According to reports, David Buckel fatally set himself on fire early Saturday morning in a New York City park. The well-known New Yorker had an impressive resume that spanned from “popular green activist” to “pioneering lawyer for gay and transgender rights.”
It appears it was Buckel’s role as “green activist” that led him to end his life in such a violent event, which is what he conveyed in one of the two suicide notes he left behind. His charred body was found by police when they responded to a call from passers-by in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park, according to Fox News.
Alongside his charred body, police found a metal push cart and inside that cart, there was an envelope marked “Police.” That envelope contained a typed note that explained why he decided to end his life with such a protest.
Buckel appears to have acted alone in his death, preferring not to have people come gather around to watch. Instead, he hoped to share his words of protest via the note he left on the scene. The Washington Times reports he also sent a copy of that note via email to be published in the New York Times.
A handwritten note was also found on the scene, which Buckel allegedly penned to apologize to the police.
In the short handwritten note, Buckel identified himself and then offered an apology for the “mess” he just caused. Buckle wrote:
“My name is David Buckel and I just killed myself by fire as a protest suicide. I apologize to you for the mess.”
This man, David Buckel, helped me find my path in fighting for marriage equality. Thank you @Camillabtaylor for finding words of comfort in the face of this incomprehensible loss. https://t.co/a89SnXFtZ1
— Jim Bennett (@steelbennett) April 15, 2018
The typed note, which was tucked in that envelope, explained his thoughts on why he felt this protest necessary. This was also the note that he had sent to the Times. He wrote, “Most humans on the planet now breathe air made unhealthy by fossil fuels, and many die early deaths as a result.”
Buckel also wrote about his use of “fossil fuel” to end his life, which was documented in that typed note he left behind. He conveyed that he used the fuel to set himself on fire to reflect how mankind is killing itself. According to the Los Angeles Times, Buckel’s protest was against the ecological destruction that is caused by the burning and harvesting of fossil fuels.
Police officers were called to Prospect Park at about 6:10 a.m. on Saturday for what was first reported as a brush fire by passers-by. But instead of a brush fire, they found the charred remains of David Buckel.
In the few years I knew David, I stood profoundly struck by his example, excellence, humility and humor. In David's words, "I hope it is an honorable death that might serve others.” Prayers for understanding of the beautiful soul that David Buckel was. https://t.co/ORvdoqgISA
— Jennifer Randall (@jenrandall) April 14, 2018
The typed note conveyed that he hoped his act was “an honorable death that might serve others.” The Los Angeles Times compares Buckel’s note to the “dramatic protests by self-immolation from past years overseas.” During the Vietnam War, Buddhist monks burned themselves to death when protesting the repressive South Vietnam regime.
“My name is David Buckel and I just killed myself by fire as a protest suicide,” handwritten message left scene Prospect Park. He apologized for mess
“I hope it is an honourable death that might serve others.” His last protest fossil killing planet https://t.co/u8srKInZQh
— Suzannah B. Troy (@suzannahbtroy) April 14, 2018
More recently, some Tibetans used self-immolation to protest China ruling over Tibet, and Buckel cited the Tibetans’ self-immolation in his note, writing, “This is not new, as many have chosen to give a life based on the view that no other action can most meaningfully address the harm they see.”