WASHINGTON — About two dozen anti-Big Tech activists, some in costume, stalked a DC fundraiser hosted by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer on Tuesday evening to demand that he call a vote on pending antitrust legislation.
Schumer ended up hunkering down in the Kimpton George Hotel near the Capitol building until after the protest disbanded — as his guests filtered out and earnestly told the crowd that he already left.
A person at the 5 p.m. fundraiser for Schumer’s Impact PAC said that the New York Democrat left the event at 5:56 p.m. — so most of the demonstrators returned to a nearby bar incorrectly believing he slipped out a side entrance.
But the protest group’s photographer spotted Schumer climbing into an SUV 30 minutes later at 6:26 p.m. and shared her photo with The Post.
“Schumer and his team knew that we were there and it altered his plans for the day. He ended up staying an extra half hour just to avoid being confronted by protesters,” said Maria Langholz, communications director of Demand Progress.
“I think it’s safe to say we’re in his head. He was definitely hiding from the protesters,” said another demonstrator who asked not to be quoted by name.
Schumer spokesman Angelo Roefaro told The Post that Schumer remained at the hotel after leaving the fundraiser because he had a subsequent meeting there.
“He attended an event and then had a meeting at the same location,” Roefaro said. “It is fiction that he avoided [the protesters].”
The unusual game of cat-and-mouse featured advocates from groups including Fight for the Future, Our Revolution, the American Economic Liberties Project and Demand Progress — one of whom dressed up as Mr. Monopoly with a large faux check for $100 million for “Protecting Big Tech.”
“Find your kids a new job!” the group chanted, referring to the fact that Schumer’s daughters work at companies that would be impacted by the legislation. Jessica Schumer is a registered lobbyist at Amazon and Alison Schumer works at Facebook as a product marketing manager.
At one point, a man dressed up to resemble a piece of legislation battled with Mr. Monopoly inside the hotel’s lobby — as a mobile billboard parked out front saying, “Sen Schumer – announce a date for antitrust floor votes.”
There are two major pending antitrust bills that would rein in anti-competitive practices by companies like Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google and the activists hope to pressure Schumer into booking a vote, believing that it would pass.
A previous attempt to turn up the heat on Schumer featured the group Fight for the Future hiring mobile billboards last month to park outside the Senate majority leader’s New York and DC residences.
Although the pending antitrust legislation wouldn’t break up the powerful companies, it would be a significant step toward curbing their power and could pass with substantial bipartisan support.
One bill, the American Innovation and Choice Online Act, passed the Senate Judiciary Committee in January in a 16-6 vote, with all Democrats and five Republicans voting in support. A related bill, the Open App Markets Act, is expected to be considered at the same time.
The American Innovation and Choice Online Act would ban platforms like Amazon and Google from unfairly squelching the products of rival companies and is co-sponsored by seven Republican senators. An eighth Republican, Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, supported it in committee.
The Open App Markets Act would restrict Google and Apple from rigging their smartphone app stores against competitors and has some of the same sponsors, plus two additional Republicans, Sens. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.)
Roefaro, Schumer’s spokesman, previously pointed to unresolved issues with the pending bills, including tweaks demanded by four Democrats — Sens. Brian Schatz of Hawaii, Ron Wyden of Oregon, Ben Ray Luján of New Mexico and Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin — to prevent the legislation from curbing content moderation practices.
Advocates of the legislation believe the bills could pass even without changes thanks to significant Republican support, though the precise number of supporters is unclear.
Schumer was besieged by activists at about the same time as Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) coincidentally delivered a Senate floor speech Tuesday evening calling for a vote on antitrust bills. Klobuchar, who has led the effort, slammed the “unchecked power” of Big Tech companies, which she said are acting to crush competitors with “thousands of lawyers and lobbyists” lurking “in every corner of this town, at every cocktail party and all over this building.”