4,500 Protest Government At Austurvöllur - The Reykjavik Grapevine

4,500 Protest Government At Austurvöllur

Published November 3, 2014

Gabríel Benjamin
Photo by
Rebecca Scott Lord

Around 4,500 people attended a general protest against the government this afternoon, almost completely filling the parliamentary square. This marks it as one of the biggest demonstrations this year.

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Singer-songwriter Svavar Knútur had a short address at the beginning of the event, a likening the rally to the first of three warnings his father would give trouble makers at the dinner table before making them leave. He demanded that elected officials do their job with integrity, modesty and at least a modicum of respect for the general populace, instead of acting like they have, leaking information about asylum seekers and covertly weaponising their police force.

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Musician Jónas Sig performed two songs and also spoke in a similar vein as Svavar Knútur, but unfortunately many protesters could not hear him properly due to inadequate speakers.

Judging by the numerous signs and flags in place, people were demonstrating for a variety of reasons. Some signs suggested the government was corrupted, pandered to the rich and wealthy, while others had left-wing messages and urged for new elections.

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The 53-year-old teacher Ólöf Hunfjörð Samúelsdóttir told me she was felt compelled to protest following ongoing strikes in the educational and health sectors. She described the situation as being hopeless, and didn’t know where to begin on a long list of things that the government was doing wrong. Ólöf brought four family members with her to the protest.

Agent Fresco singer Arnór Dan Arnarson went further, saying that there was a great disparity between what the government said and how it acted. “It doesn’t make sense to say there’s no money to resuscitate our crumbling healthcare system, and then lowering taxes on fishing quotas.” He mentioned increasing privatisation and police militarisation as being signs of Iceland moving further from the Nordic welfare state ideal, and closer to the U.S. model. “This government is out of touch with reality and demolishing our society’s pillars—the only way to stop it is by making some major fucking changes and getting a new government.”

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The protest started losing steam once the sun set, and by seven o’clock it was down to a few hundred members. There were around twenty police officers present throughout, but at no point did they interfere with protesters. One officer said that they felt the crowd’s anger wasn’t directed at them, but at the politicians.

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