A climate activist has died after self-immolating outside of the Supreme Court on Earth Day.
Wynn Bruce, 50, lit himself on fire at approximately 6:30 p.m. on Friday.
Bruce, a Buddhist from Colorado, was airlifted to the hospital with critical burns. He passed away at the hospital on Saturday.
#Breaking: Just in – Video of the police on the scene near the Supreme Court building in Washington #DC, showing you and hearing the sounds of a person screaming in agony after he set himself on fire, and after the fire was extinguished by police officers. #US pic.twitter.com/Xpkee02BC7
— Sotiri Dimpinoudis (@sotiridi) April 22, 2022
While his motive has not yet been announced by law enforcement, Bruce had shared a link to an online class about climate change on Facebook in 2020 — and went back to it last year commenting “4/22/2022” with a fire emoji.
On March 28, Wayne wrote on Facebook, “this is not humor. It is all about breathing.”
Boulder-based Buddhist priest Sensei Kritee Kanko posted about Bruce’s death on Twitter, claiming that he was a friend and the self-immolating was “not suicide.”
“This guy was my friend. He meditated with our sangha. This act is not suicide. This is a deeply fearless act of compassion to bring attention to climate crisis. We are piecing together info but he had been planning it for atleast one year. #wynnbruce I am so moved,” Kanko wrote.
This guy was my friend. He meditated with our sangha. This act is not suicide. This is a deeply fearless act of compassion to bring attention to climate crisis. We are piecing together info but he had been planning it for atleast one year. #wynnbruce I am so moved. https://t.co/bHoRaLK6Fr
— Dr. K. Kritee (@KriteeKanko) April 24, 2022
Bruce’s LinkedIn account says that he was a photojournalist and had attended Front Range Community College and the Community College of Denver.
Self-immolation has long been considered the most extreme form of protest, with many arguing that it is also “non-violent,” as the person typically goes to great lengths to make sure no one else is harmed — including the 14th Dalai Lama.
“I think the self-burning itself on practice of non-violence. These people, you see, they [could instead] easily use bomb explosive, more casualty people. But they didn’t do that. Only sacrifice their own life. So this also is part of practice of non-violence,” the Dalai Lama said in 2013, according to a report from ABC News.
In 1965, Norman Morrison lit himself on fire outside the Pentagon to protest the war in Vietnam.
In 2017, a man lit himself on fire outside of Trump Hotel to protest the election of former President Donald Trump.
“I was trying to light myself on fire as an act of protest,” the man told NBC News at the time. ” Protesting the fact that we’ve elected someone who is completely incapable of respecting the Constitution of the United States.”
In 2019, a man on an electric scooter lit himself on fire outside the White House and survived, though his motive was never revealed.
A man in a wheelchair-type electric scooter lit his jacket on fire outside the White House fence on Friday and was hospitalized with what appeared to be non-life threatening injuries, the U.S. Secret Service said. pic.twitter.com/DMwJV0sL12
— Srbija Evropa (@srbija_eu) April 12, 2019
One month later, another man lit himself on fire outside of the White House. He did not survive.
A man lit himself on fire outside of the White House
Warning: This video contains graphic content pic.twitter.com/93HGmTLg8n
— Bloomberg Quicktake (@Quicktake) May 29, 2019
Self-immolation has been practiced for centuries and is considered a valid and important form of protest by some who follow Mahayana Buddhism and Hinduism.
If you are struggling with suicidal thoughts or are experiencing a mental health crisis you can call the National Suicide Prevention hotline, 24/7, at 1-800-273-8255 or go to SuicidePreventionLifeline.org.