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Entertainment & Arts

Jane Fonda is no stranger to getting arrested. In fact, she’s proud of it

Jane Fonda, with hands cuffed behind her back, being led by a police officer near the Capitol steps.
Jane Fonda has been arrested twice (so far) for her involvement in climate change protests at the U.S. Capitol this month.
(Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times)

When police took Jane Fonda away Friday in Washington, D.C., it was the second time she had been arrested during climate change protests this month. But it wasn’t the second time she’s been arrested overall.

Long revered (and reviled) as a staunch member of the resistance, the two-time Oscar-winning actress has been outspoken about her brushes with the law while advocating for her many causes, ranging from the Vietnam War to the #MeToo movement.

Her fist-in-the-air mug shot from a 1970 arrest at a Cleveland airport — on suspicion of smuggling drugs and assaulting a customs officer — became a silent symbol of disobedience.

At the time, she was traveling on a speaking tour to spread awareness about the Vietnam War. Lab tests later confirmed that the pills she was carrying were vitamins.

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Jane Fonda is moving to Washington to protest the lack of U.S. action on global warming. She talks about climate change, activism and being 81 in Hollywood.

Fonda recently told The Times she planned to get arrested every week while marching for climate change on Capitol Hill. The 81-year-old got her wish twice — last Friday and now today — along with her “Grace & Frankie” costar Sam Waterston.

Fonda’s arrest history has produced not only an iconic mug shot but also several quotable soundbites about activism and resistance. Here’s a roundup of her quips.

Jane Fonda
Mug shot of Jane Fonda after she was arrested at a Cleveland airport in 1970.
(Associated Press)

2009: “It was the ‘Klute’ haircut”

Fonda retrospectively elaborated on the 1970 Cleveland incident on her website in 2009. In a lengthy post about the mug shot and arrest, she explained that she was on her way back from a tour stop in Canada when airport authorities stopped her and raided her luggage, supposedly on orders from former President Richard Nixon’s administration.

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Later in the message, the activist speculated that the whole stunt might have been part of a conspiracy to keep her from protesting the Vietnam War — with some additional commentary on her mug appearance, which she attributed to her Oscar-winning turn in 1971’s “Klute.”

“I think they hoped this ‘scandal’ would cause the college speeches to be canceled and ruin my respectability,” Fonda wrote. “I was handcuffed and put in the Cleveland Jail, which is when the mug shot was taken. (I had just finished filming ‘Klute’ so, yes, it was the Klute haircut).”

By the time Jane Fonda retired from acting in 1991, she had assembled a diverse array of accomplishments: two lead actress Oscars, a workout video that became the bestselling VHS of all time, and a legacy of political activism that made her name synonymous with principled dissent.

2016: “I slipped out of the handcuffs”

A few years ago, Fonda made an appearance on “The Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon” — as did her 1970 mug shot. While chatting with the host, Fonda explained how she achieved her cavalier power pose.

“I was in handcuffs, but I have double-jointed hands, so I slipped out of the handcuffs,” she said, demonstrating for Fallon and the audience. “It really surprised the guards.”

The comic then presented Fonda with a real set of cuffs, which she clicked on like a pro before Houdini-ing her way back out of them in seconds.

“Just try to arrest me,” she joked.

2017: “It was a frame-up”

Fallon wasn’t the only late-night host to ask Fonda about Cleveland. During a segment of “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert” featuring longtime partners-in-crime Fonda and Lily Tomlin, the comedian brandished a copy of Fonda’s mug shot while chatting about the Women’s March.

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The actress quickly took the opportunity to clear her name.

“I have to say, I was accused of smuggling drugs — they were vitamin pills,” she said. “But the guy who arrested me said he was taking orders from the Nixon White House. It was a frame-up.”

Colbert then revealed another photo up his sleeve — Fonda’s mug shot printed on a coffee mug, which is still for sale on the star’s website — joking, “The revolution will not be televised, but it will be merchandized.”

“It was my idea,” Fonda said proudly. “And there’s evening bags of my mug shot too. And all the money goes to my nonprofit.”

2018: “I sure got a lot of mileage”

Last year, Fonda joined the likes of Tessa Thompson, Common and Lena Waithe for a highly publicized “Respect Rally” at the Sundance Film Festival in opposition to Trump. On the car ride there, she reminisced to The Times about her previous airport arrest and mug shot, which served as the poster for the documentary “Jane Fonda in Five Acts.”

“I sure got a lot of mileage out of that arrest,” Fonda said with a laugh from the front seat of the festival-bound SUV.

Fonda was unfazed by the snow storm and bitter Park City cold as she approached her appointment to speak about women’s rights along with fellow leaders, including “Fleabag’s” Phoebe Waller-Bridge and high-profile attorney Gloria Allred.

“Onward!” she said, lifting her famous fist into the air. “Let’s go kick ass!”

2019: “What can [Trump] do?”

While speaking with The Times prior to storming Washington on behalf of Mother Earth, Fonda offered some insight into her fearless mentality when facing authorities.

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During the conversation, she detailed her plans to take on the fossil fuel industry and her desperation to change President Trump’s attitude about environmental issues. And if that meant going to jail, so be it.

“I’ve been here before,” she said in the interview. “I mean, I can’t be attacked any more than I already have. So what can [Trump] do? I’ve got nothing to lose.”

2019: “That’s the least of it”

After her first climate change protest arrest last week, Fonda spoke with CNN about about her experience, her decision to move to Washington and her activist inspirations, including Swedish environmental activist Greta Thunberg.

When interviewer Christiane Amanpour tried to focus the conversation on the nitty-gritty of Fonda’s recent arrest — asking about having her wrists zip-tied and being carted off in a police cruiser — the seasoned activist immediately put her ordeal into perspective.

“That’s the least of it,” she said with a shrug. “There is so much going on in the world and over it all is this ticking time bomb ... but we do have time. We have time, and it’s going to require that people in every country all around the world organize and mobilize and — if necessary — bring governments to a halt if we can’t make them do the right thing.”


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