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Protester fires powder at Blair in parliament

/ Source: news services

A House of Commons session was suspended Wednesday after purple powder was apparently thrown at Prime Minister Tony Blair.

A man in a suit stood up in the public gallery and was heard to shout “do you realize” and something about “five years.” Blair visibly flinched as he was hit.

The man was grabbed by security officers, and Speaker Michael Martin immediately suspended the weekly session of prime minister’s questions.

The man who threw the powder was standing in part of the gallery reserved for members of the House of Lords and their guests. The normal public is behind a security screen to prevent such incidents.

A second man was seen to hold up a sheet of letter size paper, but it wasn’t clear what message was on it.

Father's Day prank?
After the attack, members of parliament brushed the purple powder off Blair’s left shoulder and hurried him out of the chamber amid fears that the substance may have been dangerous. Two men were later arrested.

“Two males have been arrested in connection with an incident at the Palace of Westminster (House of Commons),” a police spokesman said. “They are currently in police custody.”

Fathers’ rights group “Fathers 4 Justice” claimed responsibility for targeting the prime minister, dispelling fears of a terror attack.

A spokesman for the group said two men had made their protest in the run-up to Father’s Day on June 20, demanding equal rights for fathers. Purple powder was used because purple is the international colour for equality, the spokesman said.

The group, which wants to raise the awareness of fathers who cannot get access to their children when families are split up, has become famous for stunts that include scaling London’s Tower Bridge

Yet, while apparently harmless, the incident raised concerns about security in parliament, just weeks after a screen was erected in the public gallery in response to an intelligence warning that attackers could release anthrax or ricin into the chamber.