Hundreds of people on the shores of Miami Beach rose from their beach towels in the midday summer heat on Saturday to join the international Hands Across the Sand movement. For 15 minutes, strangers joined hands in solidarity to say no to fossil fuels and yes to clean energy and renewables.
“I’m here with my dad, who has participated multiple times. We think it’s important to show the kids that we need to help save the beaches,” said Amber Cantillo as she held her 3-year-old daughter in her arms and supervised her other two children playing in the waves.
The event took place on the beach near Fifth Street.
Hands Across the Sand happens annually in 20 states and three other countries on the third Saturday of May. The movement to protest near and offshore oil drilling, which also goes by the hashtag #JoinHANDS, started in the Sunshine State on Feb. 13, 2010, just two months prior to the infamous Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
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This year, a major talking point of the event was an executive order President Donald Trump signed last month that aims to expand energy exploration and offshore drilling in the Arctic and Atlantic oceans.
“It’s a little bit more serious this year, we need to make a bigger statement to elected officials around the world,” said Mike Gibaldi, a Miami native and treasurer for the Surfrider Foundation Miami chapter.
Before everyone joined hands at noon, volunteers from the Surfrider Foundation and Urban Paradise Guild recruited beachgoers to participate. They used the “beach organizer method,” which detailed how to approach beachgoers, explain Hand Across the Sand and invite them to join.
Urban Paradise Guild volunteers also paraded around the beach with their newborn mascot “The Black Snake,” a 45-foot long puppet originally created for the 2017 Miami People’s Climate March, which represents the pipelines being woven throughout the United States.
“No fracking way,” said Sam Van Leer, president and founder of Urban Paradise Guild, through his handheld megaphone as he led the way for the The Black Snake, which was held by eight volunteers.
They walked across the beach receiving applause and positive remarks from those sunbathing.
“Our whole world is being threatened and we really need to get smart because it doesn’t matter whether you’re a conservative or a liberal and a Democrat or a Republican, anything,” Van Leer said. “The reality is that if everybody drowns, everybody in Miami loses.”