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Demonstration in the pouring rain

So, YT donned rain gear from head to foot and headed down to Austurvöllur square at 3 pm today to join those calling for elections this spring and the immediate resignation of the Central Bank’s board. Also known as “the rabble rousers” in some circles.

There were a couple thousand people there, which I think is excellent considering that the number of demonstrators had dropped substantially in December, plus the fact that it was pissing down with rain. [Remember – if that figure were superimposed onto, say, the United States, it would be equal to nearly two million people showing up to demonstrate in one place. I bet it would make the news.] My prediction is that protesters will get their second wind now that the Yule frenzy is over, and harsh reality begins to set in.

There were three main speakers, who were all very different. The first speech was OK, but it was the second address that really got the crowd going … a little eight-year old girl who got up onto the podium and let rip to the crowd about how children could probably govern better than the people currently in power, and that she was NOT going to pay for the toilets [sic], the petrol and the Range Rovers that the “government riff-raff” drive. I managed to get [some very grainy] footage of her on my little pocket camera, but at least it gives an idea of what her speech was like and the response of the crowd.

Next came an electrifying speech by writer Einar Már Guðmundsson, who is proving to be one of the most exhilarating public speakers around. Not previously known for this, he has shown a completely new side of himself in the wake of the economic implosion as he tirelessly and continuously delivers succinct, articulate and powerful commentaries on our current predicament and critiques on those responsible. He is someone I would very much like to see take a leading role in building up a new society … although I’m also of two minds about it, since it would likely detract from his writing, which would not be good.

[Incidentally, for those of you asking about Icelandic books in translation, he’s an author I would definitely recommend, particularly his novel Angels of the Universe, which is the best-known of all his books and which was translated into English by a colleague and friend, Bernard Scudder, who passed away last year. I haven’t read it myself [I did see the film, though] but my middle stepdaughter informed me the other day that it is her favourite book of all time and she’s read it about five times. There also seems to be general agreement among Icelanders that it’s a fine book – so for those of you looking to read contemporary Icelandic authors, he’d be a good one with which to start. I only wish you could hear/read some of his current speeches in translation – they’re showstoppers.]

Anyway, I for one am glad to see the Saturday demonstrations are on again*. Because as one speaker said today, it’s numbers that this nation’s leaders fear. The greater the number of people that show up every Saturday, the more shaky their ground. So those of you here in Iceland – please come out on Saturdays, if only to show up and be counted.

IT’S STOPPED RAINING
And the air is clean and clear. Went out for a short walk with AAH a little while ago, down to the video store, and it was so refreshing to go outside and take in some of that lovely fresh air. It’s actually past midnight right now but as per IWR law it’s still the same day as when I started writing the post. Anyone who disagrees is free to picket outside my house. Right now 5°C [41F]. The sun came up at 11.16 and went down at 3.48, just as the demo was ending.

* Not to say that they were ever ‘off’ – they were just on hold while some of us got on with the business of having a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year’s.

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  • Andrew January 4, 2009, 2:44 am

    For a girl of 8 to give a speech like this in front of thousands is just wonderful! Clearly a future politician! I wonder who she is?

  • SirB January 4, 2009, 7:06 am

    I just read I think at eyjan.is that the two men instigating violence were Gudmundur Klemenzson and Olafur Klemenzson, brothers. One is Doddsons Central Bank Economist and the other guy is his brother people say, who is an anesthesiologist. Both educated men although their actions didn’t show any signs of that.

    I read that mbl.is had turned off the blogging/commentary about this news, as they were avoiding inappropriate namecalling.

    I think that’s pure censorship, and I think all the media in Iceland is subject to censorship and the only news we can truly trust these days are blogs like yours Alda.

    There are some that are trying to tie the conservative Central Bankers to the braking of windows in downtown stores.
    Do you know anything about that Alda?

    The current government is like a house of cards, it’s just waiting to collapse.

  • alda January 4, 2009, 12:40 pm

    Andrew – indeed! She’s a little girl who came up to the organizers at the last demo and started voicing her opinions. The head organizer remarked that she should be up there making a speech, to which she replied, “that’s why I’m here.”

    SirB – yep, that’s the news making the rounds and I have every reason to believe it’s true – i.e. about the identities of those two men. It certainly hasn’t been refuted. I don’t know anything about them breaking windows, though. I doubt it – although in that video at least the CB economist looks like he’s drunk, so who knows? Certainly he’s out of control.
    As for the mbl.is comments – I heard that this morning, too. I have no idea why they decided to do that, but I suspect they just don’t have the resources to keep monitoring the comments. There are lots of comments over at http://www.this.is/nei and the editors have had to repeatedly remove the addresses and phone numbers of those two guys (economist and his brother) from the comment box, that angry protesters have put in there. I expect mbl.is will have to explain their actions at some point.

  • hildigunnur January 4, 2009, 2:07 pm

    see also here. A friend of mine, who’s trying to hold together the commentary on those two pieces of news.

  • Ljósmynd DE January 4, 2009, 3:50 pm

    Due to the availability of the Icelandic phonebook on the internet, links are not really needed. I hope, this openness and accessibility in the Icelandic society is not in danger.

    I would have expected some kind of humbleness of the CB people in taking on their share of responsibility for the current disaster. Instead they cheekily abuse and stir hatred against those young people, whose future they have put at risk. It’s disgusting.

    I have heard of many Icelanders who are on the brink of leaving the country. Are there any concrete plans of the government to prevent this from happening? Or are they just letting the talented and probably more obstreperous people silently drain away, so that the remaining can be accommodated with bleak jobs in heavy industry and fishery?

    I hope that the number of protesters will rise in the next weeks seeing what is at stake.

  • James January 4, 2009, 4:36 pm

    Does anyone know whether the woman has filed a police complaint against the Central Bank man who assaulted her? I would urge her to…

  • hugh owens January 4, 2009, 6:59 pm

    Thank you for such an informative comment on the goings on in Iceland which I follow daily when I can. Some of us are really pulling hard for you over here in the US.

  • Professor Batty January 4, 2009, 8:57 pm

    What an inspiring speech by one so young. I couldn’t understand the words but her self-confidence and spirit was quite clear.

  • Muriel Volestrangler January 4, 2009, 11:26 pm

    So it looks like Iceland has its own version of “Ordnertruppen”, the group of thugs and brawlers created by Hitler in the 20’s to protect Nazi party gatherings from disruptions from Social Democrats and Communists. They’re wearing the same colors, too. Pretty creepy.

    These Sjalfstaedisflokkur clowns are behaving like cornered rats. They don’t give a damn about anyone but themselves. They must all realize that if the present government falls and a new coalition is formed, they all lose their jobs and priveleges (except perhaps Oddson, the ultimate indestructible political cockroach) and go to the back of the line at the free soup kitchen. Who is going to hire economists from the Worst Central Bank Ever, or bankers from the Most Corrupt and Incompetent Banking Sector in History? Nobody. Well, maybe the Albanians might hire them. Or maybe the ex-nazis living in the highlands of Paraguay.

  • alda January 4, 2009, 11:52 pm

    James – I don’t know, but I’ll be sure to let you know if she does.

    Muriel V. – except perhaps Oddson, the ultimate indestructible political cockroach LOL!

  • maja January 6, 2009, 7:47 am

    My Dad gave me the Angels of the Universe in Icelandic and I started it but I take a lot longer to read and understand icelandic so I kinda put it down and read something else. I’ll try and pick it up again at some stage, because I did enjoy what I had read so far.