A prominent LGBTQ civil rights has died after setting himself on fire in a busy New York park on Saturday morning.
David Buckel, 60, left a suicide note saying he had used “fossil fuel” to ignite himself to symbolise what humans are doing to Earth.
He added: “Pollution ravages our planet, oozing inhabitability via air, soil, water and weather.
“Most humans on the planet now breathe air made unhealthy by fossil fuels, and many die early deaths as a result — my early death by fossil fuel reflects what we are doing to ourselves.”
Buckel was a senior counsel and director of the Marriage Project for Lambda Legal, an LGBTQ advocacy group. He argued in many landmark cases involving LGBTQ youth, including a lawsuit against the Boy Scouts of America and its former ban on gay members.
Buckel’s body was noticed at Prospect Park before first responders arrived on the scene.
Irene Ryjova, a 44-year-old woman who was rollerblading in the park early Saturday, told the New York Post she saw the body lying on the floor “like someone would lie on the sand at the beach.”
In his suicide note, Buckel recalled the Tibetan monk protesters who have set themselves on fire in protest of the Chinese occupation in Tibet, according to the New York Daily News.
“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 reportedly wrote.
“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.”
Camilla Taylor, director of Lambda Legal, said in a statement to HuffPost that their organisation will honour Buckel’s life by “continuing to fight for equality.”
“The news of David’s death is heartbreaking,” Taylor said.
“David was a brilliant legal visionary. David helped create Lambda Legal’s focus on LGBT youth,” Taylor continued, detailing Buckel’s work on a case that led a federal court to rule that schools “have an obligation to prevent anti-gay bullying.”
She added: “His thoughtful and engaging advocacy broke through many stubborn misconceptions and showed it was possible and necessary for our movement to speak up for bullied, ostracized LGBT young people.”
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