Jane Fonda Leads Climate Change Protests at U.S. Capitol

Jane Fonda has been arrested every Friday since early October as she leads protests at the U.S. Capitol drawing attention to the climate crisis. The “Fire Drill Fridays” demonstrations will continue through mid-January and the two-time Oscar winner expects to spend her 82nd birthday on Dec. 21 in jail. Demonstrators are taking to the streets of Washington, D.C. to persuade Congress to support the Green New Deal, the environmental initiative that calls for a net-zero carbon United States economy by 2050.

Protesters want to phase out the fossil fuel infrastructure and put an end to fossil fuel exploration, said Fonda. Their goal is to keep trillions of dollars of oil reserves in the ground. The number of protesters has tripled since Fonda began demonstrating, and the actress and activist hopes to inspire others to flood the streets. She’s already been joined by high-profile friends such as actors Sam Waterston, Ted Danson, Rosanna Arquette and Catherine Keener.

Long-time activist spends night in jail

U.S. Capitol Police arrested 46 on obstruction charges at the demonstration held Nov. 1. Hundreds of marchers gathered at a stage with a “Fire Drill Fridays” backdrop set up on the lawn of the Capitol. Fonda led the march to the Hart Senate Office Building, where protesters occupied the soaring atrium. While others led off in plastic handcuffs were released hours later, Fonda went to jail. Her night in lockup was expected; prior arrests had earned the star a court date. The only other night she had spent in jail was in 1970, when she was on a speaking tour protesting the Vietnam War.

Fonda and other organizers named the protests “Fire Drill Fridays” to show solidarity with young climate change strikers such as Greta Thunberg, whose call to action is “Our house is on fire!” (The Swedish teenager sailed across the Atlantic Ocean in an emissions-free yacht to speak at the United Nations and focus attention on global warming.) Fonda said she was inspired over the Labor Day weekend after reading the best-selling book, “On Fire: The (Burning) Case for a Green New Deal”, by Naomi Klein.

Wearing red to symbolize the danger

Organizers adopted the idea of wearing red as a symbol of their warning that climate change is setting the world ablaze. Since the first demonstration, Fonda has wrapped herself in a five-alarm-fire red coat. The shawl-collared, belted coat has gone viral for its impact as a physical representation of the protest message.

Fonda plans to keep demonstrating until mid-January, when production of her Netflix show, “Grace and Frankie,” resumes. Fonda had asked Netflix if production of the final season could be postponed for one year, but she was turned down. Signed contracts prevent her from getting out of other commitments, she has said.

Leverages celebrity for the cause

“Why be a celebrity if you can’t leverage it for something that is this important?” she told The New York Times.

A weekly hour-long teach-in accompanies the protests and streams live on Facebook. Subjects such as militarization, women and oceans are highlighted, and the audience is growing. Fonda said on Halloween Eve that 54,000 viewers had watched the preceding week’s teach-in.

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