The Congressional Baseball Game is an annual tradition that dates back to 1909. It’s supposed to be a time for both sides of the political system to come together and join in a peaceful nine innings of the national pastime.
But this year’s game, held on Thursday, July 28 at the Washington Nationals’ ballpark in Washington, D.C., was less sleepy than the average baseball game. Now or Never, a group of justice, faith, and climate organizations, held a protest in an attempt to disrupt the event and draw attention to the urgent need for large-scale climate action.
Approximately 60 protesters rallied in front of the ballpark’s centerfield gates. While they didn’t have the numbers to shut down the event completely as they’d hoped, they did manage to delay the game. According to a stadium security guard I spoke to, so much of the security was transferred to the blocked gate that it slowed attendees entering the game.
Five years ago, multiple people, including Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA), were injured by a gunman who is said to have targeted Republican legislators at the game. As a result, Capitol Police, D.C. Metropolitan Police, and the Secret Service were on high alert during this year’s game. The numbers of law enforcement, not just ballpark security as might normally be there, at all entrances of the park were staggering. This overwhelmed the protesters’ much smaller numbers and forced them to concentrate on a single entrance to block.
The focus of Now or Never’s protest wasn’t the Republican legislators present, among which are many who deny that climate change is real. Instead, according to the group’s website, it intended to target the Democrats who currently control all three branches of government.
The Congressional Baseball game is a charity event, and has dozens of corporate sponsors, including Chevron, BP, Energy Marketers of America, and CMS Energy, a Michigan-based natural gas and electric utility. The fact that the game was sponsored by the very corporations lobbying Congress to prevent significant climate legislation was not lost on the protesters.
Leeannah McNew of Clean Air Council was among a subset of protesters who were willing to be arrested. When I asked her why that was, she told me that legislators “say they want to pass climate policy, and that’s what they ran on, and they’re not doing anything.”
“We’re not just going to get out and vote in November unless they do something right now,” she continued. “We don’t have six more months. We don’t have another year. We need to pass [climate legislation] now.”https://www.youtube.com/embed/9nY3r-tXcqI?feature=oembedVideo credit: Zach Roberts
While some federal climate action might be on the horizon, the protesters weren’t necessarily hopeful about it and called for more dramatic measures, including a Presidential declaration of a climate emergency. Just this week, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), the target of an environmental action earlier this year, and Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) are said to have reached an agreement on some climate legislation, dubbed the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022. https://www.youtube.com/embed/td5eunpn-RE?feature=oembedVideo credit: Zach Roberts
According to Politico, the agreement includes $370 billion in energy and climate spending. What that means is, of course, yet to be seen, but Sourash Duy, a protester at the Congressional Baseball Game, was hopeful, saying, “Investing $370 billion in decarbonizing our economy, reducing emissions by 40 percent, that is very possible, very well could be done…. We have the biggest holdout on climate, Joe Manchin, on board, so we could very much do this. It’s not as much as we need but there is a great potential to take a lot of action, which will make a huge difference.”
At least three members of the protest were arrested by Capitol Police. Some attendees at the game were upset that it was delayed by the protesters and heckled them. Several attendees even tried to walk over the protesters as they sat blocking the gates, and one man pulled a protester away by his shoulder and then shoved him violently back, as you can see in this video. https://www.youtube.com/embed/PieIuFY4eNw?feature=oembedVideo credit: Zach Roberts
As the fourth inning drew to a close, the already-delayed game was further set back by torrential downpours. Soon after it restarted, protesters inside the ballpark held up banners and chanted, calling for climate justice. The banners were quickly confiscated by the police.
Now or Never has pledged to hold escalating protests if “strong climate action” isn’t put into place. They have actions planned in several states for August 5, and if climate legislation has not been passed by September 30, they will “organize a highly disruptive, mass direct action that fundamentally disrupts business-as-usual in DC.”