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Angry outcry over ‘Jane Fonda Day’ in L.A. County leaves leaders scrambling

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An angry outcry over a day honoring actress Jane Fonda had Los Angeles County leaders scrambling to put out the fire.

The Board of Supervisors was buried under criticism for the “profoundly disrespectful” decision to name April 30 as “Jane Fonda Day” to acknowledge the 86-year-old actress for her social justice and climate activism.

The problem? April 30 is also known to the Vietnamese community as “Black April” in remembrance of the fall of Saigon.

“Jane Fonda’s activism knows no bounds. Where Jane focuses her passion and heart, great things happen,” said Lindsey P. Horvath, Chair of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors in announcing the day. “Starting today, we proudly proclaim April 30th each year as ‘Jane Fonda Day’ in Los Angeles County, in recognition of her incredible contributions to entertainment, environmental sustainability, gender equality, and social justice. Let’s continue to engage in service and advocacy for social and environmental justice, following Jane Fonda’s example of using our voices to make a difference in the lives of others, and protect our planet today and for future generations.”

The Vietnamese American community in L.A. County quickly let it be known that they did not appreciate the nod to Fonda, a famously anti-Vietnam War critic, on the same day.

“She may be a very strong activist for climate change, but besides that, we also view her as being a person who was very cruel to the rights of the South Vietnamese people during the antiwar protests,” Phat Bui, chairman of the Vietnamese American Federation of Southern California, said, according to the Los Angeles Times.

According to the newspaper:

On April 30, 1975, the South Vietnamese stronghold of Saigon — now known as Ho Chi Minh City — fell to communist forces. It marked the end of the Vietnam War.

Nearly 50 years later, the day is still observed by those who fled Vietnam or whose family members did. In Orange County’s Little Saigon, home to one of the largest Vietnamese communities outside Vietnam, residents gather each year on April 30 to hold a ceremony with prayers and traditional songs in remembrance of the day.

State Sen. Janet Nguyen, a Republican lawmaker whose district includes Little Saigon, wrote to the Board of Supervisors to express that the specific day to honor  Fonda was “alarming and profoundly disrespectful to over half a million Vietnamese Americans in California.”

Other lawmakers also joined the wave of criticism.

Rep. Michelle Steel (R-Seal Beach) also urged the board to make a change and called the decision “unconscionable.”

“To elevate Hanoi Jane over the Vietnamese Community, Americans who sacrificed their lives, and the loved ones they lost to communism, is deeply offensive to the freedom-loving Vietnamese Americans who bear such tragic and painful memories of the Vietnam War,” Steel said in a statement, using the nickname Fonda earned for her stance in the 1970s.

In a 1972 visit to Hanoi during the Vietnam War, Fonda was infamously captured in photos sitting on a North Vietnamese antiaircraft gun.

The L.A. County Board of Supervisors soon responded to the backlash and announced plans to move Jane Fonda Day to a date earlier in April.

“Out of respect for the community voices who have spoken up, we will introduce a motion at our next regular meeting of the Board to make Jane Fonda Day April 8 as part of Earth Month,” an update stated.

“The April 30 date was a function of our board schedule and was unintentional,” Constance Farrell, spokesperson for Horvath, told the Los Angeles Times on Tuesday.

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