In what may be a repeat of events that sparked 2011's Arab Spring when a Tunisian fruit vendor self-immolated, protesting soaring food prices and sparking a revolutionary wave across Northern African and Middle Eastern nations, a Melbourne man set himself and his car on fire in front of horrified diners on the first day of the new year while screaming about Covid-19 vaccine mandates in Australia's Victoria state.
The man emerged from a silver MG3 hatchback engulfed in flames near Church St in Richmond about 8pm on Saturday, where police officers and firefighters doused the man with water to extinguish the blaze with the help of about five witnesses according to the Daily Mail.
The bystanders helped restrain the man before police officers pinned him to the ground. He was then taken into an ambulance and rushed to hospital. Police said he had suffered life-threatening injuries. One witness who helped restrain the man said his flesh was burning before the flames were put out with water.
Victoria Police said it was called to the intersection after reports of a man self-harming. The man was taken to hospital with life-threatening injuries.
Police cordoned off the area near the intersection of Church and Swan Street while customers at surrounding businesses were told to stay indoors. Bystanders said they initially saw black smoke coming from the vehicle, which was left with a charred driver's side door.
⚠️ WARNING DISTRESSING FOOTAGE: Witnesses have told of a man setting himself on fire in Melbourne while crying out about Victoria's vaccine mandates.— Avi Yemini (@OzraeliAvi) January 1, 2022
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Lydia O'Connor was having dinner at a nearby restaurant when she heard the man screaming.
"His skin was burning. He was on fire. His skin is stuck to [my] shirt," she told The Herald Sun. "He was off his face screaming about the mandates."
"He poured gas on himself and on his car. It was on purpose,' O'Connor told the publication. He was screaming about mandates. He was screaming "no vax ID" and throwing books."
Forensic police were then seen examining the area.
The incident caused disruptions to trams which run along Route 70 and Route 78 while the investigation continues.