Jane Fonda explains why she's willing to get arrested in the fight against climate change

kchin@businessinsider.com (Kara Chin,Lauren Shamo,Mark Abadi)
  • For the past four months, actress and activist Jane Fonda has organized protests in Washington, DC, to protest climate change.
  • Her "Fire Drill Fridays," inspired by teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg, led thousands of people to march and protest in front of the US Capitol.
  • At Fonda's final protest on Friday, actors Joaquin Phoenix and Martin Sheen were among those arrested for refusing to disperse. Fonda herself was arrested five times since the protests began.
  • Business Insider Today sat down with the actress and activist to learn why she thinks civil disobedience will lead to widespread change in environmental policy. 
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

For the past four months, the fight against climate change has gotten a boost from an unexpected source: Jane Fonda.

Since October, the 82-year-old actress and political activist has organized weekly protests outside the US Capitol in Washington, DC, to protest climate change and galvanize support for the Green New Deal and other proposed environmental protections.

The protests, which she named Fire Drill Fridays, featured speeches from environmental experts and activists, including Fonda herself, dressed in her signature fire-engine red coat and hat. 

The final Fire Drill Friday took place last week, and ended the same as every other installment: with Capitol Police arresting numerous participants and charging them with obstruction for refusing to disperse. Among those arrested on Friday were actors Joaquin Phoenix and Martin Sheen. Previous high-profile arrestees from the protests include Diane Lane, Sally Field, Ted Danson, and Fonda herself on five occasions.

But Fonda isn't just relying on famous faces. Her goal is to inspire regular people to take action.

"We would like them to get used to being in the streets, to being at a protest on a regular basis. And eventually, if not right away, engaging in civil disobedience," she told Business Insider Today in an interview.

Fonda's protests have steadily grown since the first installment on October 11. Less than two dozen people attended the first Fire Drill Friday, according to The Washington Post, while roughly 500 attended the final event on Friday.

The actress, who had moved to Washington to lead the demonstrations, moved back to Los Angeles last week to begin filming the seventh season of her Netflix show "Grace and Frankie." The demonstrations will continue in the form of monthly rallies in California, the Post reported.

jane fonda fire drill friday climate protest

John Lamparski/Getty Images

Fonda said nonviolent protest is the key to progress on climate change.

"Nothing has ever happened in this country — not the eight-hour a day, not getting rid of child labor, not gaining civil rights — nothing happened without massive numbers of people in the streets protesting and demanding," she told Business Insider Today.

"This is the time for everyone because this isn't one war or one issue. This is everything. It impacts every aspect of our lives, our health, our economy, our jobs, how we live, how we can move around, whether we're going to be forced to move."

Fonda is no stranger to political activism. In the 1960s, the actress controversially protested against the Vietnam War and advocated for civil rights, and later women's rights.

When it came to climate change, Fonda drew inspiration from teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg. 

"Greta was saying, you know, nobody's behaving appropriately, given this crisis. And come on people, leave your comfort zone, stop acting like business as usual," Fonda told Business Insider Today. "And so I thought, I'm going to move to Washington for a year, and I'm going to camp out in front of the White House. And I know that people are going to join me."

Her movement's demands include for the US to adopt the Green New Deal, a congressional resolution that aims to address climate change by curbing greenhouse emissions and reducing fossil fuel consumption.

"We have very little time, and if we don't do what's necessary in that brief amount of time, it's hard to even think about what the future is going to be like," Fonda said.

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