60 years ago today, Iceland formally joined NATO – and Iceland’s most famous riot started.
As talks with NATO appeared to be reaching a head, tensions built. This culminated in a march from Miðbæjarskóli in downtown Reykjavík to Austurvellir, in front of parliament. Largely leftist protestors clashed with Conservative Party members and police. Things took a turn for the worse when the leader of the Socialist Party announced that some members of his party were being held captive in the parliamentary building. It was then that violence broke out, culminating in the use of tear gas. The parliamentary building was damaged by thrown rocks breaking windows. A photo taken at the event can be seen here.
While protests continued after Iceland’s confirmation into NATO, mostly focusing on the US naval base in Keflavík, their attendance began wane to in more recent yaers, especially after the base’s closing in 2006. Up until then, Iceland’s role as a NATO member has been largely one of allowing for military exercises in the country’s air space or navigational waters, and as a stopping point for military air vehicles going to and from conflict areas – Iceland has no standing army, and only sent military personel (in the form of “The Icelandic Peacekeeping Guard”) to Afghanistan and Iraq.
Protests commemorating Iceland’s entry into NATO will be held in front of parliament today at 17:00.