Published August 15, 2016
Today’s demonstration by the Icelandic National Front (INF) was met with an overwhelming response – from demonstrators showing their solidarity with refugees, asylum seekers and immigrants in Iceland.
As reported, the INF had planned last Thursday to hold a demonstration at 15:00 today, expressing their opposition to recent revisions to Iceland’s immigration laws, and to protest against the building of a mosque in Iceland (which has been over 15 years in the waiting), amongst other things. In response, hundreds of Icelanders organised their own demonstration in support of tolerance.
At the high point of the demonstration, members of the INF numbered about 30, while demonstrators in opposition to their platform were easily four times that number. The demonstration was for the most part peaceful, although at one point a demonstrator took a sign from the INF and smashed it to pieces. A member of the INF threatened this demonstrator with criminal charges for destruction of property, but the police made no arrests.
(Demonstrators chant “Down with prejudice” at the INF.)
Sema Erla Serdar, one of the organisers of the demonstration against the INF, spoke to us about the impetus for the event. She emphasised that this was not a counter-demonstration, but rather a demonstration of its own to show solidarity with refugees. She said she was not surprised by the turnout, because she believes Iceland is a multicultural society and that most Icelanders want to keep it that way.
One event that stood out in particular was when Iranian asylum seeker Morteza Songolzadeh began to distribute free coffee and chocolate – to the INF. We asked him what his rationale for his generosity was, and he told us that he believes that deep down, Icelanders are good people at heart. He wanted to convey his message to the INF that refugees are not coming to Iceland to steal anyone’s opportunity; rather, he believes the refugees are themselves an opportunity for Iceland.
Towards the end of the event, demonstrators encircled the INF, joining hands and chanting. After about an hour and a half, the crowd dispersed. No word yet on what INF’s next move will be, but if today was any indication, they can expect a concerted response.
(The view as seen from the top of the statue of Jón Sigurðsson.)