Annoyed attendees at the U.S. Open booed climate protesters who halted the women's semi-final between American Coco Gauff and Czech Karolina Muchova for nearly an hour on Thursday.
With Gauff up a set and holding serve to open the second, a disturbance erupted in the upper bowl of Arthur Ashe Stadium, the sport's largest venue with a seating capacity of over 23,000. As players looked into the stands, security flooded into the section around where protesters were shouting. The surrounding crowd shouted back, "Kick them out!"
Disrupting major events appear to be a trend with climate groups this year. "Just Stop Oil" protesters interrupted play at Wimbledon in July, releasing orange ticker-tape mixed with jigsaw puzzle pieces during matches. Other climate activists sobbed and screamed as Nevada police removed their road barricade, which caused a miles-long backup for attendees of the Burning Man festival last week.
"We plan for it," Chris Widmaier, a spokesman for the United States Tennis Association (USTA), said. "We prepare for a lot of things. To my knowledge, this kind of protest seems to be happening at other places. We are very aware of environmental protests. It happened at Wimbledon. It happened at the Citi Open."
USTA issued a statement confirming four climate protesters were taken into NYPD custody.
"Three of the four protesters were escorted out of the stadium without further incident," the USTA statement said. "The fourth protester affixed their bare feet to the floor of the seating bowl. Due to the nature of this action, NYPD and medical personnel were needed in order to safely remove this individual from the stadium."
Photographs of the scene showed protesters wearing shirts with the slogan, "End Fossil Fuels." Players were escorted off the court by a USTA official and returned for a warm-up 45 minutes later before play resumed.
(Reporting by Steve Keating in New York; Editing by Gerry Doyle, Peter Rutherford)