Lawyer who killed himself in protest put 'soul' into all his work

A legal colleague of the gay rights lawyer who self-immolated in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park said Sunday “there are other ways to fight for what you believe in.”

Adam Aronson, 52, was among many in the legal world shocked by David Buckel’s suicide Saturday morning. The noted gay rights lawyer and environmental activist set himself on fire near ballfields and left behind a note explaining that his suicide was intended as a wakeup call about the environment.

“He put his heart and soul into everything he did in life. He obviously decided to put his heart and soul in the way he died. I think it’s tragic. I wish he hadn’t done it,” said Aronson, who worked with Buckel at Lambda Legal from 2001 to 2006.

“There are other ways to fight for what you believe in. I wish this hadn't been the way that he had chosen to do it.”

Buckel left notes behind in the park detailing exactly what he’d done and why.

“I am David Buckel and I just killed myself by fire as a protest suicide,” he wrote. “I apologize to you for the mess.

“My early death by fossil fuel reflects what we are doing to ourselves.”

Aronson credited Buckel with playing a critical role in the gay rights movement.

“He helped change the landscape forever for LGBTQ people,” Aronson said. “His marriage rights work really helped transform the landscape in this country. We have (gay) marriage today in all 50 states.”

In recent years Buckel had become dedicated to environmental causes. He was the senior organics recovery coordinator with the NYC Compost Project, which is funded by the city Sanitation Department.

Buckel left behind his partner, Terry Kaelber, and a daughter, Hannah, according to Aronson.

A 2006 story in Gay City News said that Kaelber and Buckel were co-parenting their daughter with two women, Rona Vail and Cindy Broholm.

“He was a very private person,” Aronson said.

A man and two women at Buckel’s home on Prospect Park Southwest declined to give their names.

“He gave a statement and that's really what he wanted,” one of the women said.

“Right, that's what he wanted,” the man added.

“He was a wonderful, loving person.”

RELATED: The 10 most influential protests of 2017

The 10 most influential protests of 2017
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The 10 most influential protests of 2017
10. The May Day protests

Immigrant groups planned rallies nationwide on this year's May Day. The rallies and protests in major cities, including New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles, drew tens of thousands of people.

The goal was to stand up against President Donald Trump's anti-immigration platform and policies.

 REUTERS/Mike Segar 
9. The Women's March on Washington

The day after Trump's inauguration, an estimated 500,000 people attended the Women's March on Washington. Several other cities around the US and world held their own marches.

According to the DC organizers, the march's goal was to stand up for equality for all groups, especially women, LGBT folks, people of color, immigrants, and those with disabilities.

REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton 
8. The Venezuelan protests

Venezuela is facing ongoing protests, which began in early 2017 after the arrest of multiple opposition leaders and after the country's Supreme Court dissolved Parliament and transferred all legislative powers to itself. 

Protestors (known as opposition activists) argue that the move signals the erosion of democracy in Venezuela. They also attribute the country's high levels of inflation and chronic scarcity of basic resources to corruption in Venezuela's government, led by President Nicolas Maduro.

(Photo credit LUIS ROBAYO/AFP/Getty Images)

7. Various protests that occurred in Washington, DC

As the nation's capital, DC is a natural place for people to demand political change.

In 2017, people often Googled "DC protest" to learn more about the various political groups that organized there. Some of these protests included an LGBT equality marcha series of DACA marchesa pro-Trump rally, and the March for Black Women (aka the March for Racial Equality).

(Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
6. The airport protests

In late January, tens of thousands of people in over 80 US airports protested Trump's first travel ban, which would have temporarily barred refugees and immigrants from seven majority-Muslim countries.

Two federal judges blocked Trump's second iteration of the ban on March 15.

(Photo by Mohammed Elshamy/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
5. The St. Louis protests

In September, Jason Stockley, a white police officer on trial for murder in the shooting death of 24-year-old Anthony Lamar Smith, was acquitted in St. Louis, Missouri.

On the third of 16 days of protests, more than 120 people were arrested when a small group attacked police, broke windows, and flipped over trash cans, according to authorities. The next day, peaceful protesters locked arms on Market Street, a few blocks from the site of the previous night's violence.

The rallies continued throughout October and then again on November 24, when around 50 protestors attempted to disrupt Black Friday sales at the St. Louis Galleria mall.

(Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
4. The University of California, Berkeley protests

On 11 instances in February, March, April, August, and September, there were clashes between pro-Trump demonstrators (including the alt-right, white supremacists, and neo-Nazis) and anti-Trump counter-protestors (including socialists, anarchists, and Antifa members) in Berkeley, California.

The first protest happened when media personality and Trump supporter Milo Yiannopoulos was set to deliver a speech at the University of California, Berkeley. Further protests occurred due to pro-Trump rallies, after conservative commentator Ann Coulter pulled out of a planned speech, and after a student group cancelled a "Free Speech Week."

(Photo by Elijah Nouvelage/Getty Images)
3. The Boston Free Speech rally

In August in Boston, Massachusetts, a group planned a rally that aimed to "defend freedom of speech." The ralliers identified as members of the "alt-lite," a loosely organized, far-right group comprised of people who oppose mainstream conservatism to varying degrees.

The event ended up attracting fewer rally attendees than counter-protestors, who argued that hate speech should not be tolerated. 

Another far-right protest, met by over 100 counter-protestors, was held in the same location in November.

REUTERS/Stephanie Keith
2. The Charlottesville protests

In August, a group of white nationalists held a rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. It turned violent when a driver plowed into a crowd of counter-protesters and killed 32-year-old Heather Heyer.

Four days later, a crowd held a peaceful vigil in the wake of the violence.

Carrying lit torches, a white nationalist group later reappeared in Charlottesville in October. Just like the summer before, demonstrators chanted "You will not replace us!" and that the South would "rise again."

(Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
1. The NFL national anthem protests

Colin Kaepernick, an NFL quarterback who doesn't play for a specific team, spurred a wave of protests that prompted a series of reactionary tweets from President Trump. In September 2016, instead of putting his hand over his heart during the national anthem, Kaepernick kneeled to protest police brutality against people of color and to promote racial equality. 

Throughout the 2017 season, other NFL players did the same.

(Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

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