Three protesters were arrested and charged with unlawful entry at the annual Congressional Baseball Game at Nationals Park as dozens of climate activists turned out to demand more urgent action on climate change.
Before the start of the game, long a tradition in Washington, the activists moved toward the center field entry gate to disrupt those seeking to come into the stadium.Police formed lines to separate demonstrators from attendees.
Outside the park, two activists — both wearing togas and laurel wreaths — played violins in an attempt to invoke the apocryphal story of the Roman emperor Nero.
Although there were long lines of people waiting to enter the game, it was not clear the protest had much effect on the attendees. Stadium workers opened other entry points to allow access.
Organizers behind the protest had to reformulate their plans less than 24 hours before the game after the announcement of an agreement between Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.) and Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) on a spending package aimed at lowering health-care costs, combat climate change and reduce the federal deficit. Most of the new spending is focused on climate change and clean energy production.
On Thursday, 10 activists unaffiliated with the demonstration at the entry gate stood on the second deck of Nationals Park to unfurl a 15-foot banner that read, “They Play Ball While The World Burns,” and showered the field with leaflets.
“It’s just branding,” Reilly Polka, one of the activists, said of the Senate agreement. “When you read it, they’re just giving more subsidies to oil. It looks like a really good thing, but it’s not enough.
“What we need is not what Joe Manchin believes we need to do with our future, but a system change.”
As activists dropped leaflets, people in the crowd below told them, “Go to the other side. We work for Democrats.” Police took the banner from the protesters before asking them to leave the stadium.
Shortly after, activists from the demonstration outside the ballpark raised red banners in left field that spelled out “climate emergency.” Police took the signs from protesters, who remained standing and chanting, and officers formed a line around them before departing.
Outside the game, activists said they supported the Senate agreement but remained skeptical. Demonstrators speaking to the crowd urged President Biden to declare a climate emergency to exercise executive power on additional climate investment, saying they believe the agreement was not enough.
“We took in-your-face actions because Congress has failed to take serious action,” Dey said. “They’ve known about this crisis since well before I was born.”
One of the key reasons behind the protest was to put pressure on Manchin, who said more than two weeks ago that he would not support investments to deal with climate change, fearing that the spending would exacerbate inflation.
After the deal on the spending package was announced, some of the original organizers of the rally pulled out from participating. Some of the activists who spoke to The Washington Post said they were torn about the potential benefits of the proposed legislation and whether the demonstrations were still worth the political capital.
Mike Tidwell, executive director of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network and CCAN Action Fund, wrote in a Post op-ed, “I’ll be attending the 87th annual Congressional Baseball Game at Nationals Park. I won’t be there as a fan, peacefully cracking my peanuts. I’ll be there as a protester, peacefully engaged in civil disobedience.”
But hours before the game, Tidwell said in a news release: “We have decided not to protest tonight’s Congressional Baseball Game. Congressional leaders have declared they intend to meet many of our climate and justice demands, so we’ll be attending the game tonight just to urge Congress to seal the deal and to ask Joe Biden to still declare a climate emergency.”