David Buckel: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know

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A lawyer known for being a champion of LGBT rights died early Saturday morning after setting himself on fire in Prospect Park in Brooklyn.

“I am David Buckel and I just killed myself by fire as a protest suicide,” said a hand-written note on the grass near the remains, according to the New York Daily News. “I apologize to you for the mess.”

The remains of David S. Buckel, 60, were found near Prospect Park West near a popular trail used by joggers and bikers. Police told the Associated Press he was pronounced dead at about 6:30 a.m. While it appeared he burned himself to death, the NYPD said the cause of death is still under investigation.

Buckel left a suicide note in a shopping cart not far from his body and also emailed it to several news media outlets, according to The New York Times. The note urged people to lead less selfish lives in a way to protect the planet, and said that he hoped his death was “honorable” and “might serve others.”

Here’s what you need to know:


1. Buckel Set Himself on Fire to Protest Fossil Fuels and Bring Awareness to the Environmental Impact Humans are Having on the Earth

In the note Buckel sent to The Times at 5:55 a.m., he discussed the difficulty of improving the world “even for those who make vigorous efforts to do so.”

Privilege, he said, was derived from the suffering of others, according to the Times.

“Many who drive their own lives to help others often realize that they do not change what causes the need for their help,” Buckel wrote, adding that donating to organizations was not enough to make a real difference.

Buckel said he wanted his death to lead to increased action. “Honorable purpose in life invites honorable purpose in death,” he wrote, according to his note.

Buckel also wrote in his letter to the Times that “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.”


2. A Lead Attorney in Several High-Profile LGBT Cases, Buckel was a Considered a Champion of Gay Rights

Buckel was the lead attorney in Brandon v. County of Richardson in Nebraska, in which a county sheriff was found liable for failing to protect Brandon Teena, a transgender man who was murdered in Falls City, Neb. The movie “Boys Don’t Cry,” won an Academy Award for Hilary Swank’s portrayal of Teena in the film.

While serving as marriage project director and senior counsel at Lambda Legal, a national organization that fights for the civil rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, Mr. Buckel was the strategist behind important same-sex marriage cases in New Jersey and Iowa, according to the Times.

The Times also reports that Susan Sommer, a former attorney for Lambda Legal, said Buckel was “one of the architects of the freedom to marry and marriage equality movement.”

“He deserves tremendous thanks for recognizing this was in many ways at the heart of what it meant to be gay for many Americans and making it a priority,” she said. “I learned so much from him about the emotional center of what it means for a gay person not to be able to have all the protections for the person they love and that it’s worth fighting for.”

The Times reports that one of the cases Buckel spearheaded, Nabozny v. Podlesny, was the first time a federal court ruled that schools have an obligation to prevent the bullying of gay students, said Camilla Taylor, acting legal director at Lambda Legal.


3. Buckel’s Suicide Letter States that Pollution “Ravages our Planet,” Making it Inhabitable

Buckel went to great lengths to make sure that first responders knew who he was and why he took his own life. According to the Daily News, he stapled his business card to the hand-written note that was found near his body, and neatly typed a second, longer note that detailed his explanation for his suicide.

The envelope containing both notes were inside a garbage bag, placed in a shopping cart near the charred remains of his body, according to the Daily News.

“Pollution ravages our planet, oozing inhabitability via air, soil, water and weather,” he wrote. “Our present grows more desperate, our future needs more than what we are doing.”


4. Buckel was an Avid Gardener, Known to Neighbors as a Quiet, Serious Man

Catherine Varous, a neighbor of Buckel’s, said he was very active in gardening, and together they worked on the Greenest Block in Brooklyn competition, the Times reports.

Varous said she often saw Buckel and his partner at the Park Slope Food Co-op and a farmer’s market.

“He was the quieter of the two,” she told the Times. “He was definitely more serious.”

Early morning joggers and bicyclists spotted the burning body as smoke wafted through the air on the first warm spring morning in Brooklyn.

Bicyclist Rahmin Pavlovic, 43, claims Buckel’s choice spot for his death was no coincidence.

“It’s definitely some kind of statement,” Pavlovic told the Daily News. “He did it out in the open, right near the main entrance. Not in some tucked-away part of the park.”

Another bystander who was out jogging stumbled across the body before it was covered with up with a tarp. “We were a little freaked out,” the jogger told the Daily News.


5. Twitter Users Expressed Sympathy and Sadness at Buckel’s Death, Called his Death an “Incomprehensible Loss”

Twitter was flooded with pain and grief over Buckel’s death, with many expressing how deeply Buckel touched their lives.

Twitter user Jim Bennett said that Buckel helped him find his path in fighting for marriage equality, and considered his death an “incomprehensible loss.”

Others remembered Buckel as a teacher and role model, who worked hard to advocate and fight for LGBT rights.

Some even considered the idea that Buckel was actually murdered, and didn’t take his own life.

Yet others were not as impacted by Buckel’s death, claiming that in the process of trying to make a statement, he just released more greenhouse gases into the air, thus contradicting his message of trying to save the planet.

 

29 Comments

29 Comments

Sucide is cowardice

Sucide is a foolish decision.
Those commit sucide actually go to hell .
Their Spirit roam around the surface of the earth .( It is said by some pagans)
But during judgement day ,(,they those committed sucide ),,will have less courage ,,,they will have less chance of entering kingdom of God.
Judas Iscariot straight went to hell after hanging himself .
Those who believe JESUS never encourage sucide ,, either directly or indirectly,,
Nor they commit sucide ever in their life,,,
They who believe JESUS have Peace in the world,,
Because of Jesus they will have courage to live in this WORLD.
Anyone escaped sucide attempt must be put in prison,,( jailed),,
Any politician who encourage people commit sucide must be given less respect..,,
They .must also put in jail minimum 20 years ,,
We must live to live ,,we must live to fight.
Sucide is cowardice..
Sucide is foolish ,,.,

,””
1. Buckel Set Himself on Fire to Protest Fossil Fuels and Bring Awareness to the Environmental Impact Humans are Having on the Earth.””
Though the above his words appears to us as if he died for a good cause ,,
Committing sucide is a crime .
Every one the world must fight to live ,,
Live to fight ,,
Live to achieve,,
Don’t die ,,,
RNIP ( rest not in peace )

skeptic

I suggest you get an Exhaustive Concordance and do some Biblical research. While many suicides may be for less than logical reasons, not all of them are. Pretty brave IMHO, to make the call…….think one knows all there is about the afterlife (if there is one or not). No doubt some of supposed faith, are cowards and just let Mother Nature make the call.

karen

You should allow someone else to think for you like this. Try kindness or empathy. We will all die one day. This man perhaps had depression or something else. Maybe he was tired of living. Can you not relate at all to the way a person who commits suicide might feel? He had real and human feelings. Do not judge this man who was noble and did so much in his life to take away others’ pain. if you believe in Jesus or God, you know that they love and accept others for who they are.

Kenney

I am strongly sympathic with the environmental and humanistic rights Mr Buckel championed. However, I believe something more was involved here, either severe depression or the possibility of foul play. Rest Peacefully

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