One of the world’s most controversial political figures had an unlikely brush with reality on Friday, with Tony Blair subjected to a humiliating citizen’s arrest attempt by a DJ working as a barman at trendy London eaterie the Tramshed.
It appears Blair was caught off-guard during an intimate meal with family and friends. The former Prime Minister has been haunted for almost a decade by the legacy of what many term an illegal war which saw up to a million Iraqis die and the country left ravaged by rival militia groups.
While Blair is used to facing protests wherever he goes, from high level conferences to book signings, he has never been ambushed in a social setting – until now.
The restaurant, owned by Mark Hix and situated in Shoreditch, London, serves just two main courses – chicken and steak. Complete with Damien Hirst artworks and hipster clientele, it could not be more removed from Tony Blair’s past experiences of state banquets.
DJ and aspiring producer Twiggy Garcia told Vice he had fantasised for years about ‘arresting’ Blair. He couldn’t believe his luck when he discovered he was in the very restaurant he was working. It was not a plan, he claimed on Monday but “something I have wanted to do for a few years. I had been waiting for the opportunity after seeing the website arrestblair.org and it just so happened that we were in the same place at the same time.”
Mr Garcia recalls his “heart rate increased” when he discovered Blair’s “eerie presence” was in the building. He feared Blair’s security detail might have overheard him saying “should I citizen’s arrest him?”
His motivation? “I believe Blair is responsible for the mass murder of Iraqi civilians after taking our country into an illegal war.”
Mr Garcia recalls how he made his move. “He was sitting at the head of a table upstairs in the restaurant with about eight other people eating dinner. I think he was out with his family and a few friends.” He added: “I went over to him, put my hand on his shoulder and said: “Mr Blair, this is a citizen's arrest for a crime against peace, namely your decision to launch an unprovoked war against Iraq. I am inviting you to accompany me to a police station to answer the charge.”
By all accounts, Blair turned on a typical ‘Teflon Tony’ performance, trying to engage the barman in a civilised debate over Syria. Mr Garcia says how the former Prime Minister “kept changing the subject and talking about Syria” and told him: “I think you should be more concerned about Syria, to be honest.” Mr Garcia was not impressed. “I didn’t expect him to start debating with me. I think he actually believed the lies that were coming out of his mouth.”
But the barman’s time was running out. “One of his sons got up and went to get the plain clothes security from downstairs. I decided to get out of there sharpish...I quit my job there and then.”
Speaking yesterday, Mr Garcia admitted: “I’m still in disbelief I got the opportunity to citizen’s arrest the former Prime Minister.”
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Blair’s office tried to brush it off. In a statement, a spokesman for the former Prime Minister told The Independent: “There is nothing to report here apart from fact that Mr Blair did offer to discuss the issue – that offer was declined and the individual walked off. Nothing else happened. Everyone is fine and they had a great time at the restaurant.”
Mr Garcia is the fifth person to have tried to bring the former Prime Minister to justice, at the prompting of the arrestblair.org website. He’s unlikely to be the last and was unrepentant on Monday night.
“I hope that it will keep people from forgetting that he is a war criminal. I hope one day he faces his charges in The Hague. People seem to think that those laws only apply to Nazis and African warlords.”
Arrestblair.org offers a bounty for those who arrest Tony Blair (or at least to get arrest attempts publicised). George Monbiot, who runs the site, told The Independent that Mr Garcia had submitted a claim for his share of the fund and they will review whether he will receive the £2150 over the next couple of days.