November 9

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1965

Roger Allen Laporte, a 22-year-old former seminarian, protesting against American participation in the war in Vietnam, sets himself on fire in front of the United Nations building in New York.  Inspired by the examples of Vietnamese Buddhist monks, American pacifist Alice Herz, and the Quaker Norman Morrison who had committed self-immolation earlier, LaPorte drenched himself with gasoline, and set himself alight, dying the next day from his burns. When asked why he had done this, La Porte replied, “I’m a Catholic Worker. I’m against war, all wars. I did this as a religious action.” The Catholic Worker movement, founded by Dorothy Day and Peter Maurin in the 1930s, stresses charity, non-violence and a counter-cultural Christianity.

Laporte’s suicide by fire would not be last such death in protest against American participation in the Vietnamese war. Two others would follow by 1970.

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