On June 3rd, some 4,000 people turned out for a Black Lives Matter demonstration in Reykjavík. Held at Austurvöllur square, the event was streamed live by the Reykjavík Grapevine and featured four speakers, all of them Black people living in Iceland. The event was regarded positively by most Icelanders, organisers told us. The police behaved themselves, either standing on the sidelines or in the crowd. No arrests were made. However, a distinct difference in reporting on the event could be seen in the days following the event.
While most reporters kept their focus on the issues being addressed—racism and police brutality in the US and in Iceland—some outlets focused on the event exceeding the public gathering maximum of 200 people. Police did not seem concerned by the supposed infraction, with Reykjavík area chief of police Ásgeir Þór Ásgeirsson saying, “I can’t see how Austurvöllur [could have a 200-person limit] unless we start limiting Laugavegur or Lækjartorg or someplace to no more than 200 people. That would be difficult to enforce.”
Presidential elections are this month. While it is considered unusual if not downright rude for anyone to run against a popular incumbent President in Iceland, Guðmundur Franklín Jónsson, a former stock broker and unabashed fan of US President Donald Trump, is taking a run at President Guðni Th. Jóhannesson. Even though the election is, at the time of this writing, pretty much a foregone conclusion—the latest polls show Guðni having the support of over 90% of those who intend to vote—that isn’t stopping Guðmundur from trying his best. And by that we mean he’s accused Guðni of saying things he never said, taking some of the things he has said completely out of context, and invoking the Spectre of the European Union, a robust trope amongst Icelandic populists. It should come as a relief to 90+% of Icelanders that they shouldn’t have to worry about Guðmundur darkening the halls of Bessastaðir anytime soon.
Finally, Iceland’s borders have opened. Schengen Area and UK legal residents were able to come to Iceland as of June 15th, and on July 1st, travellers from outside of Schengen will be able to come visit, too. So far, everything appears to be going according to plan, but there are still some I’s to dot and T’s to cross. For one, although visitors arriving to the country will have to be screened for the coronavirus, it looked like nurses were about to go on strike on June 22nd, which would certainly make it difficult to carry out testing. Fortunately, that strike has been postponed. While Icelandair is still trying to find its footing again, some 11 airlines are going to be flying to and from Iceland, which may help take up most of the slack.
As ever, those looking for more information or advice should go to the Icelandic Government’s excellent COVID-19 help page.
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