Man sets himself on fire outside Trump's hush-money trial on day two of jury selection

The New York Police Department held a press conference after a man set himself on fire outside of Donald Trump's hush money trial
The New York Police Department held a press conference after a man set himself on fire outside of Donald Trump's hush money trial

On Friday, a man set himself on fire near the courthouse where former President Donald Trump’s hush-money trial entered a second day of jury selection.

The man, who has since been identified as Max Azzarello, 37, of St. Augustine, Florida, poured an accelerant over his body around 1:35 p.m. in a public park across the street from the Manhattan Criminal Courthouse.

Azzarello then lit himself on fire and was engulfed in flames for several minutes before civilians and police officers extinguished the fire. He was rushed to a hospital in an ambulance, the New York Times reports. He is currently in critical condition.

Many citizens and reporters alike witnessed the tragic incident because they were gathered outside the courthouse for Trump's trial. CNN was reporting live when Azarello set himself ablaze and continued live coverage, with journalist Laura Coates telling the audience that she could smell "the burning of some sort of flesh" and see "a person whose body appears to be on the ground being surrounded by officers."

This is just the latest in a string of startling acts of self-immolation in the United States. According to the Daily Beast, there have been four in the last two years, with three happening in the previous three months alone.

Before self-immolating, Azzarello threw pamphlets into the air, which included anti-government conspiracy theories and a link to his Substack page with the heading “I have set myself on fire outside the Trump Trial.”

Azzarello had also been spotted outside of the lower Manhattan courthouse throughout the week, at one point holding a sign that read, “Trump is with Biden and They’re About to Fascist Coup Us.”

In an interview the previous day, he explained that his research into tech billionaire Peter Thiel shaped his opinion of the U.S. government. “Trump’s in on it,” Azzarello said, according to the NYT. “It’s a secret kleptocracy, and it can only lead to an apocalyptic fascist coup.”

The New York Post reported that Azzarello posted a 2,648-word manifesto online prior to the incident, where he said he lit himself on fire as an “extreme act of protest” over a “totalitarian con” and the upcoming “apocalyptic fascist world coup.”

Civil rights lawyer Gideon Oliver witnessed smoke coming from the park. “When I saw and smelled the smoke I thought someone, I assumed one of the pro-Trump protesters, had lit a fire in the park,” he told the NYT. “When I saw police and court officers running, I then thought it might have been a bomb.”

Considering how much Trump ignores the harm he caused with his policy decisions and his penchant for espousing conspiracy theories, it makes sense that he would also be unaware — or at least remaining silent — of the self-immolation that happened right near the courthouse where he is being tried for attempting to cover up hush-money payments.