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Of angry mobs, teargas and blackened windows

So, the weekly demonstration got a bit rowdy today.

Or, more precisely, what happened AFTER the demonstration did, which was that the guy organizing it urged everyone to head up to the police station on Hverfisgata and protest the fact that the guy who climbed up on top of the parliament buildings a couple of weeks ago and drew the Bónus flag to full mast was arrested yesterday and remanded in custody.

EPI and I figured we’d done our bit for democracy by then [plus we had places to go and people to see] so we weren’t part of the angry mob that stormed the station and attempted to force its way inside using sticks and stones – hence missing all the excitement. See here.*

Police obviously did the only reasonable thing under the circumstances – they opened the door a tad [the second door – after demonstraters had bashed their way through the first one] and sprayed teargas on the general populace. [Surprisingly nobody yelled GAS! GAS! GAS! this time – guess they didn’t want to risk any more ringtones.]

The cops claim the guy was arrested on a completely different charge [he hadn’t paid a fine after repeated warnings] and was picked up yesterday for that reason – it had nothing to do with him protesting two weeks ago. If that’s true, then the whole thing was just mass hysteria. I don’t think the excuse that “people are angry” holds much water. Channeling your anger blindly into unfocused rage usually does more harm than good. IMHO.

Anyway. The demo today at Austurvöllur drew a crowd of between 6,000 and 7,000, which is pretty significant. That’s, like, two percent of the population. Transpose that onto the populaton of, say, Great Britain, and you’d have 1.1 million people demonstrating in one place. Transpose it onto the United States and you’d have 6 million people demonstrating in one place. So you see – we’ve got a sh*tload of pissed off people here.

Kastljós yesterday showed a sort of collage that they’d put together of the demonstrations held over the last few Saturdays, which I thought was pretty good. See here.*

And now it’s past midnight so it’s actually like I’m writing this on a Sunday, but since this post was started on a Saturday, that’s what counts. A little-known rule in blogging known as Alda’s Law.

During the demonstration today, and it started to rain just as it was finishing. It rained buckets all evening, but has now stopped; however, the wind has picked up. Weatherman sez we’re in for blustery conditions for the next day or two. Currently 1°C [34F]. Sunrise: 10:20 am. Sunset: 4:07 pm.

PS. Oh, and guess who EPI and I encountered just outside our door, as we were heading off to the demonstration this afternoon? Guess! G’won, Guess! – OK … we ran into Doddsson! Doddsson and wife, surreptitiously running from the building down on the corner, into their big, black SUV with blackened windows that looks like a motorized version of the Central Bank. Unsurprisingly, they headed in the opposite direction from the one we were going in.

* Links will expire in two weeks.



Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Andrew November 23, 2008, 2:19 am

    What sort of people are these violent demonstrators? The ‘angry young men’? Is this very unusual for Iceland, or does this sort of thing happen from time to time?

    Did you manage to say a few words to Oddsson!?

  • Ásgeir H November 23, 2008, 6:47 am

    Everybody protesting knew very well that he was supposedly arrested because of a two year old sentence. But he was arrested without warning, illegally, and the timing is most certainly not a coincidence. That sentence, by the way, was also because of non-violent protests against the same corrupt authorities that have dug their grave even deeper by now.

  • maja November 23, 2008, 8:54 am

    What a coincidence seeing Doddson on your way out!

  • ReallyEvilCanine November 23, 2008, 10:28 am

    Unsurprisingly, they headed in the opposite direction from the one we were going in.
    Oddsson seems to always be headed in the opposite direction of the rest of the country. How much longer before he has to start shopping at Bónus instead of Hagkaup?

  • alda November 23, 2008, 12:41 pm

    Andrew – it happens very rarely. I can’t really say what sort of group they were – I wasn’t there – but it seemed it was a diverse variety of people.

    Ásgeir – Everybody protesting knew very well that he was supposedly arrested because of a two year old sentence. Ah. Okay. That wasn’t clear when Hörður Torfa rallied everyone to go up to the station, though. I certainly had no idea, and judging by the confused looks on the faces of those around me, neither did a lot of other people. I didn’t even know he’d been arrested.
    On what charges was the guy picked up, then? According to the chief of police the summons came from the police in Blönduós. Was he protesting up there?

    maja – yes. 🙂

    REC – I expect Doddsson wouldn’t be caught dead in either Bónus OR Hagkaup. Both are owned by Baugur.

