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The Grizzly Gazette

The Grizzly Gazette

The Grizzly Gazette

Aaron Bushnell: The Man on Fire

On February 25, 2024, 25-year-old Aaron Bushnell set himself on fire in front of an Israeli embassy while wearing an army uniform. As he burned alive, he chanted the words “Free Palestine!” repeatedly until he could no longer physically do so. This entire event was live-streamed onto the platform “Twitch”. 

Bushnell’s act of self-immolation was a protest against the U.S. monetary endorsement of Israel. Bushnell strongly disagreed with the U.S. government’s decision to support Israel in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. 

This received nationwide coverage and stirred many discussions among U.S. citizens. What many had found concerning was the police action in response to the self-immolation. 

During the livestream, a police officer approaches the burning man and orders him to “get on the ground” while aiming a gun at him. Many claimed that it was an inappropriate response to the situation. In the recording, another officer asks for “fire extinguishers” instead of pointing a gun. 

Before his self-immolation, Bushnell spoke to his friends of a will. He decided to donate all of his savings to the “Palestine Children’s Relief Fund”, and instructed that his cat be cared for by a neighbor. 

Aaron Bushnell was born and raised in Orleans, Massachusetts, and had been a part of a religious group many of his peers were also a part of. He was in the Community of Jesus but left in 2019. He had also formerly been in the military, starting his service in May 2020, but was set to end in May 2024. 

In an interview with the Washington Post, another former member shares the experience of being in the Community of Jesus. 

“A lot of us that got out are very much into social justice, trying to defend those who don’t or can’t defend themselves, because that is what we went through,” said Bonnie Zampino. 

Bushnell’s act of protest was to bring nationwide attention to the situation in Palestine and speak out against the genocide of the Palestinian people. On the morning of February 25, 2024, he shared a message on Facebook that foreshadowed his decision. 

He said, “Many of us like to ask ourselves, ‘What would I do if I was alive during slavery? Or the Jim Crow South? Or apartheid? What would I do if my country was committing genocide?’ The answer is, you’re doing it. Right now.”

This message has been deleted from Facebook, however, it showed the direct intentions of his actions. Some believe that this action was less of a protest and more of a form of suicide. 

The police report for Aaron Bushnell claimed that he was experiencing “mental distress”, insinuating that he had some sort of mental health problems that led to his self-immolation. 

This action is surrounded by controversy; pro-Palestinians grieve Bushnell and admire his protest, while others believe his act went too far. 

The White House has released statements about Aaron Bushnell, claiming his self-immolation as a “horrible tragedy”. However, no actions have been taken by the government to retract its economic support of Israel.

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