Man Sets Himself on Fire Outside U.S. Supreme Court Building, Throwing Pamphlets

Man sets himself on fire outside Trump trial in DC, highlighting security concerns and politically-motivated self-immolations in the US.

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Bijay Laxmi
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Man Sets Himself on Fire Outside U.S. Supreme Court Building, Throwing Pamphlets

Man Sets Himself on Fire Outside U.S. Supreme Court Building, Throwing Pamphlets

A man identified as Max Azzarello from Florida ignited himself in front of the U.S. Supreme Court building in Washington D.C. on Friday while distributing pamphlets containing conspiracy theories. The incident occurred in Collect Pond Park, opposite the courthouse where former President Donald Trump's criminal trial is taking place amid tight security.

Azzarello, who is in critical condition but alive and intubated at a hospital, reportedly tossed handfuls of pamphlets into the park prior to the self-immolation. A QR code from one of the pamphlets linked to a blog post where the author expressed grievances against various topics. Authorities found no immediate link between the incident and Trump's ongoing trial in New York.

Why this matters: This shocking incident is the latest in a series of politically-motivated self-immolations in the U.S., emphasizing the extreme measures some individuals are willing to take to express their beliefs or grievances. It also highlights the heightened security concerns surrounding high-profile trials and the potential for disturbing incidents near important government buildings.

Witnesses reported seeing Azzarello douse himself with an unspecified liquid and light himself on fire. Four police officers were lightly injured in the incident. The pamphlets he was distributing "seem to be propaganda-based" and contained information about "Ponzi schemes" and "the fact that some of our local educational institutes are a front for the mob," according to the New York City Police Department chief of detectives.

The self-immolation happened as the full jury of 12 New Yorkers and six alternates had just been selected for Trump's criminal trial. Trump, who has pleaded not guilty to 34 counts of business fraud related to a scheme to cover up hush money payments to a porn star prior to the 2016 election, declined to respond to questions about the incident as he returned to court after a break in the hearing. The trial is expected to start on Monday.

This incident is the latest in a series of recent self-immolations in the U.S. for politically-motivated reasons. In the past five months, there have been at least three instances of Americans setting themselves on fire in protest, including an active duty U.S. airman who died after setting himself on fire in front of the Israeli embassy in Washington, D.C. in February, and a woman who set herself on fire outside the Israeli consulate in Atlanta in December to protest Israel's actions in Gaza.

Key Takeaways

  • Man from Florida self-immolated outside US Supreme Court in DC.
  • Incident occurred near Trump's criminal trial, but no immediate link found.
  • Pamphlets contained conspiracy theories, Ponzi schemes, and mob allegations.
  • This is the latest in a series of politically-motivated self-immolations in the US.
  • Trump declined to comment on the incident as jury selection for his trial continues.