Hands Across the Sand, organized by environmental organizations, brought out hundreds of activists, residents and business owners to South Beach who demanded an end to offshore oil drilling and the development of alternative clean energy.
Thousands of people lined up on beaches all over Florida and across the nation to pressure politicians in the face of the Deepwater Horizon disaster. “If we are addicted to oil, BP is our dealer,” read one participant’s sign. A petition addressed to President Obama stated, “We call on you to say yes to a clean energy future.”
Mike Gibaldi Chairman of the Surfrider Miami Chapter told The Florida Independent that after today “we need to keep taking awareness to people to pressure legislators to get away from dirty energy. Government at all levels can promote clean energy but right now there are no incentives for private investment.”
South Beach tour guide Sandy Weinzwerg said, “This event is a major-league important statement. It’s time we find alternative sources of energy and stop oil drilling. Tourists on buses are asking about the oil spill; they are asking if we have seen anything yet.”
“Everything could have been prevented. BP could have taken more caution,” said Jose Almeida, the teenage son of a tour guide bus driver.
Betty Tibbets, a first-time activist and South Beach resident, said, “With what’s going on I don’t know how people can still be with oil drilling.”
“I had the urge to come out before but I never did,” she added. “At first I just didn’t want to see the oil rigs offshore, but I worried what would happen if there was a spill. Now we know. That’s why I’m here. There are alternatives.”
Some beachgoers were against a ban; a woman who preferred to stay anonymous said, “We can’t let other countries take the oil.”
Others blamed this disaster on President Obama, demanding he do something to stop the spill now.
Oil spills are a constant problem on rigs in the Gulf of Mexico. A Mineral Management Service report lists at least 190 spills of over 2,100 gallons from 1996 through 2009.
Miami native Dale – a 26-year-old student of Florida National College — told TFI, “This is the first time I ever decided to come out and protest.”
Organizations and individuals who participated in Hands in the Sand spoke of the need to develop energy alternatives.
Erik Ofengand, the lead activist for Greenpeace, explained, “There are solutions in clean, renewable energy. We must never again see this disaster and the only possible solution is with an energy revolution.”
At the event Greenpeace had copies of “energy [r]evolution, a blueprint for a global renewable energy future.”
“The problem is political because the politicians and old energy industry lobbyists are linked,” Ofengand added. “Even with this disaster our current energy bill has provisions for more offshore oil drilling. And this is also about other non-renewable energy sources like coal and nuclear energy.”
Joe Garcia, a Democrat running for U.S. House District 25, told TFI, “I’m here looking at the single largest environmental catastrophe that will affect Florida for a generation, and stand with people against offshore drilling.”
Democratic candidate for U.S. House District 17 Marleine Bastien told TFI, “We need to stop drilling. It has a long-term effect on our lives. We want BP to clean up their act, beef up efforts to stop the leak. If they can’t the federal government should step in, but it also needs to help small business and working families. It seems to me they are lost in this campaign; people are losing their future.”
Photos from the event by Santiago Restrepo: