Hands Across the Sand is a global movement protesting harmful pollutants in the water such as oil drilling, but in Gulfport, Hands Across the Sands brought citizens together to protest the dumping of sewage into Clam Bayou.
Barbara Banno organized the community event that took place on Saturday morning at Gulfport Beach.
“Ultimately, this is a stand to ask for clean water and to stop this raw sewage dumping into Clam Bayou,” Banno said of the event, which saw local citizens and elected officials gather holding bright signs with slogans such as “No Poo”.
Banno called for “open and honest communication” between Gulfport and St. Petersburg as well as guideline protocols and a written inter-local agreement between the two cities.
“I would like to see our mayors be more forthcoming on how we can assure the dumping Clam Bayou will never occur again and provide us with an outline solution to these issues,” Banno said. “We elected them and we need answers.”
Gulfport’s Vice Mayor Yolanda Roman addressed the crowd wearing her homemade shirt in solidarity with the concerned citizens.
“This communication is critical. Communication occurred in one city, and did not occur in another,” Roman said. “But we may be little, only two-and-a-half miles; we may have 12,000 people, but we’re Gulfport strong.”
Roman said she contacted Representative Kathleen Peters, Representative Darryl Rouson, and Senator Jeff Brandes asking to listen to Gulfport.
This Friday, Aug. 28, at 11:30 a.m., Senator Brandes will visit Scout Hall in Gulfport to learn more about the recent raw sewage discharge into Clam Bayou.
Councilman Michael Fridovich assured the crowd that “things were getting done.”
“First of all, no one is taking this thing lightly. But what we don’t do is govern by social media. You can’t get anything done that way” Fridovich said. “Things are getting done. People are talking. But saying that, we as a city could have done a better job of getting the word out. I’ll admit to that.”
Fridovich said was not able to go into specifics of what has been done so far to prevent this from happening again.
“It is at all levels of discussion,” Fridovich said. “But people are working with St. Petersburg in various areas and we’re trying to make sure it doesn’t happen again.”
Elected officials and concerned citizens together joined hands on the beach and stretched their protest across the sand.
“The [bacteria] levels have already gone down considerably, so the water is now safe,” Fridovich added.
While Gulfport Marina and Clam Bayou remain closed, Gulfport Beach was re-opened Aug. 11, a week after the pumping incident. On Saturday, however, no one seemed eager to enter the water.