First Martyr…not the last.
On July 13, Willem Van Spronsen was killed by police while taking action to disable a fleet of buses that are used to transport detainees at an ICE detention center in Tacoma. Several days after yet another death linked to the detention center, and another death at the hands of police, the Sacramento community held a banner drop and vigil to uplift his name. The demonstration was to take place at 6:30 pm, with some organizers arriving earlier. We were to stand in solidarity on the 7th ave. and 31st st. overpass with the flags and banner placed facing the northside of Highway 99.
Four of us stood along the fencing holding up a banner or flag for the passing cars to see below. Roughly 10 minutes passed since arriving, with a few shouts, honks, and middle-fingers occurring too. Two of us noticed a red honda civic get off the highway onto exit 297 for 12th avenue. The car turned left, and then another left, where a man got out of his car to approach us all from the left side of the overpass. Immediately spewing that Antifa was a terrorist threat of an organization and how the United States hated “people like us.” Wearing his FedEx work uniform and shouting louder as he got closer, he let us know that he was a Trump supporter. He approached the only male among us and began yelling in his face. We told him he needed to leave multiple times, bringing up the point that he must want to get fired since he was in his work uniform. He asserted that he could do whatever he wanted.
He grabbed the Anarchist flag from the fencing and attempted to throw it onto the highway. His efforts failed and he then began to hit the male organizer in the face multiple times. Two of us recovered the flag once it was dropped. He then used this distraction to grab the hat from the male organizer and throw it onto the highway. We were filming him and he decided to hit the phone out of one’s hands causing it to fall onto the pavement and break. There was no remorse for his actions as he walked quickly to get to his car. He said there was something in his car to deal with us, insinuating a gun. For our own protection, and as to not have the violent force of Sacramento PD involved, there was no other choice but to deescalate the situation and to get him to reconcile his thoughts. He punched a few more times and realized he couldn’t set out what he wished to do. His response was a careless apology and explanation of being so worked up about our political viewpoints, that he had no other choice but to conduct himself in the way he did.
At this point other organizers made it to the overpass. After assessing that there was no longer danger from this man, two of us escorted him to his vehicle and he drove off. From the inability of this man to control himself, to then escalating to the threat of shooting us, it was in the hands of the community to have him castigated for these actions.
The locations of FedEx Centers along or near Highway 99 were mapped out and used as a baseline of where he could be employed. After the first call to a location and letting whomever on the phone know about the incident ultimately resulted in the referral to call FedEx’s customer support line. After speaking to a representative on the phone and providing a full run-down of the situation, the complaint was marked as urgent to expedite the process of having him fired. Another representative reached out to ask for the video recording to be emailed as a way to identify the man and continue the course of action to have him removed. Due to the severity of this, a call was received on Friday the 19th informing that they found the location where he was employed. They said his boss would let him go the following Monday. His name was not provided at any of these times.
Amid a highly toxic social and political environment, defined by mistrust and resentment, and propelled by illegal and misguided practices – it is not hard to see that there is no justice, just us as a community. After experiences like this, we can feel intimidated to the point of inaction. However, just as our fallen comrade Willem Van Spronsen did, he used all of his efforts and did what he could to put an end to what he recognized as injustice. We the community have the power to protect and uplift one another. We are not required to rely on intervention from these harmful institutions that use their savior complexes to defend us, because it consistently shows to cause more harm than good. Look to your fellow organizers to encourage one another to accomplish all things to transform and abolish the systems that wish to hold us down. It will take patience, and it won’t always be a linear process. But continue to be strong in the face of open fascism doing what we do; fighting for a better world. We do not need heroes, only friends, and comrades to heal with us even in the darkest of hours
We miss our fallen comrade Willem Van Spronsen and wish that his actions had not ended in death. May his death serve as a call to direct action and organizing. As our comrade Willem once said, “doing what I can to help defend my precious and wondrous people is an experience too rich to describe.” May these words serve as a shared feeling while fighting to overcome the struggle in all its forms and levels. ”