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Published on - Feb. 15, 2010
Hands Across the Sand sends message
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INDIAN ROCKS BEACH - An estimated 250 pairs of linked hands, stretching nearly a quarter of a mile across Indian Rocks Beach Feb. 13, signaled a defiant "no" to those who would drill for oil off Florida's shore.

The peaceful protest called Hands Across the Sand was organized in coastal communities from Jacksonville to Pensacola to raise awareness of offshore oil drilling.

A debate is about to resume among Florida legislators that could result in drilling within sight of many of Florida's most popular beaches.

The event took place at 1:30 p.m. as unseasonably cold weather and gusting winds kept regular beach visitors away.

The dress code for the day was black.

"Black will be the color of our beaches if the drillers have their way," said Janet Dowell of Clearwater, who carried a large hand painted sign declaring, "No Drilling, Save our Shores."

Organizers passed out bumper stickers, buttons and Frisbees as participants lined up to sign a petition which organizers intend to present to state legislators in Tallahassee later this month.

Todd Plumlee of Plumlee Gulf Beach Realty organized the Indian Rocks Beach event.

"We started just two weeks ago," said Plumlee. "We're hoping for a hundred people, maybe more."

Mayor R.B Johnson welcomed the protesters. Also in attendance were Rep. C.W. (Bill) Young, R-Indian Shores; Indian Shores Mayor Jim Lawrence; Belleair Beach Mayor Lynn Rives; and Indian Rocks Beach Commissioners Terry Hamilton-Wollin and Dan Torres.

Hamilton-Wollin told the crowd that the threat to Florida's beaches posed by offshore drilling was the most important issue of our day.

"Make no mistake, drilling here will not solve the energy crisis," she said. "Any oil found here will go directly overseas and won't benefit Americans whatsoever. This is just about greed, pure and simple."

Asked why she had come for the protest, Jane Devoe of Largo said, "I've been coming to this beach since 1976. I was married on this beach. I don't want to see it ruined."

Loren Corrieri of Belleair Bluffs was more succinct.

"Three Es," she said, "economy, ecology and environment."

At a little past 1 p.m., the gathering began making its way toward the beach as the sun was just breaking through the day's persistent cloud cover.

As organizers using megaphones slowly drew the crowd into a human line in the sand a plane flew overhead trailing a banner that read, "Love Tourists Not Drilling."

With wind surfers plying the waves behind them, the long line of protesters formed with arms spread, hands held firmly, their backs to the Gulf of Mexico. They stood for 15 minutes as cameras clicked and Hands Across the Sand became a permanent, recorded moment in Florida's history.
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