US Air Force Member Sets Himself on Fire as Protest

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Protestors set up outside the DC Israeli Embassy where Bushnell protested. (Image Credit: Lauren Markoe)

On February 25, 2024, 25-year-old Aaron Bushnell, an Air Force member, set himself on fire outside the Israeli Embassy in Washington, DC. Eventually, he passed away from his injuries, leaving a very opinionated message to the Embassy about the Israeli-Hamas conflict. He was heard yelling “Free Palestine” before he eventually collapsed from his third-degree burns. The entire incident was live-streamed by Aaron himself on the video-streaming platform, Twitch, where the graphic scene of his protests was captured. In the live stream, he referred to the attacks in Palestine as “genocide” and urged for the freedom of the Palestinians. After the incident, the DC fire department responded to the call, finding Bushnell outside the embassy before 1 pm on Sunday in northwest Washington. During the duration of the firefighters’ arrival, the members of the Secret Service had managed to put out the flames. This was unfortunately not enough, as a little while later, Bushnell succumbed to his injuries. 

Aaron Bushnell was a military member in the Air Force region. According to NBC, Bushnell served with the 531st Intelligence Support Squadron in May 2020. He had a role as a cyber defense operations specialist, and the Air Force honored Bushnell by sending condolences to his close family/relatives and friends. It is known that Bushnell tried many times to voice his opinions about the ongoing conflict, through his different social media, which were constantly removed or ignored. He set himself on fire as he wanted his voice and opinions to be heard, not being comfortable engaging in complicit genocide anymore. The Major Air Force, Pat Ryder later at a news conference mentioned the event to be tragic, when discussing what happened. Many online have since posted comments sending condolences to Bushnell, and according to NBC, Bushnell was referred to as the “heroic pilot.”

The deaths surrounding the conflict have made people realize that the Israeli-Hamas conflict has stretched into its fourth month. Bushnell’s situation is very similar to the December incident outside the Israeli Consulate General building in Atlanta, where a woman has also resorted to burning herself as an extreme form of protest. And they aren’t the only ones, there have been protests worldwide since the attacks on Hamas on October 7th that wiped out nearly 1,200 people and where Hamas claimed 240 hostages. The numbers are rising as the conflict continues, claiming the lives of innocent men, women, and children. Recently, it was also known that a cease-fire called by the U.N. resolution also vetoed by the US along with a minimal amount of temporary cease-fires that happened. While a cease-fire has been scheduled to take place the coming Monday, March 4th, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has also shown that he has no intention to stop, defending his actions against Gaza. Right now, it has been confirmed by the Gaza Ministry of Health that the death toll has come to almost around 30,000 people. Bushnell’s actions have left everybody with a strong impression, with a realization of the stark reality of the ongoing conflict. While the extreme act has become a shock for people worldwide, it has drawn attention to the desperate pleas for justice felt by many people on a global scale. 

Written by Divya Saha

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