An imprecise description can be as misleading as a false one. It is, for example, imprecise to say that Willem Van Spronsen was killed by police while attacking an immigration detention center in Tacoma, Washington. This was the standard account of the 69-year-old antifascist’s death offered by the news media. But don’t let that mislead you. Van Spronsen, at least, was more precise. His final act should be understood as such.
As far as we know: on July 13th, at around 4 a.m., the musician and carpenter neared the Northwest Detention Center, one of the largest Immigrations and Customs Enforcement concentration camps in the nation. In the parking lot, across the street from where over fifteen hundred migrants are jailed, he began his attempt to incinerate a fleet of ICE vehicles. With homemade incendiary devices, he tried to burn the empty buses, used to transport immigrants to and from cages and to the nearby airport for deportation. He reportedly aimed for a propane tank, too. His efforts were cut short; Tacoma police officers arrived and shot him dead. The aging anarchist expected as much. In a plainly worded final statement-cum-manifesto he wrote, “I regret that I will miss the rest of the revolution.”
He also wrote, “I have an unshakable abhorrence for injustice. That is what brings me here.”
ICE representative Shawn Fallah stated, misleadingly, “This could have resulted in the mass murder of staff and detainees housed at the facility.” Van Spronsen did not target any buildings holding immigrants or ICE staff. It’s true that he was armed, with a home-assembled AR-15, and we do not know whether he exchanged gunfire with the four Tacoma police officers who arrived on the scene; none of them were injured. (White supremacist mass murderer Dylann Roof was armed, too, when detained, unharmed by Charleston police after shooting up a black church. The cops bought him Burger King in custody.)