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US Airman Sets Himself Ablaze in Fiery Protest Against ‘Palestinian Genocide’

US Airman a Himself On Fire Outside Israeli Embassy, Protesting Palestinian Genocide
File Photo | Aaron Bushnell

On February 25, 2024, Aaron Bushnell, a 25-year-old senior airman in the U.S. Air Force, conducted a self-immolation outside the Israeli embassy in Washington, D.C. This act was a protest against the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas.

Before the self-immolation Bushnell emailed a number of reporters as well as left-wing and anarchist news websites “Today, I am preparing to participate in an extreme act of protest against the genocide of the Palestinian people,” the email stated, cautioning that it would be “highly disturbing.”

Bushnell had set up a Twitch account under the name “LillyAnarKitty” featuring a Palestinian flag as his profile banner, accompanied by the caption “Free Palestine.”

While live-streaming, he approached the embassy, stating, “I am an active duty member of the United States Air Force. And I will no longer be complicit to genocide.”

“I am about to engage in an extreme act of protest. But compared to what people have been experiencing in Palestine at the hands of their colonizers — it’s not extreme at all. This is what our ruling class has decided will be normal.”

After setting himself ablaze, Bushnell consistently shouted “Free Palestine!”

While engulfed in flames, Bushnell eventually collapsed to the ground. An embassy security officer immediately called for help. Off-camera, a police officer, gun drawn, instructed Bushnell to “get on the ground,” while another officer exclaimed, “I don’t need guns, I need fire extinguishers.”

Several officers arrived at the scene and utilized fire extinguishers on Bushnell. He was taken to a local hospital by the DC Fire & EMS, where he ultimately succumbed due to his burn injuries.

Originally from San Antonio, Texas, Bushnell was raised in Massachusetts and attended public schools on the Cape Cod peninsula. Aaron Bushnell pursued his education in Computer Software Engineering at Southern New Hampshire University and took Computer Science courses at the University of Maryland Global Campus.

Serving as a cyber-defense operations specialist in the Air Force’s 70th Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance Wing, he was a part of the 531st Intelligence Support Squadron, and had been on active duty since May 2020.

In addition to his military service, Bushnell pursued a career as an “aspiring software engineer,” as indicated on his LinkedIn profile. He held a position at DevOps, a San Antonio-based company, from March 2023 until the current month.

Notably, he highlighted his graduation “top of class” from Air Force basic training in November 2020, emphasizing his “talent and passion for solving complex problems with code.”

The Metropolitan Police declined to verify the authenticity of the livestream, and the US Air Force initially refrained from commenting on the situation, citing family notification policies. In response to concerns about a suspicious vehicle possibly linked to Bushnell, a bomb disposal unit was dispatched, and the area was later declared safe when no hazardous items were found.

A public incident report provided to reporters by the Metropolitan Police Department indicated that Bushnell was “exhibiting signs of mental distress.” While in an interview with Al Jazeera, Lupe Barboza, a friend of Bushnell, remarked that Bushnell was both religious and anti-imperialistic. However, she expressed the opinion that Bushnell did not suffer from mental illness.

His act of protest immediately garnered admiration from certain antiwar and pro-Palestinian activists they celebrated his act for its impact- primarily raising awareness about the ongoing genocide in Gaza, while others expressed devastation over his choice to take such an extreme action.

Hamas released a statement expressing solidarity to his friends and family. “The administration of U.S. President Joe Biden bears full responsibility for the death of the American military pilot Aaron Bushnell due to its policy that supported the Nazi Zionist entity in the genocide war against our Palestinian people,” reads the statement.

“The heroic pilot Aaron Bushnell will remain immortal in the memory of our Palestinian people and the free people of the world, and a symbol of the spirit of global humanitarian solidarity with our people and their just cause,” the statement read further.

In December, another protester self-immolated in front of the Israeli consulate in the US state of Georgia, with police noting the presence of a Palestinian flag at the scene. The individual’s identity, however, was not disclosed.

Regrettably, due to the severe injuries he sustained, Bushnell succumbed on February 26th in the hospital marking the second occurrence of self-immolation in the United States.

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