gulf oil spill remains unknown.
“Our marine environment has already gone down so much in 10, 15 years,” Munro said. “Reefs and fish are missing; the risk of oil [drilling] is just way too much.”
‘Hands Across the Sand’ was founded by Floridian Dave Rauschkolb in October 2009 and is endorsed by national environmental organizations including Sierra Club, Audubon Society, Surfrider Foundation, Friends of the Earth, CleanEnergy.org and many others. These groups continue to fight those in Congress and the Florida Legislature who wish to lift the ban on oil drilling in the waters off Florida.
The first event was on Feb. 13, 2010, and attracted 10,000 participants on 90 beaches in Florida, from Jacksonville to Miami Beach and Key West to Pensacola Beach, according to ‘Hands Across the Sand.’