MANATEE — Saturday’s “Hands Across the Sand” event planned for Anna Maria Island in support of clean energy and against drilling in the Gulf of Mexico isn’t the first time such a demonstration has been set up.
In February, a similar rally was planned, but hit a permitting snag. A Bradenton environmental leader complained that Manatee County officials had told her she needed a permit and would have to pay fees in order to use Manatee Public Beach at State Road 64 and Gulf Drive.
She didn’t get the permit but more than 200 people showed up anyway at the Holmes Beach shoreline.
But that was before the Deepwater Horizon oil disaster.
With fears of oil washing ashore along Florida’s coastline, a Hands Across the Sand event planned for noon Saturday on Anna Maria Island and elsewhere around the country, has taken on more immediacy.
County information Outreach Coordinator Nick Azzara said Tuesday, “If there’s a group that intends on holding an event on the county beach, they’re required to apply for a permit,” for various reasons, “up to and including liability reasons.”
“On the other hand, if on Saturday, thousands of people are stretching from Bean Point to Longboat Key, I don’t think you’ll find us trying to bust up the chain for people to fill out a permit,” Azzara said.
Organizers of the rally are hoping enough people turn out Saturday that they can link hands from one end of the island to the other, a distance of about seven miles.
Participants are being encouraged to gather at 11 a.m. and to link hands at noon for 15 minutes, according to www.handsacrossthesand.com.
Founder Dave Rauschkolb, a surfer and restaurant owner in the Florida Panhandle, said he expects 625 events in the U.S. and 20 in countries outside the U.S.
“I am feeling like we are going to have a huge response this time. People of all walks of life are united against the expansion of off-shore oil drilling and in support of clean energy.”
Sara Kennedy, Herald reporter, can be reached at (941) 745-7031.