Published: Sun, April 15, 2018
Global | By Marsha Munoz

Environmental advocate dies after setting himself on fire in NY park

Environmental advocate dies after setting himself on fire in NY park

David Buckel a prominent "green" activist and lawyer for LGBT rights has died after setting himself on fire in Brooklyn's Prospect Park protesting ecological destruction and global warming.

Buckel was found when firefighters responded to reports of a fire in Prospect Park, the police spokesperson said.

Buckel famously served as lead attorney in a lawsuit involving transgender murder victim Brandon Teena, who was raped and then killed in 1993. Hilary Swank, who starred in the film, won an Academy Award and Golden Globe for her portrayal of Teena.

Buckel also served as marriage project director at Lambda Legal, a national organisation that fights for LGBT rights, where he was the strategist behind same-sex marriage cases in New Jersey and Iowa.

"Pollution ravages our planet, oozing inhabitability via air, soil, water and weather", Buckel wrote in his email to the Times. He left a note in a nearby shopping cart that he also emailed to several news outlets including The New York Times, the paper reported. "This is a tremendous loss for our Lambda Legal family, but also for the entire movement for social justice", the firm wrote in a statement published online. "We will honor his life by continuing his fight for a better world".

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"My name is David Buckel and I just killed myself by fire as a protest suicide", read a hand-written message left at the scene.

"Honorable goal in life invites honorable objective in death", Buckel wrote.

Varous said she often saw Buckel and his partner at the Park Slope Food Co-op and a farmer's market. Teena's story was portrayed in the movie "Boys Don't Cry".

"The decision vindicated David's firm belief that we could win such cases even in the heartland, and propelled us to victories elsewhere", Taylor said of the case.

"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".

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Buckel worked with several environmental groups, including doing volunteer work with the Added Value Red Hook Community Farm and acting as the senior organics recovery coordinator for the Brooklyn Botanic Garden's NYC Compost Project.

The case, known as Nabozny v. Podlesny, ultimately ruled in 1996 that schools have a responsibility to protect students from anti-gay abuse.

Susan Sommer, a former attorney for Lambda Legal and now the general counsel for the Mayor's Office of Criminal Justice, also reacted to Buckel's death.

Sommer added: 'He was a very smart and methodical lawyer. David was a handsome human being who was universally kind to everyone at Lambda Legal, committed to his clients, and devoted to our work'.

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