Members of the corporate media were greeted by hundreds of climate action organizers Saturday night as they arrived at the Washington Hilton Hotel in Washington, D.C. for the annual White House Correspondents Dinner.
Youth-led direct action group Climate Defiance staged a blockade of the event to demand that President Joe Biden fulfill his campaign promise to end fossil fuel extraction on public lands.
The protest came weeks after the Biden administration approved Willow, the massive oil drilling project on federal lands in Alaska, and a month after a oil and gas lease sale of 1.6 million acres of offshore waters in the Gulf of Mexico went forward.
“The president promised us an end to new leasing on federal lands but failed to deliver. Now, he needs to hear from the voting bloc that delivered him the 2022 midterm elections,” said Climate Defiance ahead of the protest, referring to research showing that voters between the ages of 18 and 29 were crucial to Biden’s victory in 2020.
According to Pew Research, 62% of young voters support a complete phaseout of fossil fuels.
Climate Defiance is backed by the Climate Emergency Fund, a nonprofit run by climate psychologist Margaret Klein Salamon. The group was joined by organizers from the Sunrise Movement, which has helped push more than 100 Democratic lawmakers to co-sponsor Green New Deal legislation.
Documentarian Ford Fischer posted a video of a government vehicle attempting to drive through the protesters before retreating.
U.S. Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.), a Green New Deal co-sponsor, thanked the demonstrators for the action as he walked past them, and climate scientist Peter Kalmus joined the group at one point, telling them, “You guys are on the right side of history… President Biden is on the wrong side of history [for] expanding the fossil fuels during a climate emergency.”
Tennessee state Reps. Justin Jones (D-52) and Justin Pearson (D-86), who were recently expelled from the state House for participating in a gun control protest before being reinstated, also joined the campaigners to say that the interconnected fights “for democracy, climate justice, and an end to mass shootings require a coordinated emergency response.”
“We’re fighting a system that is trying to put the profits of the gun industry, the profits of the fossil fuel industry, the profits of the for-profit healthcare over the lives of our people,” he said. “So we must stand together. We must let them know that if you come for one of us, you come for all of us.”
“We disrupted the rich and powerful because Joe Biden’s approval of deadly new oil and gas projects is killing the planet,” said Climate Defiance after the blockade. “We will continue to disrupt until we end fossil fuels.”
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