On Friday, Jane Fonda celebrated her 82nd birthday by getting arrested while protesting the government’s inaction on climate change.
It wasn’t her first clash, recent or otherwise, with law enforcement. Since mid-October, Fonda has been leading “Fire Drill Fridays,” a weekly protest against the global climate crisis in Washington, D.C. Nearly every weekend since, the two-time Oscar winner has put on her signature fire-truck-red coat — which she says is “the last piece of clothing” she’ll ever buy — and headed to Capitol Hill with a rotating crew of celebrity acquaintances. Five times, she’s been arrested for causing a public disturbance, which she hopes will draw attention to the environmental crisis and inspire an urgent response.
To capture Fonda’s most recent arrest this past Friday, the Cut sent Natalie Keyssar, a Brooklyn-based documentary photographer whose work often covers class inequality and political turmoil in the United States and Latin America. “Having photographed many protests in many parts of the world, these were probably the calmest, most peaceful arrests of activists I’ve ever witnessed,” Keyssar told the Cut. “The mood was surprisingly relaxed and celebratory.”
Fonda recruited an impressive slate of other activists to risk arrest alongside her at last week’s protest: Reverend William J. Barber of the Poor People’s Campaign, civil-rights activist Roshi Joan Halifax, labor organizer Dolores Huerta, and feminist activist Gloria Steinem. Together, they stood onstage on the Capitol lawn, where the demonstration
centered on the health repercussions of climate change, such as poor air and water quality.
“You may generously say that you came to celebrate my birthday with me in this wonderful activist context, which has gained so much traction — more than I ever imagined — and I appreciate this,” Fonda told the crowd of hundreds of protesters, after they burst into an impromptu version of “Happy Birthday.” “But I think we are all here today because we know what lies ahead. The Earth needs an army.”
When Fonda was arrested inside the Hart Senate Office Building, the atmosphere remained peaceful. “Everybody sing ‘Happy Birthday’ to Jane!” a demonstrator yelled in the crowd as a Capitol Police officer started to lead Fonda away, the Washington Post reports. As protesters started to break into song once again, Fonda, with zip-tied hands, proudly raised her arms. Before the event, Fire Drill Fridays tweeted that Fonda “wanted 82 people to put their bodies on the line” for her birthday; in total, at least 138 were arrested.
And when Fonda was released an hour before her birthday, Keyssar says she was still “bursting with enthusiasm.”
“That was the most amazing experience,” Fonda shouted to her friends who were waiting for her release. “I learned so much.”
Scroll down for Keyssar’s photos from the event.