How do you spell protest on a beach in Maine? R-E-S-I-S-T

Gary Allen's photos of the words "resist" on a beach in Maine went viral.

Story highlights

  • Twelve people worked on spelling out the huge letters
  • The tide washed away the message after about two hours

(CNN)2017 is only a month old, but it's already seen its share of protests all over the world: on the streets, in public squares, in airports.

But Maine may be the only place where a day of protest meant a day at the beach.
A group of friends got together early Sunday morning at Sand Beach in Acadia National Park along the Maine coast. But they weren't there to frolic in the sand.
    The group wrote the word "RESIST" in enormous letters in the sand at low tide, then took pictures before the ocean rose again and washed it away a couple of hours later.

    Making a statement

    It was all the idea of Gary Allen, a long-distance runner and Maine resident who wanted to make a statement on his 60th birthday.
    "We're in this climate of bigotry and hate, where the national parks are told to stop communicating (with the public), so we're resisting this," Allen told CNN. "It happened to be my 60th birthday. I wanted to do something epic."
    So he reached out to a handful of his running buddies and headed to Sand Beach a little after 5 a.m.
    "We went to the beach in darkness and 12 people showed up," he said.
    One of the friends who answered Allen's call was Melissa Ossanna, who said she worries how the environment will fare under President Trump's administration.
    "I'm concerned about climate change, our national parks," Ossanna told CNN. Writing the word on the beach "was a peaceful way to express that we need to resist any damage being done to our climate and public lands."

    Activists' fave word

    The start of Trump's presidency -- and his controversial executive orders on immigration, refugees, pipelines and a planned border wall -- has been met with fierce with resistance from some. Millions around the world took to the streets to protest during Women's Marches the day after his inauguration, and this past weekend thousands mobbed airports around the US to protest his travel ban.
    Protesters unfurled a banner atop a crane near the White House last week.
    The word "resist" seems to be a favorite of those lined up against Trump. Last week a small group of activists climbed a crane and unfurled a 70-foot by 30-foot "RESIST" banner near the White House. It could be seen from the Ellipse and the South Lawn.

    By hand and by feet

    Allen said a couple of people brought rakes to help carve the letters in the Maine sand, but they really didn't need them.
    "We found our hands and feet were the best tools," he said.
    After the group had finished, Melissa Ossanna, who was wearing a fitness tracker, retraced the steps on the beach, so the word "resist" would appear on a map. The letters appear on the map to be underwater because the water was at low tide when they were created.
    It was dark when they started, with only the light from a few flashlights illuminating the way. As the sun began to rise, a few members of the group climbed to higher ground on some nearby rocks to make sure the letters were straight and to take pictures.
    It all made for a few of hours of work, the evidence of which was washed away by the tide about two hours later.
    The group didn't let anyone with the National Park Service know about their lines-in-the-sand protest beforehand. But they got a show of support afterward on the Alt Acadia National Park Facebook page, one of dozens of "unofficial" or "alternative" accounts purporting to represent the views of government staffers or agencies. There the pictures from the beach were shared several thousand times.
    Even though the letters on the beach are gone, Allen hopes they will make a long-lasting impact.
    "If it empowers one person anywhere in the world who feels powerless, then it was worth it," he said.