6 celebrities arrested while peacefully protesting

From Joan Baez's 1967 sit-in at a military induction center to Shailene Woodley's support for the Standing Rock Sioux tribe.

by i-D Staff and Hannah Ongley
26 January 2017, 10:09pm

Celebrities don't always follow the law to the letter. Consider that a reality TV host who committed tax evasion and sexual assault is now not in prison but in the White House. Or that Shia LaBeouf was arrested this week while protesting said President of the United States during a demonstration in New York. Shia's livestream project He Will Not Divide Us has featured regular appearances from the actor and activist since it launched last Thursday, the most memorable involving physical altercations with neo-Nazis. While the new ethical dilemma "Is it okay to punch a Nazi?" was answered with a resounding "yes" on Twitter, New York City cops were not so convinced. Here are six other celebrities who have been arrested while standing up, peacefully, for what they believe in. 


Joan Baez
The folk revival superstar was involved in social justice movements when she just a teenager — and a close friend of Martin Luther King. She was also one of the most famous detractors of the Vietnam War, a stance that led to her being arrested in 1976 at a protest in Oakland, California. Joan was one of at least 40 peace demonstrators taken into custody when she took part in — and provided vocals for — a sit-in at a military induction centre. She and around 250 others formed a giant human barricade outside the building, forcing draftees to climb over them to get in and handing them anti-war leaflets as they came out. Throughout the decades since, Joan has campaigned for LGBT rights, performed at Occupy Wall Street, and protested the U.S. invasion of Iraq. She also spoke out against the president at the Women's March on Washington last weekend.


Rosario Dawson
Rosario Dawson, another celebrity who made the trip to D.C. for women's rights, has likewise been a longtime political activist. Just last year she was arrested along with hundreds of other "Democracy Spring" protesters on Capitol Hill while rallying against the corruption of money in politics. "I wanted personally to be in solidarity with the other folks who put themselves on the line and really just to bring attention to this because I think that's just vitally important," Rosario told The Guardian after she had been released. She also called upon the police to respect protests organized by Dreamers and Black Lives Matter activists.


Shailene Woodley
The Divergent actress brought national attention to the controversial Dakota Access pipeline construction when she was arrested last October at a protest in solidarity with the Standing Rock Sioux tribe — and livestreamed the whole thing via Facebook Live. "But why am I being arrested and no one else here is," she asked the police in the recording, pointing to the group of people around her. "Is it because I'm famous? Is it because people know who I am?" Shailene was one of the earliest celebrity supporters of the Standing Rock Sioux, actively protesting the pipeline on her social media account in the months leading up to her arrest. Just this week, she hosted a Sundance Film Festival event in solidarity with the tribe, where she was joined by none other than Malia Obama.


Jane Fonda
Four decades before the mugshots of Lindsay Lohan and Paris Hilton went viral in the early days of Twitter, Jane Fonda posed for what might be the greatest mugshot of all time. The Oscar and BAFTA-winning actress was arrested in 1970 while en route to an anti-Vietnam War event on a college campus in Ohio. Many years after being snapped with her fist defiantly raised in the black power salute, Jane wrote about the incident on her blog, calling out the authorities for arresting her on charges of drug smuggling in an attempt to thwart her tour of speeches about the psychological effects of war. "They discovered a large bag containing little plastic envelopes marked (in red nail polish) 'B', 'L', 'D'-signifying breakfast, lunch and dinner- that contained the vitamins I took with each meal," she wrote. And also importantly, "I had just finished filming Klute so, yes, it was the Klute haircut."

Mos Def
During the MTV VMAs back in 2006, Yasiin Bey gave an impromptu concert outside Radio City Music Hall that didn't go over too well with police. The rapper rolled up in a truck to perform his anti-Bush freestyle "Katrina Clap," an uncompromising indictment of the then-president's handling of the devastating hurricane that hit New Orleans a year earlier. "Listen, homie, it's Dollar Day in New Orleans / It's water water everywhere and people dead in the streets," went the lyrics. "And Mr. President he 'bout that cash / He got a policy for handlin' the n----z and trash." Mos Def shut the performance down when he became aware that cops were arresting members of his entourage, and his publicist later released a statement reminding people that he "chose to use his voice to speak for those who are losing their own during this critical period of reconstruction."

Susan Sarandon
In 1999, over a decade before the police killings of Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner, and Alton Sterling caused national outcry, Susan Sarandon was among 219 people who were arrested on the 13th day of civil disobedience protests to condemn the police shooting of unarmed West African immigrant Amadou Diallo. Amadou was shot at 41 times by four cops who were all indicted and later acquitted. "If we're not here today, then we're saying that what happened is acceptable and normal, and I think that does a disservice to the other police," said the progressive liberal activist and Oscar-winning actress at the time. "I think it's time we focus on this issue, and racial profiling is not acceptable. I don't think we want to be made safe at the expense of our civil liberties." Susan was appointed a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador that same year. 


Text Hannah Ongley

Shia LaBeouf