WASHINGTON – About 20 demonstrators, including Hollywood star Jane Fonda, were arrested Friday on the steps of the Capitol during a protest against the United States’ lack of action on reducing climate-changing greenhouse gases.
The exercise in civil disobedience, organized by Fonda and Code Pink, was the first in a series of planned “Fire Drill Fridays” to call attention to the need for environmental action. Protesters said the United States has been slow to reduce carbon emissions despite ample evidence that the atmosphere is warming because of human activity and endangering ecosystems around the world.
Fonda – wearing a red coat so bright it looked as if it might be warming the planet – was arrested shortly before noon.
As police led Fonda away, along with Code Pink founder Medea Benjamin and other demonstrators who had crossed police lines and climbed the Capitol steps, a group of about 50 protesters on the plaza below chanted in call and response:
“What do we want?”
“When do we want it?”
Taina Litwak of Darnestown, Maryland, who works for the U.S. Agriculture Department, used her lunch hour to join the protest, saying the United States was not doing enough to rescue the planet. If anything, President Donald Trump’s administration has been working to undo some of the environmental protections put in place by predecessors going back to Richard Nixon, Litwak said.
“People think, ‘Oh, we’ve cleaned up our act,’ and there’s this illusion the country has (done that),” said Litwak, 63. “We are still the second-most polluting country in the world, after China. We were the first for a long time, and then China took over.”
Litwak, waving a placard saying, “Yes – it IS a climate crisis,” said she has seen firsthand in the department how the Trump administration has reduced spending on research on how climate change is affecting agriculture.
Janiskwe Medina Tayac, 17, a Native American who lives in Takoma Park and attends Montgomery Blair High School, was one of the speakers who addressed the group on the East Lawn before joining others on the plaza. She said she was thrilled to be asked to speak on behalf of indigenous people.
“We’re really the original protectors of this land, this earth,” said Tayac, a member of the Piscataways. “Indigenous people have lived very sustainably. And it’s also indigenous communities that are impacted the most when it comes to fossil fuel industries and natural disasters, because we’re very connected to the land.”
Tayac said she was thrilled to meet Fonda, too.
“Oh, my gosh, it was amazing … not only because she’s a celebrity and she’s done amazing work, but just meeting someone who’s using their platform to spread awareness about issues is really inspiring to me,” Tayac said.
Ariel Gold, a spokeswoman for Code Pink, said the Friday protests will continue through Jan. 10.