Opponents of offshore drilling are hoping thousands of people dressed in black will join them Saturday holding hands on beaches around the state for 10 minutes.
The idea for the "Hands Across the Sand" protest came from Dave Rauschkolb, 48, who for the past 24 years has owned a beachfront restaurant called Bud & Alley's in the Panhandle community of Seaside.
Rauschkolb, a surfer for more than 30 years, said his plan was as simple as could be: "How hard is it to get people to go to the beach in Florida?"
When he pitched the idea to some friends, it began to snowball. Now there are 70 beaches around the state where various groups have agreed to help sponsor a local version of the protest.
Doug Daniels, the Daytona Beach attorney representing the pro-drilling Florida Energy Associates LLC, said he hadn't heard about Hands Across the Sand but that "it sounds like a fine protest." As for whether it will have any impact on the Legislature, though, he said, "I doubt that it will."
In fact, he said, he hopes his side can convince the protesters that drilling is environmentally safe. "We hope at the end of the day, we'll have their support," he said.
In the Tampa Bay area there are protests slated for Upham Beach, Clearwater Beach, Fort De Soto, St. Pete Beach, Gulfport, Lassing Park, Madeira Beach, Pass-a-Grille, Redington Shores, Clam Bayou, Treasure Island, and Tarpon Springs.
Organizers are asking opponents of drilling to dress in black — the color of an oil spill — and gather at their designated beach at 1 p.m. They want them to hold hands for 10 minutes, showing their solidarity.
Craig Pittman can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8530.