America’s pastime is about to be confronted by political activism.
Hundreds of environmental activists plan to “disrupt” Thursday evening’s Congressional Baseball Game at Nationals Park, an annual tradition that raises money for charity and has offered a divisive Washington the rare opportunity for an evening of bipartisanship since 1909.
More than 300 people have RSVP’d for a protest being led by several climate activist groups to demand action from President Biden and Democratic lawmakers, who have failed to advance the party’s green agenda in the face of political setbacks.
Some activists are prepared to be arrested for their involvement in what a leader of the protest said will be acts of nonviolent civil disobedience akin to the lunch counter sit-ins during the civil rights movement.
“How dare they play a baseball game when they should be up on Capitol Hill figuring out how to pass climate legislation,” Quentin Scott, federal campaigns director for Chesapeake Climate Action Network, said in an interview. “It will be a disruption. We are anticipating that some people will be arrested.”
Mr. Scott declined to detail how they intend to “disrupt” the event for security reasons, but emphasized they will be peaceful.
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The public demonstration marks the latest evidence of the growing schism between Washington Democrats and climate activists, who are frustrated with the party for not taking advantage of its control of the White House and Congress to enact sweeping environmental laws.
Rep. Dan Kildee, who is on the Democrats’ team, said the energy would be better spent on the campaign trail and in the voting booth.
“The place to focus action is at the ballot box,” the Michigan Democrat said. “That’s where I want the energy focused. And frankly, if we want to get progress on climate change, we need to pick up a couple Senate seats and hold the House. That’s not going to be decided at the baseball game.”
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer suggested the protest would act as a divisive wedge at an otherwise bipartisan event.
“There are a lot of ways to protest. I would think that’s not the best one because the objective of [the game] is to do something in a way that brings members together, not that drives them apart,” the Maryland Democrat said.
The activists’ plans grabbed the attention of a celebrity, with actor Mark Ruffalo promoting the protest by tweeting a link with more information to his eight million followers accompanied by the message: “It’s hard to play games when the world is on fire.”
The protest will also come in the wake of centrist Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin III of West Virginia previously rejecting a party-line spending bill on climate change over inflation concerns, leaving colleagues and activists fuming. In response, Mr. Biden took tepid executive action on the issue.
In a major unexpected turnabout, Mr. Manchin reached a deal with Democrats on party-line legislation Wednesday to raise taxes and spend on climate change and health care programs.
Earlier this week, a half-dozen aides to far-left House Democrats were arrested for a climate protest in the congressional office of Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat.
Climate activists over the weekend showed up at the Maryland home of White House Chief of Staff Ronald Klain demanding that the president declare a climate emergency to unlock more executive authority.
Other top Democrats dodged whether they felt a bipartisan baseball charity event was an appropriate venue for a demonstration. Proceeds from the game, which in recent years have eclipsed $1 million, go to local charities.
“Nobody has a problem with a peaceful protest, and we do agree there is a climate crisis. We need to take action,” said Rep. Pete Aguilar of California.
He’s vice chair of the House Democratic Caucus and also a player on his party’s team.
“On a lighter note, we wouldn’t have practiced this much if we would have thought the game would be shut down,” Mr. Aguilar said.
Law enforcement agencies plan to take extra safety precautions given the dozens of Congress members who will be in attendance both on and off the field.
The two teams — one of Democrats and one of Republicans — face off as colleagues, staffers and members of the public root from the stands.
The U.S. Capitol Police has “a robust security plan in place.”
“Our mission also includes safeguarding a person’s ability to exercise their First Amendment rights, however, that does not mean people will be allowed to violate the law,” USCP said.
The city’s Metropolitan Police Department “will have an increased presence in the area,” the department’s public affairs specialist said.
This year’s sponsors for the game have also frustrated activists. They feature fossil fuel companies and energy advocacy groups, including Chevron and BP, the Nuclear Energy Institute, the Edison Electric Institute and ClearPath.
Mr. Scott offered a warning to Democrats that so long as climate action remains stalled, their public demonstrations will continue.
“There is a lot of energy and disappointment, but that’s why we’re organizing events like this, to let Democrats know that we are disappointed but that we’re going to keep putting pressure on them because this is why we voted for them,” he said. “Until they [take action], they can expect more protests like this.”