On June 26, people across America will protest offshore drilling and promote clean energy in the most nonviolent way imaginable: by holding hands.
On its website, Hands Across the Sand is described as a group dedicated to lessening America’s dependence on fossil fuels by convincing leaders to “adopt policies that encourage clean and renewable energy sources.” Founded by restaurant owner Dave Rauschkolb in 2009, the group works as a partnership of sorts; those interested in hosting an event can download press releases and buy T-shirts on the website. This creates less of a workload for Rauschkolb and there’s little overhead or fundraising needed.
The first Hands Across the Sand event was made possible with the help of other nonprofits like Surfrider Foundation and the Audubon Society. The event, which took place on Feb., ended up being more of a success than even Rauschkolb imagined: “We initially wanted to create an event that would bring Floridians together in response to the Florida legislature’s decision to lift the ban on offshore drilling. We ended up with more than 10,000 people holding hands from Jacksonville to Miami and, on the West Coast, from Pensacola to Key West.”
The upcoming event was initially planned prior to the Deepwater Horizon incident, and was meant as a response to President Obama’s lift of an offshore drilling ban in continental waters. Rauschkolb received a call from a woman in Virginia, and later someone based in New Jersey, both interested in hosting events to protest the most recent ban lift.
After the oil spill occurred, Rauschkolb traveled to Washington to meet with many of the groups that had helped him with the first event, but still felt it would be a huge undertaking: “I asked the groups like Audubon and Surfrider to help spread the word but, at that point, I was just thinking we’d get responses from those along the coast. We only had five weeks. But I modified the website to gain more national attention and, about 10 days ago, started getting calls from Japan and the U.K.”
There are now at least 684 scheduled “hand-holding” events in 481 U.S. cities in all 50 states, plus Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico. Another 100 events will take place in countries as far-flung as Spain and Malaysia.
The protest will take place at beaches around the world on noon Saturday, but will be especially poignant for those affected directly by the gulf oil spill, like Rauschkolb himself. “I own restaurants in Seaside, Fla., and we’ve already had tar balls washing up on the beach,” he says. “It’s becoming increasingly evident that the oil industry has far too much power over our government and I’m not comfortable with all that influence.”
The idea of holding hands was not only meant as a nonviolent means of protest, but to be metaphorical, as well: “Holding hands goes far beyond what’s going to happen on Saturday. The fight for renewable sources of energy crosses political affiliations. Our intention is to empower Americans to send a message to Congress that is both powerful and visual. Those who support this fight care about their coastal heritage as well as the dozens of coastal economies affected by the recent oil spill.”