Saturday, December 2, 2006
Shortly before 7am on November 3rd, four days before election day, Chicago’s 25-foot-tall sculpture, "Flame of the Millennium", served as the backdrop for Malachi Ritscher as he stood overlooking the morning rush hour on the Kennedy Expressway and lit himself on fire.
When authorities reached him, he was already dead and beside his charred body lay a homemade sign that read, “Thou Shalt Not Kill”. It was later revealed in statements written by Ritscher that his self-immolation was a political protest of America’s war in Iraq.
Ritscher is the ninth person to ever ignite himself in an act of political protest on American soil. You would think that this would make the news, and yet almost a month after the fact, CBS2 and the Chicago Sun-Times are the only major news media to have devoted minimal blurb coverage to the event. In the past week, news organizations (the Gaurdian, the Nation) have begun to report on his death, thanks to the efforts of one woman.
Jennifer Diaz, a graduate journalism student at the University of Illinois, has taken to the task of publicizing not only Ritscher’s suicide but also the startling lack of news coverage that has come of it. She has created a website and has been involved in a mass emailing campaign to help spread the facts of Ritscher’s death, his cause and the deficient amount of reporting on these elements.