MONDAY – things are relatively calm.
TUESDAY – major protests begin. People gather in front of the parliament buildings at 1.30 pm and bang pots and pans and drums and generally make as much noise as possible in order to disrupt parliament and get MPs to listen to the people. Rather than dissipating after an hour or two, protester numbers increase as the day wears on. There are clashes with police and people are incensed, particularly as parliament’s agenda has nothing to do with the economic situation but rather includes such relative trivia as selling liquor in supermarkets and what to do about smoking areas in restaurants. By evening there are around 3,000 people in front of the building. Protesters light a fire on the street in front and throw anything they can find to burn onto it. The riot police is out. Some protesters go out of their way to provoke a reaction from the cops, throwing eggs at them, banging wooden spoons on their helmets, spitting, etc. The building, too, is pelted with food and windows are broken.
WEDNESDAY – protesters have stayed the entire night and numbers increase as the day wears on. The parliamentary session that was to begin at 10.30 is cancelled and the PM calls together the leaders of all the political parties. Later that day he announces he has no intention of calling an early election. The same scene as the previous day, only things are intensifying. The police is getting tired and protesters are getting more aggressive. In the afternoon protesters surround the PMs car at his office and pelt it with eggs. The Social Democrats call a meeting in the evening in which they pass a resolution to pull the plug on the government coalition [their leader is away, having an operation abroad]. By evening there are 2-3 fires burning on Austurvöllur square in front of the parliament building. At around midnight clashes with police grow very harsh – protesters throw rocks and heavy curbstones and two police officers are injured. A group of protesters appalled at the violence against the police form a line between the violent protesters and police, shielding police officers. Police use tear gas to disperse the crowd at around 1.30 pm.
THURSDAY – a blog publishes names, photos and addresses of various police officers and their families and urges people to go to their homes and pelt them with eggs etc.; also to post photographs of their wives and children on the web. There is a rising wave of anger at those who are engaging in violent protests, particularly against the police. Hundreds of Icelanders join the “orange movement” to show they support peaceful protests and reject violence. Protests continue outside the parliament buildings despite cold temps and gale-force winds. People bring roses and tulips to give to the police; someone brings hot chocolate and distributes equally to protesters and police officers [the officers are reportedly overwhelmed by this show of support and kindness]. There is a particularly moving interview on Kastljós with the wife of a police officer; she is angry and wants the government to stop using the police as a shield against the protesters, while refusing to talk to the people. A press release is sent out by a number of protest groups urging people to cease protesting on Friday and Saturday nights, as there are fears that drunken revelers will join in with devastating results.
FRIDAY – A meeting of the Independence Party is called at Valhöll, the IP’s headquarters. Demonstrators gather outside. A press conference is called for 12.30 where Prime Minister Geir H. Haarde declares the IP’s wish to hold elections on May 9. He also announces that he has a malignant tumor of the esophagus and that he will not be seeking re-election as head of the IP at the party’s next conference, which was to have been held at the end of this month, but which has now been postponed until March.
My initial understanding was that he was calling elections for May 9th, but as it turns out the date has not yet been fixed. However, elections will be held this spring. That’s definite. And it’s a huge relief, although the greatest worry is that there won’t be any renewal within the political parties and that all we will have is the same old people, whom nobody trusts any more. I don’t see anybody else organizing themselves to stand for election, but perhaps that will change now that this is on the table. For that reason alone I am relieved that the elections are not being held within the next two weeks, or whatever. Perhaps that will give people a chance to come forth.
As for the PM’s illness, I absolutely do not share the view that it was convenient, affording him a good excuse to step down. What’s convenient about having a life-threatening illness? Nor did I see him presenting himself as some kind of victim – on the contrary. I think he made the announcement in a very matter-of-fact manner. I do agree that his illness and the future of this country are two separate matters. He is ill and on a human level I feel for him and his family; on the other hand I think he has serious shortcomings as a leader and I don’t want him leading this country any more. I don’t know how much of an impact his illness had on his decision to agree to the elections and to me, it is irrelevant. We the people are getting at least one of our demands fulfilled and that’s fantastic.
It doesn’t mean we can just pack it in and go back to our beauty sleep, though – there will be protests tomorrow as there have been every Saturday, and I plan to attend. There is still major housecleaning that needs to be done, particularly at the Central Bank, and we still need to keep the pressure on to demand transparency and justice … did you know that a man has been appointed to conduct the massive and incredibly important investigation into the bank collapse, what happened in the days prior, etc. [so much corrupt stuff] and he was chosen because they couldn’t find anyone else that wasn’t related to someone within the banks? [He is the sheriff of fricking Akranes!] And that HE WILL NOT BE REVEALING ANY OF HIS FINDINGS until the full report is published? – People have been calling for outside investigators, for forensic accountants from abroad to come in and conduct the investigation, people who are objective and not enmeshed in the malignant spider’s web that Icelandic society is turning out to be – but no. The government has found its man. And I’m pretty damn scared that his white book will end up being nothing more than a whiteWASHING book.
IT IS STILL WINDY
Winds of change, perhaps. Hoping – and hoping they are benign. It’s mild, 4°C [39F], sunrise was at 10:34 am and sunset at 4:46 pm.