The protests "demand that action by our political leaders be taken to address the climate emergency we are in"

By Sean Neumann
January 10, 2020 06:35 PM
Credit: Tasos Katopodis/Getty

Joaquin Phoenix was arrested at a climate change protest at the nation’s capital on Friday, PEOPLE confirms.

The Joker star, who days earlier won a Golden Globe for his performance, was in Washington, D.C. with the Fire Drill Fridays protest.

He was joined at the event by activists as well as actors Maggie Gyllenhaal, Martin Sheen and Jane Fonda, who has been protesting in D.C. on the perils of climate change, along with other celebrities.

U.S. Capitol Police say that 147 people were arrested at the event. Fire Drill Fridays spokesman Ira Arlook says Phoenix and Sheen were among them.

Phoenix, 45, and Sheen, 79 were both quickly released, Arlook says. Authorities processed individuals on-site, for expedience, given the amount of arrests at the protest. It was unclear what penalties they have or may face.

Police say the arrests were for “crowding,” “obstructing” or “incommoding.”

Arlook says that Phoenix, a lifelong vegan, spoke at the protest where he criticized the meat and dairy industry in a speech.

“Something that oftentimes isn’t talked about in the environmental movement or in the conversation about climate change is that the meat and dairy industry is the third-leading cause of climate change,” he said. I think sometimes we wonder, ‘What can we do in this fight against climate change?’ And there is something you can do today, right now and tomorrow, by making a choice about what you consume.”

Joaquin Phoenix (center) at Friday’s Fire Drill Fridays protest on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C.
| Credit: Jacquelyn Martin/AP/Shutterstock
Phoenix speaking at the Fire Drill Fridays protest in Washington, D.C.
| Credit: Paul Morigi/Getty

Phoenix was vocal about his effort to help curb climate change at this year’s Golden Globe awards ceremony, where he re-wore a tuxedo in order to reduce waste.

The Joker actor spent a portion of his acceptance speech for best actor in a motion picture, drama, discussing ways that Hollywood can help contribute to the fight against climate change.

“It’s really nice that so many people have sent their well wishes to Australia but we have to do more than that,” he said during his speech on Sunday. “Hopefully, we can be unified and actually make some changes. It’s great to vote, but sometimes we have to take that responsibility on ourselves and make changes and sacrifices in our own lives.”

Fonda has routinely led the Fire Drill Fridays protests in D.C. since last October, reportedly getting arrested for her involvement on four separate occasions.

The progressive advocacy group holds a protest on the steps of the U.S. Capitol building every Friday morning, inspired by teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg.

The protests “demand that action by our political leaders be taken to address the climate emergency we are in,” according to the group’s website.

Fonda’s Grace & Frankie co-stars Sheen and June Diane Raphael joined the protests in D.C. this week.

“I would say this crowd has quadrupled,” Raphael said in a video posted by Fire Drill Fridays’ Twitter account, with the crowd heard chanting in the background. “Clearly people are ready to have a real conversation about the Green New Deal.”

Phoenix was named PETA’s “Person of the Year” in 2019 for his “lifelong dedication to ending speciesism,” which is defined as the assumption of human superiority leading to the exploitation of animals and teamed up with the animal rights organization for an advertisement campaign centered around the tagline that “We Are All Animals.”

“When we look at the world through another animal’s eyes, we see that inside we’re all the same—and that we all deserve to live free from suffering,” Phoenix said in the campaign.

But not everyone is impressed. Former Fox News anchor and Today co-host Megyn Kelly mocked Phoenix on Twitter this week for re-wearing his awards season tuxedo.

“How out of touch are these ppl??” Kelly tweeted. “Oh the sacrifice! Just ONE tuxedo! Spare us.”

Speaking about her weekly protests, Fonda has focused on what she said is a far more grave issue.

“We have to be sure that the crisis that is climate change remains front and center like a ticking time bomb,” she’s reportedly said. “We don’t have very much time, and it’s really urgent.”