Twiggy versus Tony: Citizen's arrests don't work when they're paid for

The anti-war movement has an important case to make. But they know that this money-reward mechanism is surely not strengthening their argument

Share
Related Topics

Whatever you say about Tony Blair, it is difficult to describe the former Prime Minister’s brief “arrest” by a barman who worked at the east London restaurant he was dining in last week as anything but absurd. The bizarre encounter turned into a debate between Blair and the barman, which quickly finished when the barman decided to exit to avoid trouble with the security.

There is nothing surprising about the knee-jerk reaction to this incident by sections of the media and social media, hailing the barman – Twiggy Garcia - as a hero. What is less discussed is a possible extra inventive for Garcia’s daring act - the reward Garcia stood to receive upon his successful “arrest”. A cheque worth approximately £2222.55 is on its way to Garcia - merely for putting his hand on Blair’s shoulder and uttering: “You’re under arrest.”

The reward was provided by ArrestBlair.org, a bounty website founded by writer George Monbiot in support of anyone who succeeds in performing a citizen’s arrest on Blair. Monbiot was quick to react to the story, and to take the chance to advertise his bounty site and the tempting reward it offers. Monbiot praised Garcia for grabbing the news agenda, declaring that “the clamour to ensure that such crimes become unthinkable in future has risen again.” Monbiot even called it “a small but significant contribution to peace.” Heaven knows what Monbiot would consider as an “insignificant” contribution to peace.

Peter Tatchell’s defence of Garcia in the Independent was equally entertaining to read. Titled “People Power”, Tatchell spent the majority of the article detailing his own attempts in the past to “arrest” Robert Mugabe, and then expressed his anger towards the police for not taking him seriously. According to Tatchell, the legal status of citizen arrest is “an essential element of a democratic judicial system.” “Too often the rich and powerful use their influence to evade justice,” he wrote. “The right of citizen's arrest gives the unrich and unpowerful the means to make sure they don't get away with it.” That, too, is a fair point to make. Yet nowhere in the article can Tatchell’s reader find the slightest clue that Garcia walked away from the restaurant knowing that he might receive more than £2k from Monbiot.

Garcia is not the first to claim the cash, and Blair is no stranger to citizen’s arrests. The former PM had been “arrested” four times before last week. As far away as Hong Kong, as recent and memorably as in the Leveson enquiry, anti-war protesters have never ceased to remind the public of their accusation against Blair: he is a war criminal, for Iraq was an illegal war.

But it is not quite that simple. For while it is fine to raise an issue via peaceful means, it is quite another matter when the incentive of money is involved. In fact, I would gladly salute Grace McCann and David Cronin, who both made citizen’s arrests on Blair, but unlike Garcia (so far), kindly donated their cheques to anti-war organisations. They expressed their views, appeared in the news, with no controversial “bounty” implications.

The Iraq war is not forgotten by the British people. Who would forget the largest demonstration in British history? Who could forget a war that cost hundreds hundreds of thousands of Iraqi lives, and hundreds British servicemen and women’s lives? Furthermore, how can one argue that Britain forgot the lesson of Iraq when it was “the well of public opinion… poisoned by Iraq” (David Cameron) which led to our parliament’s shameful decision to abandon the Syrian people at the mercy of two evils?

Yes, the anti-war movement has an important case to make. But they know as well as anybody that these so-called arrests are at best symbolic, at worst shambolic. They should know that this money-reward mechanism is not strengthening their argument, but damaging their integrity and compromising their credibility. They should know better than anybody that Garcia’s action, like those before him, is trivial and meaningless. It is more of an act to fuel someone’s ego, with a side benefit to their personal finance, and carries no significance for the anti-war movement, regardless of what you think about Blair or the war on Iraq.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

The Jenrick Group: Maintenance Planner

£28000 - £32000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: Maintenance...

The Jenrick Group: World Wide PLC Service Engineer

£30000 - £38000 per annum + pesion + holidays: The Jenrick Group: World Wide S...

The Jenrick Group: Project Manager

£35000 per annum + Pension+Bupa: The Jenrick Group: We are recruiting for an e...

The Jenrick Group: Night Shift Operations Manager

£43500 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: Night Shift Operatio...

Day In a Page

Read Next
African elephants in Botswana photographed by television presenter Chris Packham  

We've made incredible progress, but there's still more to do to make sure we save the elephant

Hugo Campbell
Elton John and David Furnish finalise their marriage paperwork  

Don't be blinded by the confetti — the fight for marriage equality in the UK isn't over yet

Siobhan Fenton
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'