Police report that gay rights attorney David Buckel burned himself alive in what is being described as a “protest-suicide” in New York’s Prospect Park on Saturday morning.
“My early death by fossil fuel reflects what we are doing to ourselves,” Buckel would write.
The 60-year-old Buckel left a note near his body in a shopping cart with copies of it emailed to multiple media outlets including the New York Times. Several journalists received the email from Buckle before he set himself on fire explaining his plan to draw attention to environmental causes.
Pedestrians in the Brooklyn park Saturday were horrified to stumble across Buckel’s charred remains.
“It was just lying there, on its back, knees slightly bent like someone would lie on the sand at the beach,” said Irena Ryjova, a 44-year-old rollerblader who passed by almost an hour after the frightening suicide.
Nearby, a mom guiding children from a local Catholic School to a baseball game said “It’s a shock; it’s a shame,” as she hurried the kids out of the view of the twisted heap of human remains.
Buckel was best known as a gay rights activist who served as the marriage project director and senior counsel for a non-profit called Lambda Legal. He headed up a case of a transgender person in Nebraska who was raped and murdered, inspiring the basis of the 1999 film Boys Don’t Cry.
“David was an indefatigable attorney and advocate and also a dedicated and loving friend to so many. He will be remembered for his kindness, devotion, and vision for justice,” said Camilla Taylor, Lambda Legal’s director of constitutional litigation and acting legal director, in a statement.
Buckel since left Lambda Legal and turned to an obsession with environmental causes, outlined in his last note:
“Pollution ravages our planet, oozing inhabitability via air, soil, water and weather,” he raved in his email to the Times.
The Huffington Post says that he began working with numerous environmental groups, which included pro bono work with the Added Value Red Hook Community Farm, Brooklyn Botanic Garden’s NYC Compost Project, and the Greenest Block in Brooklyn competition.
His suicide note read he had “good health to the final moment,” but he wanted to inspire others into action with his fiery last act. It read, “Honorable purpose in life invites honorable purpose in death.”
The note tells us Buckel believed “privilege” was caused by others suffering, and money would not fix what he believed to be a broken society.
“Many who drive their own lives to help others often realize that they do not change what causes the need for their help,” he said in the note.
HuffPo writes he thought his protest akin to the self-immolating Tibetan monks’ political suicides to draw attention to Chinese occupation.
“This is not new, as many have chose to give a life based on the view that no other action can most meaningfully address the harm they see,” Buckel’s note said.
“Here is a hope that giving a life might bring some attention to the need for expanded actions, and help others give a voice to our home, and Earth is heard.”
Buckel believed using “fossil fuel” to ignite himself would draw a poetic point to how he thought petroleum would kill the earth.
“Most humans on the planet now breathe air made unhealthy by fossil fuels, and many die early deaths as a result.”
The weather in Brooklyn Saturday morning was pleasant and sunny with a high of 73 and low of 66.
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