ATLANTIC CITY - In a grassroots movement inspired by the 1980s Hands Across America human chain effort, beachgoers in 30 states, including New Jersey, and nearly a dozen countries plan to join hands this month to form symbolic barriers to protect the shoreline from oil spills.
The Hands Across the Sand movement started in February in Florida, before the Deepwater Horizon oil-rig disaster off Louisiana created America's worst oil spill. But it took on a new urgency after the BP spill.
On June 26, people will stand up and hold hands for 15 minutes to form the chains. Among the Jersey Shore locations are Atlantic City, Barnegat Light, Wildwood, and in and near Seaside Heights. Shore areas in Delaware will also participate.
Participants will pledge to conserve energy and to let elected officials know they oppose offshore oil drilling.
"Our collective message is no to offshore oil and yes to clean energy," said Dave Rauschkolb, a restaurateur and surfer on the Florida gulf coast who organized the first such protest in February. "People in California will be metaphorically holding hands with people in Florida and Virginia and New Jersey."
Nearly 70 events are planned in Florida and 30 in California.
Last fall, Rauschkolb started thinking of ways to oppose offshore oil drilling when the Florida Legislature was considering a measure to allow oil drilling near the coast. "I had previously said we have to draw a line in the sand, and then it hit me. I said, 'I know what we have to do!' "
As of Wednesday, nearly 200 events had been scheduled on beaches from coast to coast and inland. Other events are planned in Norway, England, France, Portugal, the Bahamas, and Canada.
"We are all frustrated and angry with what is happening in the gulf," said Jeff Tittel, director of the Sierra Club of New Jersey. "But together we will stand up for the environment and join hands to show our unity against offshore drilling."