Demonstrators return to immigration jail after attack, death

TACOMA, Washington (AP) – Demonstrators returned to an immigration jail in Washington in the United States (US) a day after an armed man threw incendiary devices at the detention centre and later died.

Willem Van Spronsen, 69, was found dead last Saturday after four police officers arrived and opened fire.

Demonstrators returned last Sunday to the privately run Tacoma Northwest Detention Centre, KOMO-TV reported. The demonstrators were protesting the facility and US Immigration and Customs Enforcement roundups that were supposed to begin last Sunday. There were about 100 people gathered outside the centre, the television station reported.

The facility holds migrants pending deportation proce-edings.

The detention centre has also held immigration-seeking pa-rents separated from their children under US President Donald Trump’s “zero tolerance” policy, an effort meant to deter illegal immigration.

A police officer guards the front of a road block near the Northwest Detention Centre in Tacoma, Washington. – AP

The centre’s operator, GEO Group, said in a statement it was aware of a “community gathering” last Sunday. “We respect every individual’s right to use their voice and express their opinions,” the centre said.

Bullet holes riddled the scene last Sunday, The News Tribune reported. Police searched Van Spronsen’s Vashon Island home, the Tacoma newspaper reported.

Van Spronsen’s friend, Deb Bartley, told The Seattle Times she thought he wanted to provoke a fatal conflict.

She described him as an anarchist and anti-fascist.

“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.”

Van Spronsen was accused of assaulting a police officer during a protest outside the detention centre in 2018, The News Tribune reported.

According to court documents, he lunged at the officer and wrapped his arms around the officer’s neck and shoulders, as the officer was trying to detain a 17-year-old protester June 26, 2018, the newspaper reported.

According to court documents, police handcuffed Van Spronsen and found that he had a collapsible baton and a folding knife in his pocket. Van Spronsen pleaded guilty to the charge of obstructing police, and he was given a deferred sentence in October, The News Tribune reported.

Van Spronsen had worked as a self-employed carpenter and contractor, according to court documents.

He was also a folk singer, playing shows on Vashon Island and around the Seattle area, The Times reported.