Aaron Bushnell death sees wave of pro-Palestine support in US

Aaron Bushnell death sees wave of pro-Palestine support in US
Aaron Bushnell's protest has sparked multiple shows of support for the Palestinian cause in mainstream US media.
3 min read
29 February, 2024
Protestors question the US' role in the genocide of Gaza at a vigil honouring Aaron Bushnell. (Photo by Lev Radin/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Aaron Bushnell's death has sparked unexpected displays of public support for Palestine and Gaza in the US, including from US army veterans and presidential candidates.

Vigils have been held for Bushnell, a US airman who died on Sunday after setting himself on fire outside the Israeli embassy in Washington to protest the war on Gaza.

The 25-year-old US airman live-streamed his self-immolation, which he described as an "extreme act of protest", shouting his final words - "Free Palestine" - as flames engulfed him.

Vigils held in his memory in various US cities after his death have drawn throngs of peace activists and Palestine supporters, including one at New York City’s Times Square on Tuesday.

Some, including army veterans, have used the vigils as a way of voicing support for Gaza. 

Footage from a vigil held in Portland on Wednesday showed a group of US veterans burning their uniforms in a show of solidarity with the US airman.

The protesters stood in front of a banner that read: "Veterans say: Free Palestine! Remember Aaron Bushnell."

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Public figures have also expressed their support for the Palestinian cause while commemorating Bushnell's death.

Left-wing independent 2024 presidential candidate Cornel West praised Bushnell on X, calling him a "brother".

"Let us never forget the extraordinary courage and commitment of brother Aaron Bushnell who died for truth and justice! I pray for his precious loved ones! Let us rededicate ourselves to genuine solidarity with Palestinians undergoing genocidal attacks in real time!" he tweeted.

West reiterated his tribute in an interview with CNN, saying that Bushnell's death should send a moral message to the US political class.

"We've seen the example of our dear brother, Aaron Bushnell," West said. "When he set himself on fire, killed himself, what was he saying? These are moral issues and moral causes. These are not just brands and strategies and tactics."

Another presidential candidate running for the US Green Party, Jill Stein, expressed solidarity with both Bushnell and Palestine.

"Rest in power Aaron Bushnell... May his sacrifice deepen our commitment to stop genocide now," she said. 

US Air Force Chief General David Allvin also commented on Bushnell's death on Wednesday, calling it a "tragedy". 

"Any suicide, whether by political protest or by resiliency issues or wherever it is, is a tragedy," Allvin told reporters.

"As we're looking at wherever the rationale might be, there’s a standard investigation process [to] go through that and we look at that to make sure we understand everything about it without invading the personal privacy." 

Bushnell wrote a will before his self-immolation pledging to donate his savings to the Palestine Children’s Relief Fund, a non-profit that has been delivering lifesaving medical relief and humanitarian aid to Gaza, his friend said.

He is the second person known to have self-immolated in the US as an act of protest against the Israeli offensive in Gaza, which has killed more than 30,000 people since it began in October.