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Twitter Users Defend Willem Van Spronsen After He Attacked Detention Facility, Died In Shootout With Police

  • A number of Twitter users defended a man who attacked a Washington ICE detention facility Saturday after it was revealed he belonged to anti-fascist group Antifa.
  • Willem Van Spronsen, 69, died in a shootout with the police following his attack.
  • No law enforcement officers were injured and only a car was set on fire.

A number of Twitter users are blaming a 69-year-old anti-fascist’s decision to attack a private detention facility on anti-illegal-immigration rhetoric.

Some are even calling him a martyr.

Willem Van Spronsen died Saturday morning after a shootout with police when he arrived at the Tacoma, Washington, facility with the intent to set the building on fire, the Tacoma News Tribune reported.

The Tacoma Police Department responded to calls around 4 a.m. when Van Spronsen, armed with a file and flares, started throwing incendiary devices toward a propane tank in an effort to set fire to the facility and managed to ignite a car.

Deb Bartley, a friend of Van Spronsen, told The Seattle Times that he identified as an anarchist and anti-fascist (Antifa), and she believes his intent in attacking the center was to provoke a conflict.

“He was ready to end it,” Bartley said. “I think this was a suicide. But then he was able to kind of do it in a way that spoke to his political beliefs . I know he went down there knowing he was going to die.”

Some people shared their responses on Twitter to news that Van Spronsen’s attack was a member of Antifa.

A number of users appear to sympathize with Van Spronsen’s actions and are blaming his motivation behind the attack on anti-illegal-immigration rhetoric by President Donald Trump and his supporters.

2020 presidential candidate and Washington Gov. Jay Inslee connected Trump to the attack: “Along with many Americans, I object with every fiber of my being to Donald Trump’s inhumane treatment of immigrants in America,” he tweeted. “But violence is not acceptable. We must be better and seek non-violent ways of pursuing the better world we want, as many groups are doing.”

One Antifa account called RevAbolitionMov with nearly 3,000 followers wrote, “RIP to anarchist fighter Willem Van Spronsen. The attack on the [Immigration and Customs Enforcement] facility in Tacoma is a proportionate action against enslavers and internment camp operators. He joins a long list of fallen anarchist martyrs who fought for a liberated world!”

Others called him a martyr and a hero:

GEO Group, a private correctional institutions company that owns the facility Van Spronsen attacked in Tacoma, told The Associated Press that accusations made against its facilities “have led to misplaced aggression and a dangerous environment for our employees, whose safety is our top priority.”

“Violence of any kind against our employees and property will not be tolerated,” GEO Group continued. “We are thankful for the quick and brave action by the Tacoma Police Department, which prevented innocent lives from being endangered.”

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