Participants in the Hands Across the Sand event line Indian Rocks Beach. The photo was taken from an aerial ladder fire truck.
INDIAN ROCKS BEACH – A casual observer on Indian Rocks Beach on Aug. 4 would have sensed that this was more than your average day at the beach in the Florida sunshine.
The crowd seemed to take up every square inch of sand, and before noon people kept coming.
The attraction was the annual Hands Across the Sand event. People are encouraged to come to the beach and at high noon hold hands in a long line as a symbolic gesture against offshore drilling. Several hundred showed up and the line stretched as far as the eye could see.
Todd Plumlee, the organizer of the event, knew the turnout would be good.
“Several hundred people had registered on Facebook,” he said. “And from the response we were getting on the street we knew people would show up.”
Plumlee said the BP Oil spill back in the spring of 2010 actually energized the opponents to offshore drilling.
“We had our first Hands Across the Sand event in February of 2010, before the spill, and 300 people showed up,” he said. “Then in June we had another, after the spill and 1,500 people showed up.”
Those who showed up on Saturday were keenly aware of why they were there.
“We have to protect our environment and keep that oil off our beaches,” said Natalie Meadow of Largo. “The oil is a danger to sea life and we have to keep it away.”
Her friend, Melissa Arndt of Largo, agreed.
“The oil is a danger to our eco-system. The drilling hasn’t proven to be safe and another spill will destroy our beaches, the animals and us. We are all at risk,” she said.
Further down the beach Bob Smith and his daughter Tiffany came over from Largo for their regular Saturday morning stroll on the beach. Bob said he wasn’t aware of the Hands event but was delighted to learn of it. “I got lucky today, I’m glad this is happening,” he said. “We’ll be holding hands for sure. We love coming to the beach and relaxing and watching the people. We are taking advantage of this natural resource and we have to watch out for it.”
A few minutes before noon Todd Plumlee took up the bullhorn and told the crowd there was more symbolism there than just their holding hands. “Right now we can see the barge out there helping re-nourish our beach,” he said. “That is temporary, but if they allow drilling, big machines like that will be out there all the time.”
Indian Rocks Beach Mayor R.B. Johnson also spoke to the crowd, warning them to be vigilant.
“We have to send a message to those politicians who don’t get it that we are not going to let up. We are not going to allow offshore drilling. and we’re not going to allow them to interfere with our way of life,” he said. “If we don’t keep the pressure on things tend to slide by. We can’t let that happen.”
Plumlee said there will continue to be Hands Across the Sand events.
“We will continue to grow on top of what we have done in the past,” he said.