June 6, 2010 / 9:56 PM / in 9 years

Dozens in Florida protest BP's Gulf oil spill

* Protesters at BP gas station call for boycott of company

* Protest called after oil washes up on Pensacola beach

By Michael Peltier

PENSACOLA, Fla., June 6 (Reuters) - Demonstrators converged on a BP (BP.L) service station in Pensacola on Sunday to protest the massive Gulf of Mexico oil spill now affecting northwest Florida.

Several dozen people, including an Elvis impersonator, joined in the protest aimed at mobilizing support for a boycott of the company now responsible for sending oil onto their prized Panhandle beaches.

“I’ve been trying to keep drilling out of Florida waters since the 1990s,” said Pamela Corey, a high school English teacher.

“But so what. You can still drill in Louisiana and it shows up here,” Corey said.

For many, the man-made environmental disaster is the latest in a series of misfortunes to hit Florida including hurricanes and a housing market bust.

“(Hurricane) Ivan (in 2004) took my roof off, the housing market took my business and my house and now this is hampering my comeback,” said Bill Paul, a Pensacola resident with three young children who has scrapped plans to open a restaurant.

“But that’s my personal situation,” Paul added. “To me, this is more about the environment.”

Protester Chris Slick said he felt compelled to help organize Sunday’s demonstration after seeing tar balls wash up on Pensacola Beach and its famous sugar-white sands on Friday.

Until then, Florida had escaped the oil spewing into the Gulf since the April 20 explosion and fire aboard the BP Deepwater Horizon oil rig.

“BP had more than 40 days to get an effort ready and it’s not ready,” Slick said.

Others said government oversight was lacking.

“The bottom line is deregulation caused this,” Pensacola resident Gwen Ward said. “And now we have to put regulation back in force and do whatever we can to clean it up.”

Elvis Presley impersonator David Suhor stopped by the BP station to support the protesters and drum up some business.

“It’s now or never,” Suhor crooned to passersby, many of whom honked horns in support. (Editing by Eric Beech)

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