No Matter Who Is Elected, Jane Fonda Promises to "Hold Their Feet to the Fire"

Jane Fonda attends the American Cinematheque's new 4K restoration world premiere of "F.T.A." - Getty-H 2020
Amanda Edwards/Getty Images

"If necessary, shut down the government," the actress said of the need to address climate change two days after Super Tuesday.

Two days after the California primary and Super Tuesday, Jane Fonda promised a crowd of women that she will hold the next president accountable to address climate change. 

"No matter who is elected in November, we have to hold their feet to the fire. If necessary, shut down the government, and I'm not kidding," she said on Thursday in Beverly Hills, while accepting the Visionary Women's annual award to celebrate International Women's Day.

The activist and actress said the past four months of her life have been her happiest, as she has organized recurring "Fire Drill Friday" protests in Washington D.C. and now California to fight against climate change. "[It's been] my most happy four months of my life when I gave up my life, my comfort zone and myself 100 percent into a focus on the climate crisis," she said, "It's very hard now to find ways to align your full body with your deepest values, and civil disobedience does that. ... That has to become the new norm." 

For her, getting arrested has become empowering: "To engage in civil disobedience and get arrested, you're handcuffed and you're put into a police wagon and deliberately put in a position of humility, kind of bent over. You've given up all control and you feel totally empowered."

She acknowledged the privilege in the room and encouraged attendees to join her at her next Fire Drill Friday, taking place Friday in Wilmington, California at San Pedro City Hall at 11 a.m., where she'll be joined by Lily Tomlin and Diane Lane. "We're protected here in this bubble, all you beautiful people and our wonderful clothes and our great privilege. We're protected. But all over the world people are dying," she said. 

Fonda began the movement in September when she moved to Washington D.C. Her weekly protests resulted in her arrest five times — and she made headlines for spending one night in jail "just me and the cockroaches." The Grace and Frankie star rallied her famous friends to join her and risk arrest for the cause, including Rosanna Arquette, Catherine Keener, Sam Waterston and more. Ahead of the Oscars, she brought Fire Drill Fridays to L.A. with Joaquin Phoenix and Norman Lear participating. 

Fonda advocates for cutting fossil fuels by 50 percent and reducing deforestation caused by soy plantations and cattle ranching. "We're facing a situation that humankind has never faced before and will never face again. We have a decade," she warned. 

Arquette presented Fonda with the award at Studio at Beverly Hills and shared behind-the-scenes stories of how Fonda's climate movement came together. 

"I got to see Jane's activism evolve from a conversation to a full-fledged movement on a road trip to Big Sur that her and our great pal Catherine Keener and I, we listened to soul music in a little rundown broken cabin with no internet. We talked about the tremendous work that Greta Thunberg was doing to wake up people to climate change. Jane was reading Naomi Klein's book and Jane wasn't just talking about a revolution. She was talking on the phone to Annie Leonard of Greenpeace and her ideas quickly, in like 24 hours, blossomed into a plan of action, which is just Jane, because she leads with passion," Arquette said. 

She explained that in lieu of a birthday present, Fonda requested Arquette join her to get arrested. "On her 82nd birthday recently, she asked her close friends to come and celebrate her birthday by getting arrested in Washington D.C., which we did of course in her honor. There was this great moment where everyone was singing ... people were going and getting arrested and suddenly Jane was like, 'This is the best birthday I've ever had.'" Arquette, who received the Visionary Women award last year, offered praise of her friend of nearly 40 years, saying, "I know that Jane, a true force of nature, is a visionary woman in every sense of the word. In sisterhood and in solidarity, she is a faithful and fearless female. ... Jane is a girl's girl who's got your back."