A few hundred people gathered at Austurvöllur this afternoon to protest what they believe are shortcomings of the coalition government between the Progressive Party and the Independence Party, which was elected this spring.
The area around Alþingi and the cathedral was cordoned off with riot barriers, and at least forty policemen were watching over the protest, which was a response to, among other things, the cutbacks being made to healthcare and education, its delayed help to households in debt, the revoking of the Nature Preservation Law and the fact that the implementation of a new constitution seems more far off than ever.
Amongst the protesters, Katrín Pálmadóttir Þorgerðardóttir from the Young Left Green Party said she was there to protest the government’s decision to withdraw the Nature Preservation Law, which was passed by the former left wing government. “The new government is letting economic interests override environmental protection,” she said.
Hlédís M. Guðmundsdóttir, the head of environmental affairs for the Young Left Green Party, emphasised that this was more that just an environmental protest. “This is a general protest against the government,” she said.
A member of the Humanist Party, Júlíus Valdimarsson explained that he was there to protest the government’s failure to follow through on its promises. “Before the election, The Progressive Party promised to correct certain cutbacks that the Left-Green coalition employed,” he said, referring to disability and pension benefits.
“Now the Minister of Social Affairs says that they’re not going to do anything about this. Instead they are lowering the taxes for the rich and the quota owners and neglecting the health care system.”
This particular day was chosen, as parliament officially opens its autumn session with members of parliament walking to and from the Reykjavík Cathedral for the opening ceremony.
When the members of parliament walked the short distance back to Alþingi, the noise from the protesters became almost deafening, with people whistling, yelling on megaphones, and kicking the police’s riot fences.
“Do you think they will listen to your protest?” I asked a woman next to me. She looked as me as if I were a bit crazy, returning my question: “Do you?”