  • The Other Katherine Harris November 23, 2008, 1:15 pm

    Bravo! I wish the rest of the world would show the same courage, instead of cowering while our governments rob us for the benefit of international banksters and associated tycoons.

    Your encounter with Doddsson reminds me of a pleasant lunch ruined by the sudden arrival of McSame, Caribou Barbie and their minions, shortly before the election. Penned in, I could only turn away from the cameras to avoid being used as a photo-opp’ prop for people I loathe.

  • hildigunnur November 23, 2008, 1:17 pm

    Apparently he was picked up to finish his sentence from last time, it wasn’t that he refused to pay the fine, one can choose if one pays a fine or sits some days in custody. He chose that, at the time, and got to sit some days but then they had to use the prison space for someone else, so he couldn’t finish his sentence. Of course you have to finish, but I think the authorities must let people know with some days notice, at least, not just pick them up and say: Now’s the time! get your toothbrush.

    My source for this is his mother’s blog, admittedly mothers aren’t the best witnesses, but the timing of this is very suspicious, so I tend to believe her.

  • alda November 23, 2008, 1:23 pm

    Hildigunnur – yes, I’ve just read what Ragnar Aðalsteinsson had to say on mbl.is. Put that way, it certainly doesn’t seem just.

  • Jun November 23, 2008, 2:13 pm

    Slightly OT — if you haven’t seen it already, here’s a read you’ll prolly find interesting from yesterday’s Times UK:

    Britain is in no position to laugh at Iceland’s problems

  • AmyA November 23, 2008, 3:59 pm

    Thanks so much for explaining the crisis to us.

    Since visiting Iceland three years ago, the country has a special place in my heart. It is really unlike any other place I have ever experienced.

    I have a suggestion for a post–maybe you’ve already done this, but I would like to see some suggestions of things we can buy to support Iceland people. I, for example, would love to buy some Icelandic mittens! I know it’s not much, but I’d love to help in anyway I can.
    Amy in Brooklyn

  • Marc Scot November 23, 2008, 5:37 pm

    The BBC posted a video of the Saturday demonstrations under the title “Civil unrest in Iceland”. Oh please…

  • The Other Katherine Harris November 23, 2008, 7:38 pm

    You’ve attracted a really lovely group of people here, Alda. Amy’s Shop-Iceland idea strikes me as terrific and I also appreciated the links from Jun and Marc. While taking in those views of the news, I did some further cruising on UK sites and ran across this, which struck me as pertinent: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2008/nov/21/arctic-energy-eu

    Much more than we know is going on, I’m sure. My guess has always been that this whole thing was a setup, because the EU wants your resources — or, more accurately, that the transnational grillionaires it serves want them — and that the IMF will be, as ever, a tool toward that end. This crew has been wickedly robbing the masses everywhere for decades, of course; they want it ALL, with no pesky actual democracies standing in their way.

  • Gray, Germany November 23, 2008, 8:33 pm

    Sry, OT, just an apropos to the “Iceland forests” thread:
    “Afforestation began in the first two decades of the twentieth century, carried out at first mainly by groups of intellectuals and businessmen. The government did not really become involved until the 1950s, when it became much more active in terms of legislation, research and financial support. By adding a forest tax to cigarettes during the 1960s and part of the 1970s, the government was able to support the tree-planting activities of both the private forest societies and farmers.

    In the 1980s and 1990s government activities expanded rapidly, with erosion control and recreation as the main objectives.”

    Well, Alda, I guess this makes it understandable how a business traveller to Rejkjavik could get the impression that there weren’t any trees. The reforestation only started seriously in the 60s, and trees don’t grow that fast.

    Fantastic, how Google provides answers – if you care to look for them.

  • Vikingisson November 23, 2008, 9:51 pm

    What is worrying me is that I’m not seeing sensible solutions being discussed by the big boys or being demanded by the people. Arguing over what loan and how much is frankly scaring me because the only solutions being seriously tabled are those proposed by the same people that got us all into this mess. Kicking the regime out of office is a start but then what? One of the better examples of a solution that I would be more happy with is here on vald.org: http://vald.org/greinar/081117.html

    I was taught as a child that the money in my pocket was backed by gold or some other standard. It made sense then and still does. We’ve moved away from that model and this is what we get for that.

