Boys Don’t Cry lawyer David Buckel dies after setting himself on fire in climate protest

Crusading attorney set himself alight in New York City park to protest use of fossil fuels

Prospect Park, Brooklyn
(Image credit: Wikimedia Commons)

A prominent gay rights lawyer who worked on the case that inspired the 1999 film Boys Don’t Cry has died after setting himself alight in a New York park to protest the use of fossil fuels.

In a handwritten suicide note addressed to police, attorney and activist David Buckel apologised for the “mess” before setting himself on fire in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park.

Firefighters were called to the scene in the early hours of Saturday morning, where they found only charred remains of the 60-year-old.

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In a second, lengthier note - copies of which were also sent via email to several newspapers, including the New York Daily News - Buckel explained that his self-immolation was a metaphor for ecological destruction.

“Pollution ravages our planet, oozing inhabitability via air, soil, water and weather,” he wrote. “My early death by fossil fuel reflects what we are doing to ourselves.”

He added: “I hope it is an honorable death that might serve others.”

In the note, he compared his drastic protest to the monks who used self-immolation to draw attention to China’s occupation of Tibet.

“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,” he said.

Alongside his environmental activism, Buckel “spent the bulk of his career fighting for gay rights”, says The Washington Post.

He represented the mother of Brandon Teena, the transgender man whose 1993 murder inspired the film Boys Don’t Cry, in a negligence lawsuit against the sheriff’s department who failed to protect him.

Buckel also worked on cases to secure rights for same-sex couples and led gay civil rights group Lambda Legal’s drive to legalise same-sex marriage in the US.

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In a statement, Camilla Taylor of Lambda Legal said that news of his death was “heartbreaking”.

“David was an indefatigable attorney and advocate, and also a dedicated and loving friend to so many,” she said. “He will be remembered for his kindness, devotion, and vision for justice.”

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