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Jane Fonda, Sam Waterston arrested at U.S. Capitol climate protest

Fonda is returning to civil disobedience after a nearly half-century break, inspired by the climate activism of Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg.

WASHINGTON — Stepping briskly into a U.S. Capitol police vehicle Friday, Jane Fonda is returning to civil disobedience after a nearly half-century break, inspired by the climate activism of Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg and hoping to encourage older people like her to protest as well.

Being arrested at age 81 poses its own, new challenges, Fonda told The Associated Press in an interview, a couple of hours ahead of the second in what Fonda says will be her weekly Friday arrests to advocate for urgent action to slow climate change.

These days, "They use white plastic things on your wrists instead of metal handcuffs, and that hurts more," said Fonda. With fellow actor Sam Waterston, she was one of 17 climate protesters — many of them white and gray haired — arrested for alleged unlawful demonstration Friday by what Fonda called "extremely nice and professional" Capitol police.

Image: Jane Fonda
Actress Jane Fonda gestures after being arrested during a rally on Capitol Hill on Oct. 18, 2019. A half-century after throwing her attention-getting celebrity status into Vietnam War protests, Fonda is now doing the same in a U.S. climate movement where the average age is 18.Manuel Balce Ceneta / AP

"The only problem for me is I'm old," Fonda said. After her first arrest last week, she recounted, "I had my handcuffs behind me, and I couldn't get into the paddy wagon because you have to step way up as you're leaning over and I had nothing to hang on to."

On Friday, however, Fonda emerged from the cluster of black-uniformed arresting officers stepping smartly with hands cuffed in front of her.

"Thanks, Jane!" yelled some of the couple hundred or more protesters who'd turned.

The rally drew several times more people, young and old, than Fonda's first protest at the Capitol last week.

While Fonda has taken part in many climate rallies, she says Thunberg's mobilization of international student strikes and other activism, along with the climate writing of author Naomi Klein, made her decide to return to courting arrests for a cause again.

Image: Jane Fonda leads Fire Drill Fridays outside the U.S. Capitol in Washington
Actor Sam Waterston is handcuffed and detained by Capitol Police during the "Fire Drill Fridays" protest outside the Library of Congress on Oct. 18, 2019.Sarah Silbiger / Reuters

Noted for her protests against the Vietnam War, Fonda last was arrested in the 1970s — she can't remember precisely which cause led to her arrest then.

She says her target audience is people like her — people who try to cut their plastic use and improve their gas mileage, for instance, but otherwise "don't know what to do and they feel helpless," she said. "We're trying to encourage people to become more active across the age spectrum."