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Holding hands on Ocracoke against offshore oil drilling

Hands Across the Sand, Ocracoke, N.C. 2017

Islanders and visitors join in Hands Across the Sand, against offshore oil drilling, Saturday at the Lifeguard Beach. Photo: C. Leinbach

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By Connie Leinbach

Liz and Tony Williams of Manchester, England, were thrilled to take part in the Hands Across the Sand demonstration at noon Saturday at the Lifeguard Beach.

“It’s a beautiful place,” Liz said as about 60 people gathered to hold hands in protest against attempts to allow oil drilling off the Atlantic coast. “We don’t want it damaged.”

It was the Williams’ first visit to the island.  The day was sunny and warm and groups of beach-goers dotted the beach while the Hands demonstration went on for about 15 minutes.

Islander Keith Crogan, who teaches kite surfing, embellished on Liz Williams’ comment.

When he visited the east coast of Texas he would see greasy black balls on the beach from the offshore oil drilling.

“I don’t want to see oil rigs all across our horizon,” he said waving his arm toward the surf.  Then there are the pipelines leading to the refining plants onshore spewing out black smoke and flames shooting 100 feet into the air.

The Resist slogan is written in the sand before being washed away by the ocean. Photo: C. Leinbach

“It’s like hell,” he said.

This world-wide event began in 2010 and grew into an international movement after the BP oil disaster in April that year. People came together to join hands, forming symbolic barriers against spilled oil and to stand against the impacts of other forms of extreme energy.

Visitors Earle Irwin and Bob Lineberry of Blacksburg, Va., sported buttons against the Mountain Valley natural gas pipeline they are fighting that starts in northern West Virginia and goes into Virginia crossing the karst, which he said is an area of underground caves.

“If a spill happens there, it would go right into the water supply,” he said.

Upholding the federal Clean Water Act is the key, he said.

“You have to fight federal law with federal law,” he said. “If we lose the Clean Water Act, we’re all in trouble.”

Mickey Baker, one of the organizers of the annual event, urged the folks in the lines to call their representatives in Congress.

“We don’t want any oil rigs off the entire East Coast,” she said.

Baker is a founding member of LegaSea, a grass-roots group formed in the late 1980s that led to a 20-year moratorium on drilling off the coast.

Islander Judith Wheeler also helped organize the demonstration.

Sam and Cora Walters, holding a sign, are the poster children for Ocracoke’s Hands Across the Sand. Photo: C. Leinbach

Visitors Earle Irwin and Bob Lineberry of Blacksburg, Va.

Mickey Baker shows the back of her shirt from her LegaSea days in the late 1980s. The grass-roots group composed of locals from Ocracoke and Manteo successfully obtained a 20-year moratorium on drilling off the coast. Photo: C. Leinbach

Hand-made signs sport a variety of anti-drilling sentiments. Photo: C. Leinbach

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