Gulf Shores says Shrimp Fest not place for BP protest
By Guy Busby
GULF SHORES, Alabama — Frustration over the BP PLC response to the 2010 oil spill is understandable, but a festival with 300,000 visitors is not the best time or place to express those feelings with a public rally, city officials said Monday.
The city of Gulf Shores denied a public-assembly request by the Alabama Oil Spill Aftermath Coalition.
The group wanted to hold a rally for 70 to 100 people on the city’s public beach on Oct. 15, during the 40th annual National Shrimp Festival.
On Monday, the City Council rejected an appeal of the denial but told coalition members that they would reconsider the appeal if Shrimp Festival officials approved the request.
Mayor Robert Craft said the city denied the permit because of safety concerns during a weekend when 300,000 visitors will be crowded onto the public beach area and roads leading to the site.
“It’s hard for us to sit here and not be willing to help you protest against BP,” Craft told the two coalition members who addressed the council. “But it’s also hard for us to allow that to be done on a weekend, where, at least from our police and security and fire safety, we felt like that was very challenging, if not impossible to guarantee safety and security.”
Police Chief Ed Delmore also said officers and other safety personnel are stretched thin during the celebration.
“It’s only to do with resources and a common sense approach to how many resources we have available to us that day for the protection of not only the people in your organization but the people attending the Shrimp Festival as well,” Delmore said.
Rally organizers said they do not want to disrupt the festival but felt the event would be a good opportunity to tell the public of the problems that still exist following the 2010 spill, Kim McCuiston, a coalition member, told the council.
“This in no way is any kind of protest for the Shrimp Festival,” she said. “You’ve got a lot of people in one area that we would like to help educate and raise awareness about the ongoing continuing problems and concerns with the BP oil spill.”
Among the reasons for the assembly was to raise public awareness that BP has not cleaned up oil that has washed up on Alabama beaches, as well as the threat of health problems, seafood safety and the need for clean renewable energy, according to the permit application.
The National Shrimp Festival will take place on the public beach and boardwalk from Oct. 13 through 16.