Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Taking a Stand with Hands across Sand; Protesters' Goal in Beaches and Beyond: 'No Drill, No Spill!'

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Taking a Stand with Hands across Sand; Protesters' Goal in Beaches and Beyond: 'No Drill, No Spill!'

Article excerpt

Byline: MAGGIE FITZROY

When Dawn Parker and two friends went to the beach in Jacksonville Beach on Saturday, they set up chairs near the ocean's edge and stretched out on them to relax and read books.

It seemed a normal sunny beach day, until hundreds of people of all ages suddenly started gathering just behind them.

Looking north and then south, Parker watched as the hundreds spread out and held hands, forming a long line that stretched along the tide line at the foot of Beach Boulevard.

Most of the hand-holders were silent.

But during the 15 minutes they stood there, some started shouting as they looked out at the waves, "No drill, no spill!"

"I had no idea; we're outnumbered," Parker said with a grin. "I think we laid in the wrong place."

The group that held hands at noon at Jacksonville Beach was part of an international event called Hands Across the Sand to protest offshore oil drilling. Organized by the website handsacrossthesand.com, people came together to hold hands at exactly the same time on beaches up and down the area, around the state, the country and in some parts of the world.

Spurred by the recent oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, hundreds of people also held hands on the beach at the foot of Atlantic Boulevard in Atlantic Beach and Neptune Beach, and according to the website, gatherings were also planned at two beaches in Ponte Vedra Beach, at Solana Road and at Mickler's Landing.

It was the second Hands Across the Sand event at Beach Boulevard; another one, which attracted about 60 people, was held in February to protest oil drilling off the Florida coast.

"It was difficult to get people out here in 30-degree windchill, but people weren't giving it the importance that they are today," said Jennifer Burns of Ponte Vedra Beach, president of the Beaches Sea Turtle Patrol, who organized the February and Saturday events at Beach Boulevard.

"The founder of the original gathering, Dave Rauschkolb, wanted to expand it to include all coastal states," Burns said. "Then it mushroomed to include all 50 states, Puerto Rico, and some other countries as well."

The aim of the Hands event was to say no to offshore oil drilling and yes to clean energy. Many Beaches participants said the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico was their incentive for attending.

Most came specifically to take part, others came to the beach to swim and sunbathe and then joined the line.

At Atlantic Boulevard, several organizing individuals and groups e-mailed everyone they knew leading up to the event, and posted information on Facebook.

Some brought drums. …

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