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Pensacola Beach Journal (Florida)

Floridians Gather to Say 'No' to Offshore Drilling

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Just over 250 people showed up for the "Hands Across the Sand" demonstration on Pensacola Beach. (Bruce Graner/bgraner@pnj.com)

The line of black-clad protesters was stark against the sugar-white
sand. Hands clasped, they stood shoulder-to-shoulder, staring out to
sea.

On
Saturday afternoon, more than 250 people gathered at Casino Beach near
the Pensacola Beach Gulf Pier to participate in "Hands Across the
Sand." The 30-minute demonstration was part of a statewide endeavor to
show opposition to proposals to permit oil and gas exploration in the
Gulf of Mexico.

Simultaneous protests took place at Navarre Beach and the Perdido Key Chamber of Commerce.

Saturday's event, aided by clear, sunny weather, drew a diverse crowd.

"There are young and old,
Democrats and Republicans here today," said Patricia Edmisten,
spokeswoman for Pensacola Patriots for Peace. "We all care about our
beaches and the health of our environment. We're here to draw a literal
line in the sand."

"Hands
Across the Sand" participants were asked to wear black to represent an
oil spill. Protester Linda Lewis accessorized her dark outfit with a
silver dolphin pin and a small American flag.

The Gulf Breeze resident said that offshore drilling would harm Pensacola's pristine beaches.

"Spillage
and debris from the platforms are my biggest concerns," she explained.
"I believe that the United States should stand alone in regards to oil,
but this is not the way to do it."

Her husband, Jack, feared that offshore drilling would pose a serious threat to local tourism.

"When
someone checks into one of these beach hotels, the rooms don't include
tar-removal packs," he said. "It really concerns me to think that one
day, they will."

During the peaceful gathering, attendees chatted quietly, hair dancing in the stiff breeze.

Chasidy
Hobbs, event organizer and member of the environmental group Emerald
CoastKeeper, walked along the long line of protesters. Wearing a "No
Oil Drilling in Florida" T-shirt, she encouraged participants to do
more by writing letters of protest to their state representatives.

Hobbs, 34, said the numbers just don't add up when it comes to offshore drilling.

"The
number of potential jobs with drilling is nowhere near the number that
we have in our tourism industry," she explained. "One study stated that
10 years after we start drilling, gas prices would drop three cents. It
doesn't make sense to risk a million-plus tourism jobs to maybe save 3
cents."

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