- 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.”
Looks like Willem Von Spronsen was also a member of the anti-fascist John Brown Gun Club of Pudget Sound. That’s him on the left, from their FB. pic.twitter.com/5cw9IV9CQM
— Jake Hanrahan (@Jake_Hanrahan) July 14, 2019
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.”
Along with many Americans, I object with every fiber of my being to Donald Trump’s inhumane treatment of immigrants in America. 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.
— Governor Jay Inslee (@GovInslee) July 14, 2019
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!”
RIP to anarchist fighter Willem Van Spronsen. The attack on the ICE 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! https://t.co/teXxBeUTLU
— RevAbolitionMov (@RevAbolitionist) July 14, 2019
Others called him a martyr and a hero:
Yep, plenty of love for comrade Willem. pic.twitter.com/8Hgm3AbKzi
— Rita Panahi (@RitaPanahi) July 14, 2019
#WillemVanSpronsen targeted ICE infrastructure in a bid to save lives. He is a hero, and we grieve his loss. Rest in Power comrade.
— Lou Lou (@loobylane) July 14, 2019
his name was Willem Van Spronsen. he was a 69 year old elder comrade who last year tried to free a 17 year old from police during a protest at the same ICE center. he literally gave his life for the cause. rest in power. remember him.https://t.co/JxClDbR1xA
— contranym (@c0ntr4nym) July 14, 2019
The Guillotine by The Coup. I feel like its only fitting to honor the passing of #WillemVanSpronsen a true hero. “We got the guillotine, you better run.” Fuck ICE, fuck the police. Fuck Donald Trump and fuck the two parties. https://t.co/wYpBzIz1jy
— ???????????????????????? ???????????????????????????????? ???????????????????????? (@GutterPossum) July 14, 2019
#WillemVanSpronsen was doing what’s right and died doing it, he’s a hero
— в.ра (@WinterFaithful) July 14, 2019
#WillemVanSpronsen is an American hero. When your nation falls to fascism and begins rounding up minority groups in concentration camps, rebellion is the only option left. The government had the chance to discontinue the camps, but they chose to lie and try to hide their crimes
— ☭Bat’ko Anarkhiya☭ (@batkoanarkhiya) July 14, 2019
History in the making. #RIPWillVanSpronsen #WillemVanSpronsen #HERO #CloseTheCamps #AbolishICE#ICEraids July 14th#KnowYourRights Do Not open the door. They’ve gone to black & immigrant neighborhoods, its not just ppl here “illegally” that are being targeted. https://t.co/G8bT7HFG5w
— ☭Commie☭Angel☭ #NoMoreWars (@CommieAngel) July 14, 2019
#WillemVanSpronsen is a hero and he won’t be soon forgotten. This is your one life to live during the brief moment in time of your existence. What are we all going to do to honor his memory and make sure this nazi state is smashed into a million pieces?
— Wayfinder Radio (@einbert1986) July 14, 2019
#WillemVanSpronsen is a hero, we take the law into our own hands when the law fails those in need
— Neon Nobility (@SirCranburry) July 14, 2019
This is an act of great courage. It takes a lot of conviction and valor to act against ICE-run concentration camps this directly. QEPD Willem Van Spronsenhttps://t.co/m31HThTgJu
— Jorge E. Cuéllar (@infrapolitics) July 14, 2019
#WillemVanSpronsen is a martyr, and he will be missed. Rest in power, comrade.
— Eiríka/Eirí (@Red_Sparty) July 14, 2019
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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