Wynn Alan Bruce: Vigil held in Washington DC for man who set himself on fire at Supreme Court

Wynn Alan Bruce  (Facebook)
Wynn Alan Bruce (Facebook)

A vigil was held on Friday evening in memory of Wynn Alan Bruce, who set himself on fire on the steps of the US Supreme Court in Washington, DC last week.

Mr Bruce, 50, died in hospital the day after his self-immolation, which has been described as an act of protest against the climate crisis. The incident took place on 22 April, Earth Day.

The vigil was organized by Declare Emergency, a group with the stated goal of getting President Joe Biden to declare a national emergency on the climate crisis.

The vigil was held in front of the US Supreme Court, where the crowd sang in rememberance of Mr Bruce, exactly a week after his death.

Following his death, Dr Kritee Kanko, a climate scientist and leader at the Boundless in Motion meditation community in Boulder, Colorado tweeted that Mr Bruce was a friend who she had meditated with.

“This act is not suicide. This is a deeply fearless act of compassion to bring attention to climate crisis,” Ms Kanko tweeted.

In October 2020, Mr Bruce posted a link on his Facebook page about the climate crisis, and later commented with the numbers 4-1-1, followed by a fire emoji and the date “4/22/2022.”

Mr Bruce’s father told The Washington Post that he agreed with the belief that his son’s action was meant as a “fearless act of compassion about his concern for the environment”.

The Independent has reported that Mr Bruce lived in Boulder for over 20 years, and had suffered a traumatic brain injury as a teenager.

Self-immolation has been used as a form of protest throughout history, including among some followers of Buddhist tradition. In 2018, civil rights lawyer David Buckel set himself on fire in New York’s Prospect Park — an action he directly attributed as a protest of fossil fuels.

Dr Kritee and other “teacher-leaders” at the Rocky Mountain Ecodharma Retreat Center in Colorado released a statement on Twitter this week. It said that they were mourning Mr Bruce and had any of them been aware of his plans they “would have stopped him in any way possible” as their “spiritual, moral and legal responsibility.”

If you are experiencing feelings of distress and isolation, or are struggling to cope, The Samaritans offers support; you can speak to someone for free over the phone, in confidence, on 116 123 (UK and ROI), email jo@samaritans.org, or visit the Samaritans website to find details of your nearest branch.

If you are based in the USA, and you or someone you know needs mental health assistance right now, call National Suicide Prevention Helpline on 1-800-273-TALK (8255). The Helpline is a free, confidential crisis hotline that is available to everyone 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

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