Fredericton — In1963, Thích Quang Duc set fire to himself to protest the persecution of Buddhists in Vietnam. Last month, climate activist Wynn Bruce did the same in recognition of Earth Day. This week, Fredericton resident Martin Campbell had hoped to be among these ranks. This, however, did not come to pass.
Campbell, 34, considers himself to be a “career protester,” moving from town to town attending any protest he sees, living on free barbecues and sleeping on politicians’ lawns.
He claims to have attended over 9,000 protests since 2011, staking his claims on both sides of the political divide. He even admitted to The Manatee, with some degree of shame, that he attended both an anti-mask rally and pro-regulation protest on the same day last year.
On that point, Campbell stated that while the pandemic was initially beneficial for business, the good fortune has gradually been dissipating over the past two years.
“In 2020, there was a new protest seemingly every week,” he explained. “It was a great time! I can not begin to tell you what a boon the rioting and looting in Montreal turned out to be. I was able to pick up several things I wanted — and I only needed 30 stitches!”
However, he said that he noticed that shortly after this initial burst of energy, many protesters have become discouraged by the lack of change. Consequently, fewer idealistic young people are bothering to take to the streets anymore.
“This, obviously, sucks for me,” he said. “A dude’s gotta eat, after all. That’s when I started getting a little more ‘theatrical’ with my protests, to — pardon the expression — light a fire under these kids and get them going again.”
So Campbell began doing anything that could grab attention. He showed up covered in red paint at a PETA rally, he shot himself in the foot to combat gun regulations and he kissed a dog in protest of cats. For his latest gimmick, he intends to light himself on fire to protest rising inflation.
“It’s a big stunt,” he said, proudly. “And since it’s a cause that a lot of people can get behind, I think it could really leave a mark — a metaphorical one, I mean, but I imagine it will also be difficult to scrape my charred remains from the steps of the legislature.”
However, due to the rising cost of fuel, Campbell said that he cannot afford the supplies necessary for the task. Without gasoline, his planned self-immolation will not be feasible. He demonstrated this by holding a lit match to his hand, which only managed to briefly blacken his palm before flickering out.
“Ow! See? Nothing!”
This desire to express himself through self-immolation is a strange one, as it does not appear to be an issue that Campbell feels all that strongly about. Certainly not strong enough to give his life for it.
“Yeah, If I were to do this, I’d be dead,” he admitted. “But…”
He stopped a moment to consider this.
“I guess I didn’t think too far beyond that, really.”