Two Arrests and Counting: Jane Fonda’s Return to Protest

On October 11th, 2019, Jane Fonda and a group of 15 other individuals were arrested following a climate change protest on the steps of Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C.. Charges of “obstructing public building entrances” landed a misdemeanor on Fonda’s record. However, this was not the first time that Fonda was charged and taken into custody—and it would not be her last. 

As a part of the “Fire Drill Fridays” movement, Fonda and her supporters have pledged to lead climate change protests every Friday. Because the contract of Fonda’s Netflix series, “Grace and Frankie,” would not allow an entire year’s absence, Fonda has promised her presence on the steps of Capitol Hill every Friday morning until January. Upon the show’s conclusion, Fonda will return to her campaign on Capitol Hill. 

Fonda’s arrest on October 18th marked the second week in a row that she has been taken into custody by Capitol Police. The Associated Press has reported that Fonda “plans to get arrested as many times as it takes to make her point.” 

Fonda’s bouts of activism date even earlier than her two most recent arrests in 2019. Fonda addressed her iconic 1970 mugshot-yes, it is real-in an essay titled: “Mugshot.” While returning from a tour of anti-Vietnam war engagements in Canada, Fonda was immediately accosted at the Cleveland airport and her luggage was searched. With orders coming directly from Nixon’s White House, Fonda was arrested on charges of drug smuggling when police discovered vitamins in her belongings. Although she was released on bond and charges were eventually dropped after the testing of each pill, Fonda’s 1970 arrest threw her name into the mix of activists on the U.S. government’s radar. 

Almost 50 years later, Fonda has continued her streak of civil disobedience. This time, she is calling upon lawmakers to reduce fossil fuel emissions and to support the Green New Deal proposed by Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (also known as “AOC”). She hopes that her own protests on Capitol Hill will encourage the younger generations to continue their fight against climate change, but also will attract the older generations. Citing her own inspirations— the likes of young Swedish activist Greta Thunberg and author Naomi Klein—Fonda has attracted greater attention to a movement quickly gaining speed in the world of politics. It is Fonda’s popularity and success, not only as an actress but also as an activist, which propels her personal fight to change the discussion surrounding climate change. 

With three arrests under her belt-and counting-Jane Fonda is just getting started. On Friday morning, the world will be looking for her on the steps of Capitol Hill. Whether the protests of Fonda and her supporters will directly contribute to policy action is debatable, but their passion is undeniable.

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