A few readers have been wondering what the demonstration was all about on New Year’s Eve Day, in front of the Hotel Borg.
I can’t claim any expertise since I wasn’t there and can only report what has been said in the media … and even that is a little sketchy because it was on that sort of day where most people are really busy and aren’t doing much of watching the news or checking the Internet [at least not Chez YT]. I just caught wind of what had happened on the radio sometime during the afternoon in the midst of preparing for the evening’s festivities.
However, I gather that around 200 demonstrators collected in front of the Hotel Borg downtown [on Austurvöllur square] where the leaders of Iceland’s five political parties were gathered for a TV broadcast. The programme is called Kryddsíldin [Spicy Herring] and it is an annual affair on Channel 2 that is sent out live from the hotel restaurant on December 31 at 2 pm. It’s basically a round-table discussion in which the aforementioned are gathered along with two moderators from the station, and they generally have a pleasant little chit-chat about topical issues, significant events over the course of the year, and blah.
The demonstrators were carrying torches … if I’m not mistaken they were coming from some sort of other protest or march. They basically did what they could to disrupt the broadcast, making noise outside, storming the lobby of the hotel, etc. As things heated up, they went for the TV cameras and managed to burn cables in two so that the broadcast went off the air. Police used teargas and three demonstrators were arrested. One police officer was injured when he was hit with a brick on the side of the face. Equipment from the TV station was evidently damaged amounting to a couple of million ISK, and police report that demonstrators were carrying home made smoke bombs of some kind.
AAH was pretty close to all the excitement – she works at a nearby café and was on duty that afternoon. According to her one of the demonstrators came rushing in after having been sprayed in the eyes with mace. He was freaking out, cursing and screaming, and after splashing water in his face and eyes he went back outside and went ballistic on a police cruiser.
There hasn’t been a whole lot of discussion about this … probably just because it was at that time of year and people and media have been preoccupied with other things, but I do get the feeling that the general public doesn’t look too kindly on it. Mostly because innocent people were involved and there was damage to property – the hotel, the broadcast equipment – and it got out of hand. Personally I don’t condone that sort of protest, but on the other hand I’m not surprised and would even go so far as to say that it was predictable. People are supremely pissed off. They don’t feel like they’re being listened to. They feel like they’re being made fools of.* And for the political leaders to gather around for a pleasant chit-chat with the current climate the way it is seems a bit off kilter, to say the least. So while I wouldn’t go out to throw bricks and smoke bombs myself, I totally get why someone else would.
Tomorrow, Saturday, there will be another demonstration on Austurvöllur. There has been a lull in them during December; it will be interesting to see what happens tomorrow.
STILL VERY MILD
It was a really pleasant day weather-wise, moderate winds and warmish temps, overcast but very refreshing. It’s currently a balmy 7°C [45F]. The sun came up at 11:18 am, will set at 3:46 pm.
* A couple of days ago came another reason to feel outraged: the parliamentary ombudsman ruled that the Minister of Finance had violated regulations when he appointed Davíð Oddsson’s son as a regional judge in Akureyri, north Iceland, a few months ago. There was an outcry at the time, because people who were so obviously better qualified than Doddsson’s son were passed over. A complaint was filed with the ombudsman, who has now delivered this ruling. Calls are now being made for the Minister of Finance to resign [yet again] but there’s little chance of that – as before, he basically just gives us – his employers, the taxpaying public – the finger. I really don’t like to criticize individuals personally in this space, but it has to be said: the corruption just DRIPS off this guy. Gag. Plus, if someone could please explain to me how being a vetrenarian qualifies you to be Minister of Finance.