Climate change activists plan protest at White House correspondents' dinner

ByBeatrice Peterson ABCNews logo
Sunday, April 30, 2023
Climate change activists plan protest at White House correspondents' dinner
Climate activists protest outside the World Bank headquarters calling on the World Bank to stop financing fossil fuels during the World Bank Group and the International Monetary Fund Spring Meetings in Washington, Apr. 14, 2023.

Climate change activists have announced plans to protest at the White House Correspondents' Association dinner on Saturday where President Joe Biden is set to speak.

On Saturday afternoon, Climate Defiance said it "rolled up to the 30th Annual White House Correspondents Garden Brunch in DC to demand truth in reporting."

"No one can call Joe Biden a 'climate-friendly president' while he's wrecking the planet w/ new oil + gas projects," the group tweeted alongside a video apparently showing a protest in Washington, D.C.

Climate Defiance organizers told ABC News that they plan to blockade the area near the dinner on Saturday night in an effort to hold Biden, who announced his reelection bid on Tuesday, accountable for what they say was his 2020 campaign promise to end fossil fuel extraction on public lands.

"Number one, no more subsidies for fossil fuel industry. No more drilling on federal lands. No more drilling, including offshore. No ability for the oil industry to continue to drill, period, ends," Biden said at a March 2020 Democratic presidential debate.

The group is asking protesters to congregate at a Metro station near the Washington Hilton, the hotel where Biden is set to deliver remarks at the annual dinner featuring an audience of Washington's news media.

The youth-led group of activists has protested in Washington for most of the week leading up to Saturday's event.

On Tuesday, Climate Defiance interrupted a speech given by John Podesta, who has been senior adviser to the president for clean energy innovation and implementation since September 2022. On Wednesday, Declare Emergency activists blocked a section of the George Washington Memorial Parkway, causing heavy traffic jams around the nation's capital.

The following day, at the National Gallery of Art, protesters from a group calling themselves "Declare Emergency" smeared black and red paint over the case and pedestal of Edgar Degas' "Little Dancer Aged Fourteen" sculpture.

The White House Correspondents' Association said it is taking precautions, though it did not specify what they were.

"We are aware of the planned protest. There are security precautions in place," WHCA President Tamara Keith told ABC News.

Hilton Hotels & Resorts, which owns the property where the dinner will be held, told ABC News it supports "non-disruptive" demonstrations.

"Washington Hilton respects all parties' rights to express their points of view in lawful and non-disruptive manners; however, we are simultaneously committed to protecting our Team Members' and guests' safety and security," a Hilton spokesperson said. "We will take all necessary steps, in cooperation with local law enforcement officials, to ensure such activities do not interfere with those entering and leaving the hotel."

The Metropolitan Police Department told ABC News that law enforcement is "aware of potential First Amendment activities" in connection to the dinner and said the department will "continue to monitor and will plan accordingly with our federal law enforcement partners to ensure the safety of DC residents and visitors."

The expected demonstration is needed to persuade Biden to take action on climate change and keep young voters invested in his reelection, Rylee Haught, the recruitment lead for Climate Defiance, told ABC News.

"If Biden wants to continue to see the youth support that he had when he got elected, he needs to keep his promises, especially around climate change, because young people know that it's an existential threat," Haught said.

"We know we don't have time to wait. If he wants to keep young people voting, he better stop extraction on federal lands," she added.

Even if all the countries that have signed on to reduce carbon emissions continue their climate agreements, it won't be enough to prevent the Earth from warming by 1.5 degrees, the activist said.

"Young people have the most to lose in this fight, we also have the most to give that's why we're shutting down the correspondents' dinner," Haught said.

Haught's contempt extended beyond elected officials.

"Mainstream media outlets have been accepting similar funds from oil and gas companies. And it seems as though they're not addressing the climate crisis with the urgency that it deserves," she said.

Haught said she feels that young activists such as herself are channeling despair from the pandemic and mass shootings into direct action.

"Young people aren't just gonna sit around and wait for a future that's in pure chaos. We've already lived in a deadly pandemic," she told ABC News.

Haught, a West Virginia native, told ABC News she wants the public to understand that protesters are " putting their bodies on the line for everyone's future."

"People are going to lose their lives. People are actively losing their lives to unprecedented wildfires and floods," she said. "Sorry if people feel inconvenienced, but they are going to suffer much more dire consequences if we don't take direct action right now."

There have been several protests outside the annual dinner in previous years.

In 2016 protesters gathered to call attention to the civil war in Syria, and in 2009, activist group Code Pink confronted former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, calling for his arrest.

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