After weeks of holding “Fire Drill Fridays” rallies in Washington D.C.–most of which ended with Jane Fonda and her celebrity friends being arrested along with activists and members of the public–the movement has landed in California. In collaboration with Greenpeace, Fonda’s group staged a Fire Drill Friday protest on the steps of L.A. City Hall, followed by a march through downtown L.A.
But, in a surprise move, rather than quietly dispersing at the end of the march, Fonda, TV producer Norman Lear, and a small group of other celebrities, politicians, and climate activists, entered the corporate headquarters of Maverick Natural Resources, a company which operates oil and gas facilities, with an intent to occupy the lobby of the office until removed.
That act of civil disobedience dovetails with the theme of this phase of Fire Drill Fridays, which is pivoting from simply raising awareness about the urgency of climate change in general, to specifically advocating for the reduction in fossil fuel use and extraction, starting in California.
“I am excited not just because I’m home,” Fonda told the City Hall gathering about the West Coast phase of her project. “I am excited because California is the front line. What happens here will lead the nation. The climate crisis is not an abstraction here.”
She and a series of speakers called on state and local political leaders to halt the approval of new oil and gas drilling permits in California, and to pass policies like AB 345, which would create mandatory set-backs of 2,500 feet to separate oil and gas facilities from schools, playgrounds, and other places where children gather.
“California’s children are more important than fossil fuel profits,” Fonda stated.
Her sentiment was echoed by voices like that of community organizer Alicia Rivera, who works with families in the primarily low-income South Bay community of Wilmington, where some have attributed a spike in childhood health problems to the prevalence of oil and gas industry in the area.
“We have it right next to us in Wilmington. People are suffering while politicians are sitting on their hands,” she said. “We challenge city council members to come out and see what it’s like to have oil drilling right by your home.
Joining the activists and a group of individuals who have dealt with cancers or other illnesses which may be linked to environmental factors were a group of famous faces, using their platform to back the cause. Along with Fonda and Lear, Joaquin Phoenix, Kate and Rooney Mara, Catherine Keener, Josh Pence, Bonnie Wright, Amber Valletta, and Brooklyn Decker.
“Ninety-nine percent of celebrities are idiots, myself included. But we’re all here to support this cause and the people who do important work on the ground,” actor Rainn Wilson said at the rally.
“People like Jane Fonda have an incredible amount of power, and for her to use that power to put this issue at the center of everyone’s agenda is what this moment is all about,” said City Council candidate Nithya Raman, who was in the audience of the event and joined those occupying the oil company office. “There is a missing sense of urgency in city hall when it comes to climate. Climate change is impacting the most vulnerable first.”
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