This week’s Jæja demonstration saw an estimated 1,000 people gather to protest, focusing this week on Minister of the Interior Hanna Birna’s refusal to step down due to her ministry’s leak of false information about Nigerian asylum seeker Tony Omos.
The crowd took to shouting popular slogans of government ineptitude before three speakers stepped onto to the stage. Landvernd environment association employee Sigríður Bylgja Sigurjónsdóttir, novelist Illugi Jökulsson and poet Bragi Páll Sigurðarson delivered short addresses where they recounted what was wrong with Icelandic society today and why Hanna Birna should resign. Musician Hemúllinn then concluded the affair with a few songs.
The protests have been accused of being unfocused, but singer-songwriter Svavar Knútur dismisses these claims as being spun by those opposed to the demonstrations. “It was obvious from the get go what it was about,” he says, “and we laid out our five-fold demands clearly at the first Jæja protest.” These demands include for the government to stop going against the country’s values, to stop trying to fragment society, to stop antagonising foreigners, the police and others, and to respect nature.
He adds that the protests are a venue for people to express their anger at the government, instead of bottling such negative emotions up.
At the end of the event, Sigríður encouraged people to take part in organising the upcoming Jæja protests. Organiser Baldvin Jónsson says at present the leaderless group has about ten people involved in planning the events, people from varying walks of life and political leanings. “We haven’t decided what the theme of the next demonstration will be,” he says, “there are many worthy contenders such as unequal distribution of wealth, renter’s rights, the status of people with disabilities, and so on.”
Regardless of what topic the group settles on, the Jæja protests appear to be here to stay, and the next one is planned for Monday November 24 at 17:00.