CLEARWATER — They came out on behalf of the turtles, the dolphins, the seabirds. They came with concerns about the marshes and the beaches. They wanted to show support for the men and women whose livelihoods are at stake.
As oil gushed into the Gulf of Mexico for the 42nd day, about two dozen people from around the Tampa Bay area postponed their holiday plans to stage a protest at a BP gas station on Gulf-to-Bay boulevard Monday morning.
"I think the main thing is accountability," said 29-year-old Heather Zubkova, of South Pasadena. "It's about making sure that BP stands by its claim that they'll clean up our beaches and pay the people who have been affected by this and not let them slink off into the oily darkness."
Hundreds of thousands of gallons of oil have been spewing into the gulf each day since the April 20 explosion of the Deepwater Horizon rig, which is operated by BP.
The protest came just after BP officials announced that the "top kill" effort — pumping heavy mud into the well — had failed. On Sunday, one executive said it could be months before the leak is contained.
"That's devastating," said Christina Taylor, 36. "It's ridiculous."
Taylor, Zubkova and Craig Trover, 29, linked up after Trover started a message thread on the Facebook page "Boycott BP," which by Monday morning had more than 228,000 fans.
The group then created a local event page and within days netted nearly 100 replies.
"There are a lot of people who are angry, and they need a common voice," Taylor said.
Organizers said they picked the spot because of its high visibility on a day sure to draw thousands of people to Clearwater Beach.
A steady stream of drivers honked their horns in support of the protesters holding signs with messages like "Kill, Baby, Kill" and "End the Oil Age."
"It's been an overwhelmingly positive response from the people driving by," said 38-year-old Douglas Galloway, of Tampa.
Shortly after protesters started to arrive around 8 a.m., a gas station employee came out and dropped the price from $2.69 to $2.59 per gallon. By 9:30 a.m., only three cars had bought gas, Trover said.
BP employees declined to comment when approached by a St. Petersburg Times reporter.
The impact on Florida's west coast remains to be seen. But several people said they feared that the effects could be catastrophic to the Tampa Bay area.
"We live on the Gulf Coast. We have some of the nicest beaches in the country, and we don't want them ruined because of negligence," he said.
Trover said the group is planning other protests.
"It's not going to be our last one either," he said. "It's just the beginning."