In response to the fact that Pinellas County beaches and tourism could be profoundly affected if oil rigs were permitted to be constructed three miles off shore, protestors linked hands in the sand and could be seen up and down the county. Protestors wore black to symbolize how the beaches would look should there be an oil spill.
Opposition to offshore drilling has become a bipartisan issue, especially among coastal communities, which have the most to lose should something go wrong. Pinellas County elected officials, from both sides of the aisle, showed up to a local press conference preceding the Hands Across the Sand protest. Concerned officials included Congressman Bill Young (R), his opponent in the upcoming election State Senator Charlie Justice (D), State Representative Jim Frishe (R), and State Representative Rick Kreisman (D).
“Love Tourists, Not Drilling” was the theme of the day. Florida's natural beauty draws a high amount of tourists and revenue to the area. Many believe the few benefits of the oil industry's presence in the Gulf of Mexico so close to the coast is not worth the potential sacrifice of one of Florida's top industries.
The mission of Hands Across the Sand, according to their website, is to “raise awareness about the pending Florida legislation to drill for oil in our coastal waters,” and “to convince our legislators and governor to drop any and all legislation that would allow this folly.” Hands Across the Sand was organized at a significant time: legislation allowing offshore drilling a mere three miles off the coast of Florida is expected to return to the state senate during the legislative session in March.
For more information on Hands Across the Sand, visit www.handsacrossthesand.org.