    What will Iceland do with the loan money? I’m watching what the U.S. banks/wall street have already done with their bailout $ and this gives me even less confidence in the system, if that is possible.

  • alda November 23, 2008, 10:33 pm

    Víkingsson – thank you for the link. I didn’t read all of it simply because I don’t understand enough about economics to make sense of it … but I do understand the very chilling future he paints out if we continue along the same path.

    And thanks everyone, for your links – I don’t have time to look at them all, at least not now, but I really appreciate your input … and if not for me, at least for other readers.

  • alda November 24, 2008, 12:39 am

    Amy – thanks for the note – and the idea. Actually I don’t know of one site that has a selection of Icelandic goods to purchse … although I’m sure most of them do overseas orders individually. For mitts you could try Handprjónasambandið:


    — and of course, just buy lots of Icelandic lamb and skyr and chocolate in Whole Foods!

  • James November 24, 2008, 2:22 am

    I hope Amnesty International is working night-and-day to stand up for the rights of all illegally-detained political prisoners in Iceland 😉

  • Vikingisson November 24, 2008, 2:49 am

    A little googleness yields a number of hits for buying Icelandic. I can’t vouch for any of them but here they are:
    http://www.icelandic-goods.com/ (located in Canada)
    http://www.nammi.is/ (claims to be able to ship Skyr)
    Ebay has Iceland if you like that kind of site.

    I’d like to see more Icelandic authors published over in the west. Literature is an export to exploit right now perhaps.

    Alda, I certainly don’t know enough about economics to grasp all of the issues but I do understand a real value based currency like a gold standard vs the a href=”http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Three-card_Monte” title=”3 card monte”>3 card monte that we’ve been using for a while. To me this is a mutually exclusive factor that makes the more complicated factors irrelevant. We can make jokes about a Cod Króna but it makes more sense than what we have now.
    I don’t yet read Icelandic so I can’t know what the rest of vald.org’s sentiments and philosophies are but that one English story is spot on IMHO.

  • Gray, Germany November 24, 2008, 1:27 pm

    Vikingisson, sry, but the guy who write that proposal for a new gold standard at vald.org has no clue about economy. Just look at this statement at the beginning of his article:
    “backed by nothing but the government’s ability to tax its citizens”

    Utter nonsense! A currency is backed by a nation’s economy. The government establishes it as legal tender, payment that can’t be refused in settlement of a debt. If a broad majority of the population accepts that, then the value of the currency is determined by the usual process of supply and demand. Taxes only play a very indirect and minor role in this. Instead, the most important factor is how many goods and services an economy can produce. And then, an efficient central bank can control the amount of money and the inflation rate, to a certain degree. It’s a system that works well as long as the government and the financial institions follow a reasonable policy, and outside forces don’t have a higher leverage.

    However, the problems of the gold standard became obvious in the decline of the Bretton Woods system. But it looks like the author at vold.org hasn’t learned anything from history.

  • Vikingisson November 24, 2008, 4:01 pm

    All I know is that the current system doesn’t work for the majority in a manner that I can trust, it isn’t sustainable, and isn’t fair. Dog eat dog is fine in the business world and if you are clever and ruthless enough you can amass a fortune that to me is not a life’s goal so I choose not to play. But when pensions are lost and mortgages are defaulting because of the actions of others and then I am on the hook to pay for the mistakes it seems like I’ve paid twice for the same money I no longer have but somebody else does.

    I’m sure there are holes in a gold standard but it has had much longer stability and fewer holes than the overly complicated (by design) system being played out these days. If the real money had been backed by something with real value we could pay our debts easier and then start again without as many problems we now face.

    I still don’t know where the real money went to or why it isn’t now used to fix the problems. I trust no government, no lawyer, and no so called expert in the field of finance. So for now I am unconvinced that an alternative to a gold standard is the better way.

  • Rozanne November 25, 2008, 5:44 am

    “their big, black SUV with blackened windows that looks like a motorized version of the Central Bank.”

    LOL. Armored up to the hilt, too, I’m sure.

  • alda November 25, 2008, 10:17 am

    Actually, I don’t think so. Doddsson may be loathed by many here in Iceland, but thankfully this nation has not reached a point where armored vehicles are necessary.