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Protesters join ‘Hands Across the Sand’ to oppose offshore drilling

Gloucester event is one of many held nationwide

By Sydney Lupkin
Globe Correspondent / June 27, 2010

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GLOUCESTER — Give Jane Barry five days and a bullhorn and she can give you 200 protesters and a message: No to offshore drilling.

Barry, a 63-year-old real estate broker from Gloucester, organized one of 26 “Hands Across the Sand’’ protests in Massachusetts — 808 nationwide — to oppose offshore drilling and call for clean energy alternatives. Participants linked hands, standing on beaches together at noon for 15 minutes yesterday.

“Sometimes in order to start something, you have to scream,’’ Barry said in an interview.

Barry took an old real estate sign and decorated it with paper hands and an ocean made of blue electrical tape.

Beneath her straw with the words “Hands Across the Sand’’ written in orange and blue marker, she was joined by 15 others who gathered at one end of Good Harbor Beach, held hands and started walking toward the other end, their feet splashing in the surf. Barry started yelling into her bullhorn for people to join.

“S-O-S. Save our shores,’’ chanted Sarah Mahan, 17, of Andover, part of the group.

Soon, echoed by the rest of the line, she began yelling, “Yes to clean energy. No to offshore drilling.’’

Within minutes, people lounging on chairs and towels dusted themselves off and joined in. The line grew to 200 people by the time it reached the other end of the beach.

The movement has been spurred by the BP oil spill that has been polluting the Gulf of Mexico since April 20 It is considered the worst oil spill in US history.

In Boston, a smaller group joined hands in the Boston Harbor Islands at noon.

Bruce Berman, spokesman for Boston-based advocacy group Save the Harbor-Save the Bay, predicted that the protests would be a “game-changer. I think there’s an awful lot of frustration and concern about the extent and the duration of the BP oil spill, and I think that people are very cognizant and feel there’s not a lot they can do,’’ Berman said.

“The good news about a symbolic gesture is that anybody can do it,’’ Berman said. “People are just drawing a line in the sand.’’

He said the 15-minute nationwide protest was one of the biggest grassroots efforts he had seen. It was publicized on Facebook pages and via word of mouth. He said seven people without computers called him for directions on Friday.

Hannah Krieger, 17, saw the event on Facebook and drove from Andover. She arrived early to help Barry — whom she had not met before — pass out fliers along the beach and persuade people to sign a petition, which organizers plan to send to the Obama administration.

“Even though not everyone was supportive, I loved shouting the message,’’ she said.

Dave Rauschkolb, a 48-year-old restaurateur and surfer, founded the movement in Florida last year to oppose lifting a ban on local offshore drilling. The protests on 90 beaches persuaded the Florida Legislature to table the effort earlier this year. The BP oil spill persuaded Rauschkolb to expand his movement, he said.

The movement has gone international, including 27 events in Canada, one in China, and five in India, according to the group’s website.

“It made me feel really wonderful to be a vessel through which people could come together regardless of their political affiliation,’’ he said.

Rauschkolb said the goal is getting attention from politicians. “They’re the people that hold the future of our energy policy in their hands,’’ he said. “If we can’t convince them, we can’t convince anybody.

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