News & Politics

Antifa Activist Identified as Man Armed with Rifle Who Tried to Set Fire to ICE Center

Antifa Activist Identified as Man Armed with Rifle Who Tried to Set Fire to ICE Center
Protester outside the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) building in Portland, Ore. (Photo by Alex Milan Tracy) (Sipa via AP Images)

Yesterday, a man armed with a rifle and Molotov cocktails at the ICE Tacoma Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma, Wash., was killed by responding police officers, according to the authorities.

At around 4 a.m. on Saturday, the Washington State man threw “incendiary devices” at the ICE detention center and nearby cars, setting one on fire.

“The male attempted to ignite a large propane tank and set out buildings on fire,” a statement released by the Tacoma police department said. “The male continued throwing lit objects at the buildings and cars.”

Four officers arrived at the scene and were involved in the shooting. Police initially called out to the man and then shots were fired. It remains unclear who began firing first.

An ICE spokesperson confirmed that no employees were hurt at the shooting, according to The Daily Beast.

The man who attacked the ICE center has now been identified as 69-year-old Willem Van Spronsen of Vashon Island, Washington.

Van Spronsen was described as “an anarchist and anti-fascist,” according to Deb Bartley, a friend of his for about 20 years.

“He was ready to end it,” Bartley stated. “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.”

Van Spronsen has had a history of violence against the police.

Last year, in a protest outside the same federal immigration detention center, Van Spronsen wrapped his arms around a police officer’s throat and shoulders in an attempt to free another protester.

Van Spronsen was found to have been armed with a collapsible baton and knife in his pocket, leading to criminal charges.

Van Spronsen has previously worked as a self-employed carpenter and contractor. He was also a folk singer, performing on Vashon Island and around the Seattle area.

His manifesto has yet to be published publicly, but is assumed to expose his political ideology.

Antifa and members of antifa, as well as anarchist groups, praised Van Spronsen after knowing of his death.

Antifa Sacramento claimed, “RIP to Willem Van Spronsen / ‘May his memory be a blessing’ ‘Love to those still fighting.’”

“Antifascist” Beth Foster tweeted, “As far we know, Willem Van Spronsen is the first American killed attempting to liberate an American gestapo camp. There was a time when thousands of Americans, armed with the guns, attacked and liberated concentration camps … they were heralded as…”

The anarchist group, Revolutionary Abolitionist Movement, tweeted, “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 is joining a list of fallen anarchist martyrs who fought for a liberated world!”

Even public figure Shaun King, columnist for The Intercept, noted that “we should liberate them [those in ICE detention centers] NOW – by any means necessary.”