Jane Fonda Says She Planned to Camp Out at White House Before Deciding on Climate Change Protests
In a new interview with The New York Times, the Grace and Frankie star, 82, recalled her original idea to bring attention to the climate crisis before she made headlines being arrested with other celebrities in Washington, D.C., last fall.
As she writes in her new book What Can I Do?, Fonda was preparing to camp out outside the White House with a sleeping bag — but she had some practical concerns about demonstrating. “Where will I poop and pee? I’m way older now and have to get up during the night more often,” she wrote, per the Times.
Then another activist warned her "there are going to be rats" and so Fonda — who didn't want to come off as an "aging star bopping in from Hollywood" — said she was encouraged to channel her desire to protest into another form.
Fire Drill Fridays is what she came to call her organized rallies. She purchased a distinct red coat and showed up with scientists, activists and celebrities to raise awareness about climate change, with the events often ending in handcuffs.
The Oscar winner also workshopped another potential way to lobby the federal government by enlisting a team of, in her words, bombshell celebrities to make the case for environmental protections to President Donald Trump.
"I thought, okay, I will find four of the most beautiful, sexy, smart, climate-interested women I can, and we’ll go in, and we’ll kneel and we’ll plead and beg," she told the Times.
“We’ll tell him what needs to be done and what a serious crisis this is and we’ll tell him that he will be the world’s greatest hero, that kind of thing,” Fonda recalled. “I actually called Jared [Kushner], or whatever his name is, and I told him my idea and he said, ‘Well, Ivanka is the environmentalist in the family.’ Yeah, sure. So she called me and I told her my idea and she laughed and I never heard from her again.”
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Fonda previously recounted the same anecdote to the Los Angeles Times in October, adding then that Ivanka, 38, "said, 'Well, I’ll see what I can do.' Nothing."
Fonda told the paper at the time, "I realize now, a group of gorgeous women next to the industry that has given him all the money and power ... we couldn’t possibly have held up."
In April, Fonda wrote an essay for PEOPLE in which she detailed why she became an environmentalist, remembering how she "found solace in nature as a child."
"... Last fall, I thought, 'Maybe I can raise an army like I fantasized about when I was young.' I launched Fire Drill Fridays in partnership with Greenpeace USA, a weekly rally in D.C. where scientists, activists and celebrities exposed the urgency of the climate emergency," she wrote. "Each week the group grew, with old-time activists and first-timers coming together, engaging in civil disobedience and risking arrest, saying, 'We need action for the health and safety of our families.'"
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"We know protests work," Fonda wrote. "It’s the students’ mass protests that have forced the climate crisis onto America’s consciousness. Mass action is the only thing that has ever forced the government to heed the demands of its people over the voices of the corporations. And after 40-plus years of petitions, marches, lobbying and not being listened to, civil disobedience — putting your body on the line — is the next step in awakening people to the urgency of this crisis and pressuring decision-makers to act."
"Change is coming, either by disaster or by design," she added. "Whether you’re a climate activist or a mom worried about her children, your voice can help us. I hope you will march up the hill with me to fight for change by design."
What Can I Do? My Path from Climate Despair to Action by Jane Fonda is available wherever books are sold on Tuesday, Sept. 8.