Andy Ngo, New York Post, July 17, 2019
In the early hours on Saturday, police in Tacoma, Wash., rushed to the local Immigration and Customs Enforcement facility. An armed man was firebombing the building and nearby vehicles. Police killed him in a shootout after he attempted to set off a large propane tank connected to the facility. Antifa social media accounts subsequently identified their fallen “comrade” as Willem Van Spronsen.
The underreported incident marks a new chapter in the return of armed left-wing terrorism to the United States. It also triggered a flash of memory in my mind: I had crossed paths with Van Spronsen in December, when a group of rifle-carrying antifa militiamen tried to prevent me from filming their protest outside Seattle City Hall.
Though known for their hallmark masks and black uniforms, antifa isn’t a formal, centralized group. Its “members” operate as a loose grouping of militant Marxists and anarchists drawn from various autonomous far-left groups. Political violence is a feature, not a bug, of antifa, which believes itself to be in an existential struggle with latter-day fascism.
Keith Ellison gleefully posted—and recently deleted—a selfie of himself holding Bray’s antifa handbook. Rep. Maxine Waters met hard-left political operative Joseph Alcoff in 2016. Alcoff is currently facing felony charges for his alleged involvement in an antifa mob beating of two Marines in Philadelphia.
That last choice of targets—Marines—was no accident. Antifa operates by a very broad definition of “fascists.” By antifa’s telling, fascists include mainstream conservatives and even centrist journalists who dare criticize them. But they save most of their hatred for US law enforcement and military service members. Antifa’s goal is violent political revolution, and it sees law-enforcement officers and the military as the main obstacles.
As the Saturday incident shows, law enforcement should pay more attention to the various armed militias that ally with the wider antifa movement. Van Spronsen was a member of the John Brown Gun Club, a Marxist gun organization that calls itself “anti-fascist, anti-racist, anti-capitalist and anti-patriarchy.”
The JBGC was glowingly featured in a May episode of CNN’s “United Shades of America.” Host W. Kamau Bell even solicited donations from the public on the group’s behalf. Elite cheering of terrorism hasn’t been this chic since Leonard Bernstein fundraised for the Black Panthers at his Park Avenue pad.